I recently referred a former colleague for a job on my immediate team. (He was never my direct coworker, but someone who I had worked closely with in a "peer" capacity at my previous job).

The phone screening went well, and he is scheduled for an interview later this week.

Simultaneous to that, I've been learning how to be an interviewer at my company. Part of the process is shadowing a few interviews (where someone else is conducting the interview).

I found out recently that I'm scheduled to shadow this interview with my former colleague.

I was concerned about conflict of interest (after all, I get a referral bonus if he gets the job), so I emailed the recruiter (an cc-ed my manager) suggesting that I shadow other interviews, instead of this one.

I got no response to that email, and today I got a calendar invite confirming the schedule for the interview. So I have two concerns:

  1. Can I safely assume that the lack of response to my email means they don't consider this a "conflict-of-interest" situation?
  2. I'm fairly certain that my colleague will be a bit uncomfortable with my shadowing the interview. It's almost worse than if I'd do the interview myself. Should I decline the invite for this reason? I believe he really wants this job & I'd hate to make him more nervous than he already will be.
  • 2
    Does "shawdow the interview" mean that you only observe the interview and someone else will actually ask questions and conduct the interview ? Are you allowed to make the decision to move the candidate forward to the next round after this interview ? Jun 29, 2021 at 15:59
  • 4
    "Can I safely assume..." - No. All you can safely assume from a lack of response to any email or instant message ever is that they haven't read your email yet ... probably, assuming that assumption wouldn't be to your detriment if it's wrong.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 30, 2021 at 1:11
  • 1
    @Job_September_2020: I don't know how it works at every company, but in my experience, "shadowing an interview" is part of the process for training someone to give interviews. If someone is still training for how to interview, it would be pretty weird for them to simultaneously be in a position to decide which candidates move forward.
    – Kevin
    Jun 30, 2021 at 20:45

4 Answers 4


You've informed them of the conflict. That's all you're required to do, if they thought it was a problem they would have changed things up. So do the interview fairly and impartially. At the recap (or in your notes if there is no recap), bring up the fact again.

FWIW, since you're shadowing and there's another interviewer present I don't see a big deal here. It would be an issue if you didn't have a second opinion in the room.

  • good answer for the first half of my question, but what about my second question about the discomfort aspect?
    – c36
    Jun 29, 2021 at 14:44
  • 2
    @c36 Talk to him about it? I mean, you would probably be asked for your input having known him either in the recap or in the referral. If its a large org you can probably beg off with a scheduling conflict. But I'm not sure if you want to- it could be an interesting chance to see other people's opinions on him and where you may have blind spots. Or where your interviewing process may not be evaluating people well. Jun 29, 2021 at 14:51
  • 20
    @c36 Actually bad answer. It takes 30 seconds to pick up the phone and call someone to enquire if they got the email. That should be done. Jun 30, 2021 at 2:05
  • 1
    Talk to him about it I do not think it appropriate for the OP to let the candidate influence who they are interviewed by. That is the empoyer's choice. If the candidate finds it uncomfortable at the time they should indicate that to the interview board when it happens. It is also inappropriate for a potential interviewer to have contact with a candidate in this way. Note the employers may also be checking for how they two people deal with this professionally - all the more reason to be very cautious. Jun 30, 2021 at 13:54
  • @GregoryCurrie The next time I get a call from a coworker, it will be the first time in a decade. You'd be far more disruptive that way. I don't even think I can get a coworkers phone number anymore, maybe their manager could. Jun 30, 2021 at 14:04

Can I safely assume that the lack of response to my email means [something]

Of course not - what it means is almost certainly

  • they didn't get the email

  • didn't have time to work through it yet

Just pick up the phone and resolve this.

  • 11
    @c36, This is the correct answer. I do not why the other answer was accepted. On a side-note, if you can't reach anyone in HR, phone the main interviewer (the one you're supposed to shadow), and ask for his opinion. Jun 29, 2021 at 21:24
  • great point ....
    – Fattie
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:13
  • Calling to draw attention to the issue is fine. However I'd personally prefer to get confirmation of that by email so I have a record if it all goes wrong and people go into deny-deny-deny mode. Jun 30, 2021 at 13:50
  • 2
    Agree, but if they are refusing to respond by email but do respond by phone, you can send them a quick email like 'Per our phone conversation I will be shadowing the interview with my referral. Thanks for your help.' That way there is a trail before the interview and it will help CYA Jun 30, 2021 at 16:23
  • "This is the correct answer. I do not why the other answer was accepted". That answer is what the author wanted to hear, most likely. Jul 1, 2021 at 19:40

Three things. (1) no, you can’t assume that a lack of a response means acceptance, (2) if you are concerned for your former colleague, make him aware of the situation in advance and see what he says, (3) it’s a job interview where you are shadowing the actual interviewer don’t stress over it, you aren’t hiring your nephew or eavesdropping in a confessional.

Call your manager, ask your question. Call your colleague, tell him you’ll be shadowing the interview (make it clear that doesn’t work for or against him).

  • In this situation surely the OP's primary responsibility is to their employer ? Contacting their former colleague would seem quite inappropriate - it is not the candidate themselves who decides who interviews them, and that includes the OP. Jun 30, 2021 at 13:49
  • @StephenG, the fact that you even have to ask "what is the OP's primary responsibility" leads back the original question of this being a conflict of interest. A "primary responsibility" could be a 51% employer and 49% spouse/roommate/colleague/best friend/etc. is a "secondary responsibility", but because there's a split responsibility, there's that possibility of a conflict of interest. In this case, the referral means contacting them wouldn't be inappropriate, and being part of the interview process with a bonus on the line makes it all questionable. It's not a question of "primary" anything. Jun 30, 2021 at 21:43
  • @StephenG: The OP has shared this information with whole internet, it’s not confidential, it’s not giving the colleague a chance to veto (other than not showing up), and it’s not giving the colleague an advantage. It’s a bit of kindness, like sharing the parking situation or that the bathroom is being remodeled. Telling him exactly what they should be telling all of the candidates, that the OP will be observing but not participating. If the company expects the OP to ghost a referral until after the interview, it’s crazy.
    – jmoreno
    Jun 30, 2021 at 23:57
  • @jmoreno The OP is using an entirely artificial member ID. These situations are not so rare that they are not happening elsewhere to other people at the same time. It's not public information. We do not, in fact, know it's not a completely hypotheical scenario or something happening to a different person the OP knows. Also consider that the OP may be scheduled now to shadow, but on the day may, by their company, be told not to - then it might look to the other person that the OP lied. The OP was kind when helping the candidate already. Jul 1, 2021 at 0:03
  • @StephenG: the OP has been on this stack for a year, plenty of time for colleagues to find out what the userid is. As for things changing, if the OP was doing the interview that would be a conflict of interest. 500, 1000, more? Hire and send me my bonus!
    – jmoreno
    Jul 1, 2021 at 0:11

I see no conflict of interest. You're not conducting the interview, and you're not making the hiring decision. Where's the conflict?

  • 6
    Huh? If I was being interviewed, and some friend was watching the interview, I'd just state "Oh, that guy is my friend Steve. Obviously I can't interview and discuss career matters with Steve watching."
    – Fattie
    Jun 29, 2021 at 14:58
  • 8
    Unusual? Unorthodox? Uncomfortable? Maybe. A conflict of interest? No.
    – joeqwerty
    Jun 29, 2021 at 17:31
  • 2
    NO conflict of interest? What is the OP supposed to do, when the interviewee phones him/her after the interview to find out whether he/she is going to get the job or not? Somebody is going to call "foul play" here whatever the outcome.
    – alephzero
    Jun 30, 2021 at 3:47
  • 2
    "A conflict of interest occurs when a party has competing interests or loyalties because of their duties to more than one person or organization. A person with a conflict of interest can't do justice to the actual or potentially conflicting interests of both parties." - Again, there's no conflict of interest here. The OP is an observer, not a decision maker. Who's going to call foul play and for what reason?
    – joeqwerty
    Jun 30, 2021 at 12:24
  • 2
    The OP already indicated they get a bonus is the candidate is selected. That is a clear conflict of interest if the OP can influence the decision by e.g. asking favorable questions or, indeed, voting. Jun 30, 2021 at 13:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .