Should I Sign an NDA for a Job Interview?

Some employers ask interview candidates for a non-disclosure agreement during the job interview process.  Should you sign an NDA just to get a chance at a job?

In general, yes, you should sign the NDA.

If you get hired by the company, you will have a very strong NDA with the company.  An employment agreement will include many factors, including IP transfer agreements and a high level of responsibility to act in the company’s best interests.  This type of relationship shows a large amount of trust in you.

A pre-interview NDA is the start of this type of relationship and shows that the company is putting some degree of trust in you.

If the company uses the Ethical NDA, they recognize that IP is valuable, but it also recognizes that you have a lot to contribute to the company.  The Ethical NDA explicitly recognizes that your ideas – even in an interview – can be extremely valuable.

The Ethical NDA includes an IP transfer provision that says that if your ideas rise to the level of becoming a patent, that the company will pay you for the idea and may name you as a co-inventor.

With any intellectual property agreement, you have a choice with how and when you share ideas with anyone else.  If you are in an interview and come up with a game-changing way to improve the company’s products or services, you are not required to tell them your idea.  You can keep your mouth shut.

But does it hurt to share your idea?

The cruel truth is that ideas are cheap – execution on the ideas are what matters.  If you might take that great idea and start a competing company, keep the idea to yourself.  If the company you hope to join is much more likely to take the idea and run with it, why not let them have it?

Will the company thank you for the idea by hiring you?

Some companies or managers may use the interview process to collect fresh ideas that they will go implement internally.  It can be a hotbed of fresh ideas that comes to the company “free.”  This is pretty sleazy, but it happens, so be on the lookout for this.  If you get a bad feeling from the interview, trust your gut, don’t try to impress the interviewer with your ideas, and keep looking for another gig.