When you accept a new job, your company may ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). You may find yourself wondering what an NDA is, or whether you should even sign it. Before you put your pen to paper, there are some elements you may want to consider.

What is an NDA?

An NDA is a contract between two parties that protects a company’s private information. This information might include:

  • Company strategies
  • Copyrighted ideas
  • Designs
  • Sales information
  • Algorithms
  • Trade secrets

NDAs are common in the business world. They exist so that the company can operate without fear of sensitive information becoming public. Although these documents primarily protect the company, knowing what to look out for in an NDA can help you protect your own interests as well. Here’s what you should consider before signing an NDA.

1. Type of agreement

There are two main types of NDAs — unilateral and mutual. A unilateral agreement, also known as a one-way agreement, protects only one party’s interest. A mutual agreement, on the other hand, protects both parties’ confidentiality. Generally, mutual NDAs are more appealing. If your employer asks you to sign a unilateral NDA that only protects the company, you will want to be sure that they are not privy to your confidential information.

2. Terms and conditions

Though it may seem obvious, it’s good practice to read and fully understand the conditions of the NDA. You will need to know what specific information is confidential and how long the contract will last. Another important detail to keep an eye out for is the consequences of breaching the contract. Check to be sure the punishments are fair and don’t take advantage of you.

3. Language used

Signing a contract that has vague or unhelpful language can cause trouble down the line. Make sure that the contract clearly and accurately defines each condition. When a contract uses broad language, it may enable the company to impose unfair stipulations on you that may have been hidden by confusing or vague terminology.

If you are having trouble understanding the details of your contract or are unsure of your rights, an employment law attorney may help answer your questions and ensure that the contract meets each party’s needs.