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Ethical Interviews: How to Avoid Candidate Abuse

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Written by Steve Evans

I first read the terms ‘Candidate Abuse’ and ‘Interview Abuse’, last year on BBC Capital and immediately had to know more.  The article catalogued a series of experiences of US and UK job applicants being put through tortuous and protracted multi-stage selection process, only to come second place, or even be offered a job with an employer they no longer wished to work for.

As the core of our business is assisting hiring managers and HR departments in making strong selection decisions, often utilising challenging candidate assessment techniques, my first thought was whether we were participating in such abuse, but a closer examination revealed the causes, the potentially costly negative impact on an ‘employer of choice’ brand, and some timely advice on avoiding abusing candidates.

Whilst the examples highlighted in the BBC Capital article were extreme, I was able to recount a number of first hand similar stories from New Zealand candidates we meet in the course of our Career Transition and Candidate Assessment operations in the past year.

Here are their combined observations on the cause and effect of Interview and Candidate Abuse, together with our recommendations to avoid them:


  • Hiring managers not knowing what they are looking for in the beginning seems a common theme.  The requirements of the role evolve as candidates are interviewed, leading to inevitable second or third interviews to address a growing list of essential and desirable attributes
  • A growing cast of managers with a stake in the roles success was a close second.  The hiring manager conducting the first interview cannot make a selection decision until the Sales or Operations Manager has met the candidate too, also leading to extra interviews
  • Ill prepared and poor interviewers were mentioned often.  Too many occasions of interviewers who obviously had not read CV’s, Cover Letters or Application Forms before the interview, leading to insufficient information gathering and, yet again, subsequent interviews.  This was particularly prevalent in phone-screening interviews, which has an ironic twist given they were introduced to streamline selection processes
  • Testing for testing’s sake; essentially putting candidates through uniform testing processes because that’s what they do, rather than selecting testing and assessment applicable to the job.

Meddling HR departments were also mentioned too often.  The BBC Capital article interestingly noted that they could find no information or data from the HR profession on the subject of interview or candidate abuse.   Having gone to great lengths to devolve the recruitment and selection function to line managers over the past twenty years, HR departments often seem incapable of not getting involved, usually with yet another interview to string the process out for arguably little benefit


The impact of interview and candidate abuse is best summed up by examples of candidates been offered jobs and turning them down on the grounds of shambolic and protracted selection processes.  Three common themes from New Zealand candidates were:

  • Damage to the employers’ image.  That all important ‘Employer of Choice’ badge gets tainted pretty quickly when disengaged candidates take to social media to relay their experiences on Linked-In groups associated with their profession
  • This must lead to a loss of quality candidates; both those in a selection pipeline that seemingly has no end, and talented people who take an employer off their list of places they want to work
  • Perhaps the most alarming was a description of ‘Demoralised Recruits’; describing people who accept the job offer, but join the employer with diminished faith or trust in managers that hired them, or the employer that allowed such selection processes to develop.  How do you successfully onboard a disengaged new recruit?

Avoiding Interview & Candidate Abuse

  • Hiring managers need to know what they are looking for before even writing the recruitment advertisement.  Review the existing position description.  Does it reflect the role you want to fill? If not, update it and get support in conducting meaningful job analysis
  • Determine who needs to be involved in the final selection decision before short-listing candidates.  A strong position description should clearly identify the stakeholder relationships associated with the job, and therefore who needs to be on the one final interview
  • Select testing and assessment that is relevant to the role, and get it done in timely fashion
  • Set expectations with the candidate from the outset, both in terms of the selection steps and likely timeframe to complete the process
  • Ask yourself whether HR are aiding or hindering the selection process.  Where the recruitment function has been (successfully) devolved to hiring line managers, HR’s value is better placed in the job analysis elements of determining what you are looking for in candidates. Where a more ‘Personnel Management’ function prevails, then involvement in supporting hiring managers in the interview room is likely more valuable 

Next Step

The folks over at People Central have been designing, implementing and operating timely, efficient recruitment and selection processes since 1999.  Their successes include managing a selection processes that handled five thousand applicants for five hundred graduate roles across seven capital cities every year, so if you want assistance in sharpening up your recruitment and selection to avoid ever being labelled an abuser of candidates, you can visit them at


You can also explore our range of psychometric testing here to ensure you have the right match for the role.




About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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