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I recently had an interview with a large firm for a software engineer role. The interview was organized through a recruitment agency.

The night before the interview the recruitment agent sent me an email outlining what format the interview will most likely take and what kinds of questions in which areas I can expect (including which technical areas). At the time I didn't think much of it as it was more or less what I could have guessed anyway.

After the interview when I spoke to the agent she began asking me some detailed questions about the interview. She wanted to know what kind of technical questions they asked and other things. In my head alarm bells went off and I gave her vague answers.

I am suspecting if I had given her more information she would have passed this on to her next candidate she was sending to this company which would have done two things: reduce the likelihood I would get the job by giving the next candidate more detailed information and a chance to prepare better - and increase the likelihood she would land someone the job (potentially benefiting her company and possibly her if they work on a commission basis).

I have never come across anyone who sent me an email with detailed information about what to expect during the interview and then afterwards ask what was asked in mine.

Is this a new trend in recruitment or is she a rogue recruiter?

Is it ethical considering it isn't fair if you're one of the previous candidates and considering the employer isn't getting the best candidate?

If it is a trend then what would be the best way to deal with someone like this if it happens again?

tl;dr Recruiter asking what was said in interview to help next candidate. Is this acceptable, whats the best way to deal with it?

  • just tell them? and hope next time the previous candidate is also equally accommodating? most everyone knows that these technical interview questions are a relatively bad way to interview someone anyway – bharal Aug 16 '18 at 19:09
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Is this a new trend in recruitment or is she a rogue recruiter?

I had this happen to me as well a few years ago, so I doubt it is a super new thing.

Is it ethical?

Depends.

Obviously a recruiter has an incentive to make sure candidates are the most well prepared. Getting information about what questions are asked can allow them to inform a candidate of general formats and patterns that are being used by the company. As long as they are not directly feeding the specific questions to candidates or information that allows candidates to guess, then what they are doing is probably okay.

If it is a trend then what would be the best way to deal with someone like this if it happens again?

You don't have any obligation to the recruiter to answer anything you don't feel comfortable with. If you feel that revealing information is going to hurt your position, then just be general or be honest about your feelings. I think the same thing applies when a recruiter or company asks your current salary and you reply with your goal so your position is not weakened.

  • I can't think of anything else to comment - excellent answer! – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 16 '18 at 6:26
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    Might be worth adding that if the company is asking factual knowledge question or exam type questions, that's more a flaw with their interview process than anything else. – Erik Aug 16 '18 at 11:09
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Adding to Joshua's answer. Even if the future candidates go in knowing the questions and the format of the interview, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily give a better interview.

Even with knowing the questions etc, it ultimately comes down to your ability to apply your own skills and experiences to the situation and demonstrate that you’re suitable for the job.

There could be a number of reasons why they ask his information, including for future job openings to gauge how the industry interviews for particular roles.

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Is this a new trend in recruitment or is she a rogue recruiter?

This is nothing new. It has been happening for many years. I'm surprised this is the first time you have encountered it.

Is it ethical considering it isn't fair if you're one of the previous candidates and considering the employer isn't getting the best candidate?

You are conflating several things here.

You got current information before your interview and used it as best you could. Other candidates will do the same. It's not much different from asking friends already in the company what kinds of questions to expect and getting yourself prepared. Good headhunters want their candidates to be as prepared as possible. Unless you or the recruiter are specifically warned by the company not to reveal any questions being asked (via an NDA or other request), I see nothing unethical here.

None of this means that the employer isn't getting the best candidates. It's up to the employer to ask the kinds of questions that lead to good candidates and that aren't easily passed on from candidate to candidate.

Asking quiz/puzzle questions that can be memorized or asking yes/no questions is foolish. Asking open-ended questions and probing for real understanding is far better, and should lead to better hires.

If it is a trend then what would be the best way to deal with someone like this if it happens again?

You can deal with it by refusing to participate, if that's what you want. Just state up front that you don't want to know anything about what kinds of questions will be asked. Then after the interview refuse to reply when being debriefed regarding what questions came up.

Just be aware that others will get some benefits that you won't.

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It's extremely common in the UK especially for starter roles, where recruiters deal with a lot more volume and a lot less commission. As you progress they become more refined, but those who 'prepare' you for the interview will try to get a debrief out of you to help their next candidate.

The best way I've found was to be vague, like you did, or just say your information was more or less accurate - even if it wasn't. More or less does not mean spot-on and you can avoid the dance around declining to give any info.

You can ask them to refrain from sending you material if they indicate they're going to and they'll argue back a bit - but you can afford to piss off recruiters, so it's fine.

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This is fairly common in the UK and varies between directly asking what the questions were to having a "debrief" where they try to get the questions in a more subtle way, or subtle for a recruiter anyway.

Giving interview feedback is a good thing but I would never give any specific details about the interview. I would give generals like "There were questions on the topic of xyz" or "The interview was in two parts, questions and then a technical challenge", or even "I don't think there was an opportunity to show what I know about abc". If you give too much information away and this gets back to the company that were interviewing you it could harm your reputation (at least with them). If a company is not willing to disclose the details of an interview with a recruiter then you shouldn't either. If I'm still asked for more information I suggest the recruiter gets in touch directly with their contact at the company for the information they want.

I've been specifically asked during one interview to not mention details to the recruiter.

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I think Joe has it right.

It's ethically dubious on your part to happily take advice from previous candidates, but decline to contribute.

I've encountered situations where i was given the entire question set prior to an interview. I even, the next day, encountered another candidate - who even with the entire question set failed the interview.

The interview process in IT is relatively broken, because its so easy to measure knowledge that it's now become a basic unit of the interview process. But of course, it's more important to measure speed of learning, ability to synthesise new ideas and so on - if IT was just about knowledge, then projects would be easily estimated, which they're not.

Anyway, I never minded giving a recruiter detailed feedback - if I didn't get the job, why would you hurt another engineer's chances? And if I did blitz the interview, well, I'm going to get an offer anyway.

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