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We have a hiring manager that has given one candidate “advice” on the interview process. Meaning, the hiring manager has given the candidate a preview of questions to expect during the interview. The hiring manager has NOT given this information to any of the other candidates. To make it a little more complicated, the person the hiring manager gave advice to is an internal candidate, while everyone else are outside candidates. By nature, the internal candidate already has an advantage, but does giving the internal candidate advice about the interview by the hiring manager go a little too far?

I feel like this is not ethical. If you’re a hiring manager and you’re giving advice, you shouldn’t be picking and choosing who to give advice to. Almost as if there is favoritism involved. HR is not aware of this, and I’m tempted to tell them. But I also don’t want to start a bunch of drama.

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    We all know this is unethical (depending on how closely the final questions resemble the example questions given). You know this is unethical as well. The real question is whether you think you can report his behavior (or at least attempt to correct the situation) without making two new enemies at work. Are you one of the interviewers? Is the hiring manager your boss? Won't the hiring manager make the final decision anyway? Is the internal candidate possibly incompetent? Is this going to affect your work? You haven't given us enough information to make a good decision. Sep 12 at 17:54
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    Reminds me of the classic one: first candidate was asked to spell dog and did so correctly to get the job. The second was asked to spell cat, did so and got the job. The last one was asked to spell hippopotamus, failed and did not get the job….
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 12 at 18:02
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    Ethics has a large personal and cultural component to it. What country are you from?
    – sfxedit
    Sep 12 at 21:24
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    Corporate politics can be complicated - are you sure the hiring manager is the villain here? Perhaps they just want to transfer the internal candidate from Team A to Team B but HR have told them they need to put the new role out to market for “reasons”, and the external candidates never really had a fair shot at the role anyway. If you want to pursue this, make sure you know the full story first otherwise you could end up with egg on your face…
    – mclayton
    Sep 12 at 21:58
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    "ethical" questions can not be answered here, it's meaningless. such questions tend to become more of a "forum for venting". please ask a very specific question.
    – Fattie
    Sep 13 at 2:27
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Ethics varies with the context, and often has a personal and cultural baggage. So what is ethical to you may be unethical for someone else under different circumstances.

Let's take the example you have given and consider it from the perspective of a corporate environment.

Suppose I wanted to promote someone from my team. But my boss doesn't like them for whatever reason and asks to consider outside candidates too for the post. I feel I have an ethical obligation to help my junior team mate advance professionally. And selfishly, I'd also rather work with someone whose work and work ethics I am familiar with and trust. So I'd definitely prep him / her for the upcoming interview to boost their chances.

Obviously, this will place many outside candidates at a disadvantage.

But from my perspective, I feel have no obligations (ethical or otherwise) towards these outside candidates I don't know or care about.

So what about an ethical obligation towards the company to hire the most talented? Well, if the company doesn't trust my judgement to promote someone from within, then it essentially comes down to work politics - are my boss right and what is in my best interest? And If I believe that promoting from within is the right step for both me and in the company's interest, I'd be quite willing to indulge in some work politics of my own to get this colleague the post.

In a corporate environment, ethical violations are only considered seriously if it is really serious and obvious - like someone lying, or undisclosed nepotism etc. And thus each complaint may have different result depending on the person who judges it. (Breaking the law is a different issue though).

Also understand that once you reach a managerial level, your further rise also depends a lot on the people you know, and not just your professional talent. This is because managing people requires social skills.

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    The last sentence is not limited to managerial, but ALL levels depend on the people you know (i.e.: You can't randomly promote yourself). Technical roles can be compensated by pure skill, but there is a limit and you can only be an arse to so many people before you're sacked (e.g.: Dr. House as an anti-example).
    – Nelson
    Sep 13 at 2:16
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HR is not aware of this, and I’m tempted to tell them.

Don't. It's not your problem, you will damage relationships, you might make a fool out of yourself and it's not going to make anything "better" for anyone.

I think you have a significant misconception about the interviewing process. It's NOT like a college test: questions with right/wrong answers and if you get 80% right, you get the job. It's not like this at all.

It's an imperfect system: through relatively short questions and conversations you try to establish a holistic view of the person and you try to assess whether there is a mutual fit. That does involve some technical (right/wrong) question, but also a lot of behavioral, cultural and communication stuff.

Most hiring managers prefer people they already know, because they already do know a lot about them and the risk of making a hiring mistake is much lower.

Given interview hints is a bit unusual but also not unheard off. Knowing the questions upfront isn't really that much of advantage. It can actually backfire since now expectations are higher.

Case in point: I had a professor in college that clearly stated frequently that everyone who did an oral examine with him would get three specific question first and if you weren't able to answer them properly, you would fail. Many many students still failed this oral examine because: knowing the question isn't the same as being able too answer it well.

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To make it a little more complicated, the person the hiring manager gave advice to is an internal candidate, while everyone else are outside candidates.

In my experience this is an unusual situation. Where I have worked at the start of the hiring process a decision is made: internal first, then external; or external. If a position is open to external applications it is very hard to get the position if you are already an employee with the company. That is because management wants to bring in new blood, or these are low level positions.

The decision to start with internal is to give opportunities for transfers or promotions, they only open it to external applications if they can't find enough quality applicants. I have moved forward with the process with only one or two internal candidates.

I have also seen the decision regarding internal/external based on the availability of funds to pay for relocation.

I wonder if the decision by the hiring manager to boost the chances of the internal candidate is because they feel an internal candidate will be better for the organization.

I would drop the idea of contacting HR. Unless you are part of the team trying to pick the person to fill the slot, or you know that there is some other connection between the hiring manager and the candidate, there are just too many unknowns.

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