Is this interviewer interested in hiring me, or is he or she simply interested in learning more about my former employer? Let's talk about competitive intelligence disguised as a job interview!
Competitive intelligence is the practice of gaining strategic information about the competition. It can take many forms, from surfing competitors' social media and corporate websites to visiting their booths at trade shows to...interviewing job applicants a company has no intention of hiring but definitely wants to "talk to," ahem. Oh, this person used to work at [insert name of major competitor]? Call her today and set something up.
Let's look at this topic from the perspective of the non-non-compete-bound job applicant who is sitting in a job interview and suddenly feels like he or she is on a date with someone who wants to know all about his or her best friend. She seems really nice! What kind of music does she like? We should all go out together sometime. I notice that she seems to hang out with so-and-so a lot, are they a thing? Okay, here's her phone number, give her a call and ask her these questions yourself. Ask her out on a date while you're at it. Waiter, could you hurry it up with the check so I can go home, pull out the Ben And Jerry's and watch 20/20?
But enough about my 20s. The "tell me A LOT more about your former/current employer" job interview can sure feel like a date that's going nowhere, can't it?
Here are six warning signs that a job interview might have an underlying layer of competitive intelligence at play, courtesy of a Job-hunt.org article that inspired this blog post in the first place:
1. The interviewer is evasive. You want to know more about the job opening, but you're not receiving any concrete answers to your questions. The person interviewing you sure has a lot of questions about your former employer though, doesn't he?
2. There is no job description. Does the employer have a written copy of the job description for your review, or at the very least, a concrete, in-depth overview of the skill set the job will require, the clientele, the work, and any opportunities for advancement?
3. The company contacts you. An interested employer seeking you out, instead of the other way around, could in itself be a warning sign -- especially if the job opening hasn't been posted or published anywhere.
4. The interviewer is focused on the future. Instead of asking about your background and discussing how it fits the job opening, the interviewer keeps asking about your former or current employer's future plans for customers, marketing, strategy, and on and on.
5. The interviewer ventures beyond your expertise. You don't work in sales, but the interviewer asks many questions about sales and other areas of expertise at your former company that are not within your purview. In fact, the interviewer may not seem all that interested in the type of work you've been trained to do. No really, my field of expertise is interesting!
6. The interview happens in an offbeat place. Perhaps the interviewer invites you to interview at the company, or perhaps not. If the location feels odd, it might indicate an odd situation. (Hint: if you're meeting at 2 a.m. in a dark, underground parking garage like in the movie All the President's Men, then that's probably not a good sign.)
The best thing you can do in these situations is to listen to your gut, and to act with ethics and integrity. I have faith in you; you're a smart cookie who can read between the lines to see what someone is really asking. Waiter, check, please! Don't worry, eventually you'll find someone who likes you for you. Here, have the last scoop of Ben and Jerry's. Where's the teevee remote?