I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.
November 14, 2006 9:41 PM   Subscribe

JobSearchFilter: Let's say you are making a project portfolio and the contents of your most impressive, innovative work of the last two years is "confidential" and not meant for public, much less competitor consumption. What's the most ethical and effective way to show potential future employers what it is that you can do?

Should be easy, right? Just describe the projects in words? The problem is, I don't know of any other examples of exactly this type of work, so a description wouldn't be as compelling or effective as a quick leaf-through of a few visuals.

Would it be OK to edit out the sensitive information and show one representative project at an in-person job interview? How would this reflect on my perceived professionalism? Could this be seen as a breach of confidentiality? (I wouldn't leave any hard copies behind or let my portfolio out of my sight. I would, of course, use discretion when showing my work--never to a client's competitor or anyone who could stand to benefit from using the ideas.)

Additional info:
- I'm not concerned about legal liability. There is a confidentiality agreement between my company and each client regarding trade secrets and materials/info received from clients, but nothing specific about the derivative work. I actually haven't signed any agreements personally but would adhere to the terms as if I have.
- I could create a complete fictional mock-up from scratch, but it would take months so I'd rather not.
- I have other types of work I could show, but it's not unique or groundbreaking--I consider it filler.
- This question probably can't be answered without knowing what "it" is or what I do. Just call me a consultant/creator. (Industries spanned: design, media, technology, global marketing strategy.)

Posting anonymously so any MeFi reading colleagues and clients don't know I'm job hunting. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of information is in your portfolio that you are trying to show off? Design work? Is it all internal?

If they're visuals, white out/blur/rewrite the text. Or, resize the visual where a person could get the general design. If a design is confidential, then don't use it. It's not yours to display in any case.

Creating a mock up shouldn't be hard, as you have the source files don't you?
posted by mphuie at 9:59 PM on November 14, 2006

Man, this problem has dogged me in web development since I've done a lot of defense and high tech industry work. On the one hand the clients respect your honoring NDAs, but they also have to get an idea of your abilities.

Remix time: One approach is replace sensitive info with some good ol' Lorem Ipsum text. You will just remix what you have using $XX.xx if there is pricing, or generic boxes or placeholders for products or vehicles. In one case there was a sensitive vehicle central to my page and I plopped in a VW beetle. It looks really odd at first (to you), but the concepts should stand on their own and they will laud your discretion. Just be clear on the specifics of any NDAs you have signed (you do read NDAs, right?) and you will be fine.
posted by ernie at 10:02 PM on November 14, 2006

Since you are not worried about having proprietary work stolen, you could request the prospective employer sign a confidentiality agreement. There are boilerplate versions you can customize for your particular situation. In presenting it, briefly describe the conundrum that you face, and express appreciation of their signing. If I were reviewing your work, that would demonstrate to me that you were making an attempt to respect the company under whose auspices you created it.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:56 AM on November 15, 2006

Talk with the clients with whom you've done the work. Tell them you want to write a case study about the job (or show your work on the job), and that they are allowed to approve it before you show it to anybody. Let them know whether you intend to only discuss this in meetings or if it's going to be a part of your website. Ask up-front what can and can't be shown. Chances are pretty good you're allowed to show something. And what you can show may be more than you expect if the given project has closed.

People with whom you interview should be accommodating about proprietary agreements -- they deal with them as well -- so handling your NDAs responsibly is as much a professional asset as a portfolio handicap.
posted by ardgedee at 5:55 AM on November 15, 2006

Technical and marketing writer for 20 years, have faced this problem often.

Preferred solution: Take your best work, do a thorough scrub on it to remove all names, confidential material and identifiable context, and show excerpts of whatever's left. (Obviously, some material is more conducive to this treatment than others.)
posted by enrevanche at 6:56 AM on November 15, 2006

Sounds like you and I are in similar fields.

I agree with ernie and enrevance. When I've had to present information architecture documents such as site maps, wireframes and usability reports to prospective employers -- and yes, even competitors -- I scrub out the sensitive stuff.

I like big white boxes that say LOGO or CLIENT NAME or CLIENT WEB SITE SCREEN CAPTURE so it's painfully obvious there's juicy bits beneath and I'm scrupulous and honorable. Probably not as slick as ernie's solution, but that's me.

Good luck.
posted by CMichaelCook at 3:10 PM on November 15, 2006

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