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How Can I Be Sure an Interviewer Isn’t Stealing My Ideas?

Career Advice |

Interviews are becoming much more in depth than a few simple questions these days.  Interviewers often want to see examples of your actual work, and may ask you questions that give them insight into what value you can really add to the company. For example, they may ask: “If you joined, what would you suggest doing about X?”  They may even ask you to work on a sample project that can take significant time.

With these new interview tactics, the question on many job seekers’ minds often are, “How much of my ideas should I give away?” and, “If I share my ideas, will they be taken and used even if I’m not offered the job?”

It’s a tricky one, but in my opinion you should always go all out in an interview, giving it everything you’ve got.  Doing anything only half way will not get you great results, especially in the interview process.  So if you’re asked to work on a project or present an idea for the company, be thoughtful, thorough and brilliant.

That being said, how can you really know if your idea is going to be taken and used without you in the equation?

3 Things to Consider

1. Interview with companies that have good values and company cultures. Look on, speak to people you know who work or have worked there, and do lots of research.  When you start to investigate a company’s culture from reliable and candid sources, you may learn if it’s a “shark-like” environment.  If it is, spend less time worrying about their intentions with your idea, and more time pondering whether or not it is still a company you want to work for.

2. Gauge the intentions of your interviewers. This is kind of a tricky one to pin down, but go with your gut.  Are you really connecting with the person you are interviewing with, or does it seem like they care less about who you are and more about what you can produce?  In some cases, partially taking that approach is fine, because at the end of the day, results are important.  However, it’s not all that matters.  Looking behind the results to figure out “how” someone gets there should also be important to the company. Ask yourself if they are focusing on both.

3. Have faith in the fact that the idea itself usually isn’t the hard part, the execution is. I’ve heard this a lot… and I do believe it. Coming up with an idea is relatively easy compared to executing on it successfully, which takes time, effort and the right person. Even if a company does steal an idea, your goal in an interview is to make sure they also know you are critical to executing that idea. The only way you can do that is by emphasizing and impressive and unique skill set.

The next time you are asked to present an idea or work on a project as part of an interview process, consider the three things above. Then, go all out and give it your absolute best shot!

Have you ever felt uncomfortable working on a project as a job candidate? Tell us in the comments.

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interview advice skills2


This is great!


I've applied to some jobs where part of the application is an extensive project. I always wonder where this information goes. Good to know I should keep completing these with excellence.


Great advice, I have often wondered about this in interviews!


A good think to remember is that while interviewers NEED to ask you scenario questions so they can gauge fit (experience, culture) they don't need a step by step action plan.

Keep responses detailed yet broad. Instead of giving a step by step action plan that they could go implement without you focus on the types of strategies you might use in those situations. For example, they might ask you a scenario question fro how to resolve exceeding a budget or a broken process and instead of responding step by step, illustrate your experience and ability to think on your feet by keeping a response a bit more process and less step by step action plan.

This is a tight rope to walk, you want to show your skills and give them good answers but no one should have your ideas and then excuse you while they go use them!


Oh my goodness, This honestly didn't even occur to me! good to know.

Carly Heitlinger

I have had this happen to me! The interview was almost 4 hours and they kept asking me what I what do for X, Y, & Z. I didn't know how to handle it!


Great advice! I've had so many friends worrying about this very issue.

The Prepary

Jaime is the Founder of The Prepary, an online resource providing honest and accessible job search advice based on her past experience in the recruiting world. She also works with job seekers one-on-one to help them land their dream job or internship. Prior to starting The Prepary, Jaime worked as a Recruiter in both the Fashion & Finance industries and got her BA in Psychology from NYU.