I have thought about this post for years. I have seen (and heard) company interviewers use candidates for more than interviews and am finally thought I should write this.
Years ago, in southern California, our company was invited to 'bid' on a very big account, Steelcase, providing all their temporary staffing. We spent weeks investigating the challenges they faced, understanding where their current agency was not delivering and put together a magnificent proposal and presentation. We didn't get the account, their current providers kept the account and from what we could observe, implemented all our ideas. While reasonably disgusted, we had to do it and couldn't have done anything differently. We had to go for it. Don't even mind using real names here. Hope it bit 'em in the ass, too.
A few years ago, I had a hiring manager ask each candidate interviewing for a marketing position to put together a comprehensive presentation on how each would overhaul our current marketing strategies, complete with logo and colors. One applicant asked me if her $200 in required color handouts would be reimbursed. Fortunately I was in a position to say yes. The hiring manager thought it was reasonable for the applicant to pay for it; I did not.
Interviews are designed to help companies determine if candidates can bring not only knowledge, skills and abilities but new ideas, a fresh approach, unique perspectives. But if you don't hire the candidate(s), is it ethical to use what you learn in the interview?
I haven't seen much about this and wonder if you have experiences to share? When does an interview cross the line?