A: It's not unusual for companies to use recruiting as a fishing exercise to find out about the competition. And a little probing is perfectly OK. You are certainly right not to reveal any proprietary or commercial secrets, however much an interviewer "insists". To do so would simply be unethical.
It's possible that the interviewers were testing your integrity with their questions. However, if you get the impression you had recently that an interviewer is actually MORE interested in gleaning info about your desk than about you, that is out of order.
The thing to do is to steer the conversation politely but firmly onto your skills or achievements eg. "I can't reveal our P&L figures, but what I can say is that I have consistently performed above my targets etc." Or, "I'm sure you would not want me to breach my employer's confidentiality, so I can't talk about X,Y,Z, but I can tell you that..." You get the idea.
If an interviewer is still over-probing after that, you could challenge them outright. "I get the impression from your line of questioning that you are more interested in my desk than in me. Is that right?" The key is to stay calm and polite. The answer should help you decide whether they are indeed testing your integrity under pressure, or whether they are just plain cowboys.
Next week's question:
I have been working in IBM for the past four years as a software developer mainly on J2EE platform. My last position was as a PMP certified project manager leading a team of ten. I've always wanted to do IT in the financial sector but have no experience. I'd be willing to go back to development work to obtain some experience. Will I be considered by banks? And how can I make my CV look attractive?
What would you advise? Send your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
out for the Experts' answer to this dilemma and readers' comments on
Ask the Expert next week! If you would like to submit a question to our
panel of experts,
ASK THE EXPERT.