Q. I work as a human resource officer for a local real estate company and recently, I went to interview for the same position in a different real estate company. Problem is, one of the interviewers veered off and wanted to know in-depth details of the current company I work for- revenue, and how we market our land amongst other things. I declined to respond to them and in just a moment, the interview ended. As a HR practitioner who’s just starting her career, kindly guide me if it’s okay to give such information and if not, how best to decline.
Your instincts were right and you made the right decision by declining to respond. Your interviewer had no right to ask for such direct information and should not have made you feel uncomfortable. But if it was their tactic to generate intelligence through sham interview process, declining to respond seemed a waste of time and most likely the reason they ended.
Though interviewers will always come in different shapes and sizes and certainly with different intentions, smart candidates are not just desperate to get the job but are also assessing suitability of the potential employer from the interactions and questions asked.
Employers should know that interviews are not just a one way process where the focus is only on assessing the suitability of the candidate but appreciate that the candidate is also assessing if they will find a suitable environment should they decide to make the job change.
All said, never forget you are at the interview on the invitation of the potential employer and due respect is expected, which means how you choose to answer a conflicting question is important.
In some situations, an interviewer may ask questions such as this to see if you could be trusted to make a good judgment on what constitutes confidential company information.
How you choose to decline is of most importance and should be far from arrogance or pride.
Stating that such information is classified and protected under confidentiality clause that you have signed is a safe direction to take and an employer seeking a candidates who can be trusted will be interested to explore more.
Try and turn the discussion from your employer’s data or strategy and demonstrate how you have played a key role in the success in the business, and how you are willing to deploy such competencies and skills if given the opportunity.