I just read this in the 4/13 issue of Fortune in the cover store, "How To Find A Job." 

One surefire way to grab people's attention is to offer intel on their competitors. David Perry, the headhunter, advises gathering such tidbits whenever you go on an interview. When the hiring manager asks whether you have questions, Perry recommends saying, "Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I understand your five competitors are such and such. What is it about ABC Company that makes you guys nervous?" Take notes, and when you get to your car, pick up the phone and call those competitors: 'I just left an interview at XYZ Corp. Apparently you're doing this and this and it's keeping them up at night. Do you have time for coffee?'"

Do people actually do this? Is this good advice?

I think everything you do has to go through a "gut check" where you ask yourself - does what I'm doing right now make me feel like a dirtbag?

Further, I'm not sure how effective it is. If I received that call, maybe I'd listen to what they have to say but I sure as heck wouldn't tell them anything about my company and I DEFINITELY wouldn't hire them. How can I trust this person moving forward?

jhack's picture

And would you want to work for someone who'd hire you for that kind of behavior? 

Would you want to hire someone who did that in an interview?  

Shades of Gordon Gecko.  

John Hack

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 I wouldn't hire someone who did that and would probably hang up before they told me anything, for two main practical reasons (in addition to the ethical concerns):

  1. If they're willing to betray one company's confidence then I have to presume they'll be willing to do the same to another company, mine.  It's like why security forces never fully trust a defector from the other side, even if there is no doubt that they are honestly defecting, if they can twist once they can twist again.
  2. What liability might I incur by having the knowledge they are passing on?  Whilst it's unlikely that  a recruiting manager would give a potential recruit any highly confidential information (I did once interview subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement and the company paid me a half day's pay for the interview to ensure it was legally binding but that was a highly unusual situation, the third interview and the location of the place where the interview was conducted was subject to the NDA) I wouldn't want to risk compromise, negative publicity or litigation.

 Perhaps another way to look at it is what would you do if you were the first company and a year or two down the line you found that one of your competitors had hired someone who had done what is described?  I'd expect to be looking at legal options.



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Experience is how you avoid failure, failure is what gives you experience.

ashdenver's picture

The author of the article is absolutely right - it IS a surefire way to get attention but not all attention is positive.  In this case, I find the advice deplorable. 

First of all, if I were interviewing someone who said "What makes you nervous about the competition" I would finish the interview quickly, escort them out and reject them outright.  If you come in assuming that we're quaking in our boots at the threat of our competitors, you obviously don't hold our company in high esteem which means we have no use for you.

Secondly, if you called me at the other company following an interview in which you got away with your "nervous" gimmick, I'd laugh and decline your invitation for coffee.  If you're that willing to sell out a company to further your own needs and desires, I have no interest in hiring you.  The people I want to hire will be loyal to their employer and won't pull underhanded tricks in the marketplace. 

I'm curious - who was the author of this article?  I'd like to run a Google search to see what other pithy advice they've offered up.

DPWade's picture

"I'm curious - who was the author of this article?  I'd like to run a Google search to see what other pithy advice they've offered up."

Me too. 

About the closest anyone should come to doing this is to state that you have the capability to produce a comprehensive SWOT analysis on any relevant market competition, if it be a skill requirement for a given position (be ready to back it up before you do make that statement), but I would keep that in broad terms - no naming/specifics.


rgbiv99's picture

It wasn't advice, per se. It was more along the lines of "this is what other people are doing." Some of it was good, like the guy they started the piece with. He meticulously tracked everything that he did each day (reminded me of HMAC) and massively over-prepared. He also brought a high degree of energy (sound familiar?) to every interview to the point where the interviewer was demonstrating something on a white board and the guy leaped out of his chair to help him brainstorm. So that was good.

Other stuff was bad, like the one mentioned above or this.

Didn't bring the mag to work with me but will provide the name of the author tonight.


rgbiv99's picture

Don't want to be scurrilous. Not my intention at all.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Don't do it.

If you do, don't tell the people who know you did that you've been here.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


I think you deleted the author's name based on my post, and I apologize that I was not more clear.  I regret my clumsiness.

My comment was directed toward the recommendation cited in the original post, not your response to another member's request.