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Some years before "The Workplace" existed, I interviewed for the position of software developer at a small software company (around 70 employees). The interviewer told me he did not work for the company: he was an independent recruiter, but he handled the whole recruiting for that company. He handled all the interviews and made the decision whether to hire or not: the owner completely trusted his judgement.

During the interview we discussed the issue of outside placements. One might choose to join a company to be part of its culture and amenities and yet never experience any of it because one works for months or years at other companies. Which may work out well, or not well at all. At this point, he said that all the open positions were for outside placements, although the company was considering starting an inside development department. Then he asked if I would be able to develop an app on a topic he was very interested in. I pointed out that it was a complicated topic and asked whether that app would be a project for the new inside department. He said, no, that it was his personal pet project and that he would pay for it himself. I considered it but could not foresee a good outcome and finally declined. When we parted, he said he saw me as a good candidate for the new department and would contact me if it ever went ahead.

I got a rejection letter some weeks later. I was not surprised at this, and do not regret turning down his offer, but I have always wondered how appropriate or ethical this recruiter's behavior was.

  • To clarify, the app had nothing to do with the job you were interviewing for but was an entirely separate project from the recruiter? – AffableAmbler Nov 17 '18 at 19:12
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    i voted to close this. sorry. this isn't the forum for ethics discussions, and seeing how little most people know about ethics as a subject, the responses are never very interesting. why, I might ask, do you care about the ethics of an interviewer for a role years ago? – bharal Nov 17 '18 at 19:12
  • Just curious, but what is "outside placement" ? (Is that the same as working as at a company in a contractor or vendor role?) – selbie Nov 17 '18 at 20:56
  • I would doubt that turning down the recruiter's project cost you the job. After all, be stood to gain financially if you were placed. I see them as two separate things. – Mawg Nov 19 '18 at 7:23
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    So he basically interviewed people for his project at the company expense? Nice deal. – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 19 '18 at 13:34
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This sounds a bit beyond unethical to me, the whole process sounds downright dodgy.

The interviewer told me he did not work for the company: he was an independent recruiter, but he handled the whole recruiting for that company.

This is rather unusual (does no-one of the 70 emploees at the company want to meet who they're potentially working with?!) but ok, nothing inherently wrong with it.

At this point, he said that all the open positions were for outside placements, although the company was considering starting an inside development department.

So you've interviewed for a specific position of a software developer at a specific company, and the interviewer, who doesn't work for the company, is offering you a job that's also not actually with the company you're interviewing for?

Sirens would be going off in my head at this point, and I would have likely run. Too many warning signs.

But on top of that:

Then he asked if I would be able to develop an app on a topic he was very interested in. I pointed out that it was a complicated topic and asked whether that app would be a project for the new inside department. He said, no, that it was his personal pet project and that he would pay for it himself.

...he tries to get you to do some work for his pet project "on the side", which he doesn't even pretend is indirectly related to the company he's meant to be representing?!

At best he's being paid by the other company to interview you to work for them in some weird indirect way, and he's hijacking that interview for his own purposes. That's completely unethical.

That being said, the above doesn't smell right to me, and I'd hazard a guess that might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unethical behaviour from that company & recruiter.

  • I was surprised too, that he did not work there. However, the interview took place in the company's offices. As we walked to the room where the interview took place, several employees greeted him by name and chatted with him and me -- it was a matter of course for them that he would be there, conducting interviews. – Elise van Looij Nov 20 '18 at 19:03

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