Independent professionals: OK to claim subcontract principals as clients?

Is it generally considered to be appropriate, inappropriate or downright misleading for an independent professional to refer to the principals of subcontracting arrangements as if they were the independent person’s own clients?

For example: An individual engineer is separately hired in a public works project for XYZ City, except that the hiring, administration and payment is all handled through general contractor ABC Construction, which won a public bidding process. No one in the XYZ organization ever met the engineer or has any idea that the engineer participated in the project, although ABC management and staff, as well as the company’s records, would clearly indicate that the subcontracting relationship was formed and executed. Confidentiality precludes the engineer from telling anyone that ABC was contracted by XYZ

  • Could the engineer ethically say that he worked “for” or “with” XYZ?

  • Is it appropriate for the engineer to name XYZ separately in any form?

Following from the above, and assuming that over the course of several years the engineer is forwarded major subcontracting jobs from 100 prestigious principals through only four general contracting firms, is there an ethical way to have the engineer’s resume reflect the prestige of the principals? Such as, rather than including a “client list:”, including a reference to “work performed to the benefit of:” or somesuch, without creating the guise of a work relationship?

I’m not sure I understand. Why would confidentiality prevent the engineer from saying that ABC was contracted by the city? Wouldn’t it be obvious, if ABC is performing work for the city, that they are contracted to the city?

Rather than smurf around with listing “prestigious principals” I would show a “project list” including any projects which the engineer substantially participated in. That takes away the aspect of “look who I worked for!” which seems kinda sleazy to me, and replaces it with “look at these well-done, important projects which I played a part in bringing to fruition”.

For example, I might list “Project: Petunia Parkway Bridge over Skunk Creek; Work Performed: hydraulic analysis; no-rise certification: Owner, Small City” even though I might have been hired by the construction company which built the bridge, rather than by Small City.

What NinetyWt said. Make your resume project centric not principal centric, with a specific description of your engineering role in each project. Unless you’re hired under double, secret probation why would it be an ethical issue to state specifically what you did, and why would it be a big deal to put the text “under a subcontracting arrangement with ABC” in your resume? How does this reflect badly on you? It shows you are a talented hired gun.

Thanks for the responses. The question came out of a conversation with an independent consultant who does research for some large consulting firms. His resume doesn’t reflect the breadth of his work, since it only names the few firms and the nature of the work done, and he wanted to “sneak in” the names of the principals as if they were his clients.

I said that I thought it would be OK as long as he didn’t appear to call them clients or otherwise assert some sort of relationship. But now I like NinetyWt’s and astro’s solution better.