[TL/DR version: Is it ethical to "connect" with an interviewer on LinkedIn during the hiring process?]
As a professional and a contractor, my name is my most important asset. So therefore ethics are everything to me. This is especially important because of the fact that I am an Information Security professional and usually have access to information that is confidential. I need to be trusted.
When I first started with LinkedIn, even if I knew all of the interviewers for a job application, I wouldn't look at their profiles. I could - but I wouldn't.
Eventually, after reflection, I did look at their profiles but wouldn't refer to anything in them lest they think I was spying on them.
More recently, it has become so normal to "research" the interviewers to the point that if you don't look them up in LinkedIn then you are seen to be uninterested. Some employment agencies actually supply the LinkedIn profiles or URLs as part of the job specification.
My question is simple - is it encouraged/discouraged/ethical/unethical to send a LinkedIn Connection request to an interviewer? When is good to do it? Is it unfair advantage? If you land the job, could it be seen as cronyism? Or is LinkedIn professional enough that your contacts are not necessarily your friends.
If the interviewer accepts, what is the protocol? Can you talk directly to them while they are deciding on the position? Should you take that opportunity to talk to them maybe making yourself more human and more of a person than a "candidate"?
Many articles on "how to land that perfect job" (on LinkedIn, it is usually "X things you are doing wrong in job interviews and how to fix them") usually promote the idea of a "follow up" which cements you in the interviewer's mind and makes you their preferred candidate. Can you use LinkedIn to do the same?
One other thing is that some of the people I have met while looking for work have been the most interesting and insightful people and are certainly the type that I want to add to my list of contacts. I usually wait until I hear how the decision went and then send a request.
Am I being over cautious?
Am I shooting myself in the foot while all the other candidates are jumping in as fast as possible to make a good impression and I seem uninterested?
Or, am I doing the right, ethical thing?