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Sometimes an interviewer asks you if you are interviewing with other companies too.

How could the answer "Are you interviewing other candidates?" be considered?

It may sound "smart‑ass" (which is bad), and to be honest it is. I struggle to find the initial question not insulting: why would they ever expect me not to be interviewing with other companies, when they obviously aren't talking exclusively to me?

Would/should they even believe me if I said I wasn't?

I never tested this answer, mind, so I have no experience with that directly.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Dec 12 '19 at 12:31
  • what's wrong with 'yes' or 'no'? – Allen Zhang Jan 8 at 0:56
  • @AllenZhang nothing, but that wasn't the question – o0'. Jan 12 at 18:54

14 Answers 14

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How could be considered the answer "Are you interviewing other candidates?"

It'd be considered rude, and it's a terrible answer.

Instead, you could say: "I'm keeping an open mind, and I'm looking for opportunities". You don't have to give a "Yes" or "No" answer if you don't want, but IMHO, saying the truth does not hurt. Make sure you do not reveal any information about the other interviews - that's all.

Regarding why they are asking this question, it can have many reasons, like

  • Whether you are serious about the change (and not just wasting their time).
  • Whether you have other interviews and offers lined up.
  • How soon they need to get back to you, i.e., make a decision for the hiring (or not).

Do not consider this as an insult; it is not.

why would they ever expect me not to be interviewing with other companies?

They never expect you not to interview with other companies. They want to see whether you (and your skills) are in demand or not.

206

Sometimes an interviewer asks you if you are interviewing with other companies too.

How could be considered the answer "Are you interviewing other candidates?"

It may sound "smart‑ass" (which is bad), and to be honest it is.

You know it's a smart-ass answer, so don't say it. Few companies want to hire someone who exhibits that attitude.

Of course the company is interviewing other candidates, with very few exceptions.

I struggle to find the initial question not insulting: why would they ever expect me not to be interviewing with other companies, when they obviously aren't talking exclusively to me?

Would/should they even believe me if I said I wasn't?

They don't expect you not to be interviewing at other companies. They may believe you if you said you weren't, but there is no value in lying here if you are.

The question is generally asked to try to see if you are on the verge of accepting an offer elsewhere. If true, this is your opportunity to disclose the fact that you are close to accepting an offer and that if this company wants your services, they need to come to a decision quickly.

A few companies look on an answer like "No, I'm not looking elsewhere" as an opportunity to offer you less.

In general, if you are actively looking for a job (as opposed to being recruited only for this position), then you are or will be interviewing elsewhere. You should usually indicate that you are actively looking. As @spuck wisely comments, a non-committal answer like "I'm exploring several options at this time." is appropriate.

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    Exactly this. Play your cards close to your chest with a non-committed answer like "I'm exploring several options at this time". – spuck Dec 10 '19 at 18:34
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    "they need to come to a decision quickly" ... yup. I've been asked questions along this line during initial recruitment when it's more possible to really accelerate the interviewing and decision making process. i've also been asked, "do you have any other offers on the table?" ... "yes, I do" ... "ok. congratz! so, when do you need our answer by?" – svidgen Dec 10 '19 at 22:28
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    +1 "Are you interviewing with other companies?" is not an interviewing question. It's a salary negotiation question. They have the salary ranges of most companies in the region – if you are interviewing with a company that has a high salary range; they will offer you a similar range. If you are not interviewing with others, they can undercut you as they wish. If you say yes, they might ask for names, but you don't have to give them that. If you say no, they might offer very small increase from the median salary of your current company. – Umur Kontacı Dec 10 '19 at 23:26
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    Another side of this is: there have been times that I told a company, "not really -- your recruiting pitch seemed particularly interesting, but I'm generally happy where I am, so I'm not really on an active job search." Companies can take that as they will, but I think it means they have a bit less negotiation power, because they're competing against a known quantity (and thus low-risk option) with which I'm already fairly happy. Of course, I've only said that when it's the truth (which honestly has not been often, but it's happened once or twice). – yshavit Dec 11 '19 at 6:25
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    Also, while this is a bad answer to their question, it might be an excellent stand-alone question at another time in the interview (usually "do you have any more questions for us): asking "Are there other candidates in the running for this position" and "What might make you consider their profile above mine" can give you an opportunity to learn what skills/traits they find important for the position, and a last chance to prove you also have that skill/trait, preferably by showing you have prior experience or training... it's just good sales. – Konerak Dec 11 '19 at 12:30
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To add another perspective to the other answers.

Sometimes the answer can be that you are not interviewing elsewhere and it might not actually be a bad thing.

When I was interviewing for my current role, I made them aware that I was happy where I was and wasn't looking to move. I advised that I only came to the interview as their company sounded interesting and I wanted to consider my options.

This demonstrated that I was specifically interested in their company and allowed me to negotiate a higher salary as they knew I was happy to stay where I was.

However I appreciate this only works as an answer if you actually currently have a job.

As an additional point, I often like to ask the question about if they are interviewing many candidates (if it feels appropriate to ask*), as it is often useful to have an idea of how big a field you are up against and also can help give an estimate of timelines (e.g. if they say we have interviews lined up for all of next week, I would know that I probably wont get a response till after then, and that if they rejected me earlier, then the interview went poorly and if they offer me the job sooner then they must really want me!)

*A better way of getting this information can be to ask "How soon would you be looking for a successful candidate to start?" - which gives them the opportunity to provide further details (e.g. we are interviewing for the next two weeks...etc)

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    I was thinking of a similar answer to yours @Tim but you put it much better! For my current role, it was the only company I'd applied to at that point as I generally wasn't actively looking, but the role and company genuinely interested me, was a step up in my career and seemed like it could be a good fit with the culture and technology so I went for it. (I don't recall if I was asked that exact question in the interview but a similar subject came up and I answered it honestly.) – seventyeightist Dec 10 '19 at 20:00
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    For the interviewer, it's also very valuable information. It means there is no time pressure (you are in a job and don't seem in a hurry, so there's little risk of losing you by being a bit slow), but on the other hand they need to make a good offer that convinces you to move. – gnasher729 Dec 10 '19 at 22:59
  • +1 for "A better way of getting this information..." Asking a different question to get a slightly different answer can still give you about the same information, and have it actually mean something, too. "Other candidates" might include ones they've already interviewed, but "when would it start" asks about the future only, and you might get the bonus answer of how many people they have left to interview. – computercarguy Dec 10 '19 at 23:43
  • Similar for me: I quit my last job because I wasn't really happy - but it was far from being bad. So I only applied to jobs that would fit my interest better, not similar jobs. I sent maybe one application per month. I was never anywhere near interviewing with two companies at the same time. – Sabine Dec 11 '19 at 10:43
  • +1 for "how soon […] to start?" or "what is the timeline for next steps?" -> This gives the interviewer the chance to provide information like how much more effort they have to put into evaluating other candidates. – user2943160 Dec 13 '19 at 5:35
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It seems like you're asking two separate questions:

1) Why would they ask me this question?

There could be numerous reasons, such as finding out if their competitors are trying to hire you, or how interested you are in a particular field / industry / their company. Knowing that you are in-demand could also make them increase their offer.

2) Is my reply appropriate?

No. It's defensive and unnecessarily confrontational. Depending on the truth, it's best to answer along the lines of 'I'm currently exploring my options and talking with different companies, but I'm particularly interested in this job'.

5

I struggle to find the initial question not insulting

An interview is not a normal social interaction. You need to remember this at all times and modify your expectations accordingly.

The level of protocol and process necessitate some questions where the answers are seemingly obvious, but must nonetheless be asked. Indeed given the personal choice the interviewers often might not ask these questions, or word them in the way they are, but they aren't and so they must.

Never, ever, respond with sarcasm or imply a question is 'stupid' or otherwise beneath you to answer. They're likely smart people, and to the extent it is, they already know! It's a question of respect. Cut them some slack, and just patiently answer.

5

I do interviews and phone screens for my company.

If you gave me this response, I would likely respond, "Yes, of course. But we can and frequently do hire more than one person. I assume, however, that you can only accept one offer." Then, unless we'd had an exceptionally good conversation otherwise or an apology followed (without prompting), I'd note that you suddenly became a hostile smart-ass and advise the interviewers to watch for attitude problems. That is assuming I recommended moving forward at all.

I usually only ask this question in phone screens, because I expect our recruiters to ask about your job hunt status on interview day. My reason and our recruiters' reason for asking this question is not to gain some advantage over you or see if we can low-ball you. That would be a self-defeating move, since if we hire you, we'd like you to stay. What I want to know is if we need to fast-track you. That might sound like a good thing, but it only is if you're an exceptional candidate. If we're on the fence and don't have time to consider you carefully, we'll probably fall back on turning you down quickly so we're not holding you up.

That said, if you have an offer in hand and are willing to share some information about it -- even just that it's "really good" -- we may consider that in our offer. We still won't low-ball you, but it may tell us that you're going to take some above-and-beyond to get. You may very well be out of our price range, so we may follow up to learn more about the work you want to be doing, since we might at least be able to offer you a more interesting project than you can get elsewhere. If you're really something rare and special, it might even give us the slap across the face we needed to realize that we should be willing to pay you more than usual (e.g. you'll bring in more business).

We expect you to be interviewing elsewhere. Telling us you are at worst will not matter, and usually will only work to your benefit. This is also a good opportunity to tell us that you're only interviewing with us because we gave a good sales pitch, but you're in no hurry to leave your current position unless the job and offer are right.

  • Thanks for the answer. Really nice to see such a detailed description of your processes. – undefined Dec 13 '19 at 11:14
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It's a bad (non-)answer. In addition to both coming across as a smart-ass and not answering the question, it misses the point (which may not have been made completely clear). They're not looking to make sure you're talking exclusively to them, they're trying to figure out a timeline for decisions/actions. Likewise, you don't care who else they're talking to; you care when you know what they decide (assuming you want to work there - if not, you don't care).

If you already have an offer from somewhere else and that other employer needs an answer soon (tomorrow, end of week, whenever), then this employer needs to decide quickly if they want to make you an offer before they lose you to somebody else. Conversely, if you have another interview or two scheduled a couple weeks or a month out, they know that either they need to wait until after those interviews for an answer, make you a strong enough offer to cancel those interviews, or hire another candidate who is willing to start sooner.

You don't need to know how many other people they have interviewed or are planning to interview. You need to know when they will decide whether to make you an offer, and if they make an offer, when they need an answer. Ask those questions instead. Other candidates may be a factor in their answer, but so are things like urgency, budget, etc. Focus on the portion that's actually relevant to you (timeline), not other possible candidates.

2

No, you should not respond in this way. It would likely be perceived as rude and you have nothing to gain from it.

As for the initial question being insulting, you're thinking about it in entirely the wrong way. They would expect you to be interviewing with other companies. It's not going to count against you and it doesn't really matter why they're asking. The important thing to recognize is that it's most likely to your advantage to answer yes.

Competition for your services gives you leverage in any salary/compensation negotiations, creates a sense of urgency on their part, and signals that you are valuable as others apparently consider you worthy of conducting an interview.

The only reason they would have to reject you for this is if they're not serious enough to compete for your services or don't feel they can offer you a competitive salary, in which case, good riddance.

1

It depends: not always terrible, but never good.

How well the interview went and the tone you use to ask the question will play a role. If you get along well with the interviewer and by the end of the interview you're relax enough to calmly ask "are you interviewing other candidates" in a way that is obviously rhetorical and just a way of saying "yes, of course" (you may even want to add "of course I am") rather than being perceived as offended and/or offensive, it might not hurt you... but I don't see a scenario where it would increase your chance at getting the job.

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    If I was the interviewer I would enjoy that answer; I would think it was funny. I don't work in HR, but if I did, then I would want to be as transparent as possible. So even after that answer I would probably respond with something like. "haha ok, well here is our timeline for this position..." – ThomasRones Dec 11 '19 at 10:55
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    @AncientElevator9 Ahh, yes. Unfortunately you can never be sure how the interviewer react since you don't know them very well. The nature of their question might not even occur to them if they are too cooped up. – DKNguyen Dec 11 '19 at 21:36
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The thing is: both of these questions are actually nonsensical.
It's assumed that the company talks with other candidates. And that they do that until the last moment. At that time, they give you an offer. Until then, they are deciding. And talking with anyone who is willing.

Now, it's also clear that as a job seeker you are talking with other companies. You stop when you settle on an offer you like.

For me question: Are you interviewing with other companies? should be read as

How do you perceive yourself and how good do you look on the market?
If you say you have no other interviews lined up or ongoing, the HR or anyone can just not feel the urge to fill the spot.
If you look like a good candidate.

From my personal experience, it was good to ask for a return information till such and such date as I had also other interviews (and they required me to travel and taking a job would need relocation). IMHO, it's professional for both sides. If you expect to get hired in the next month, a company shouldn't waste your and their time and resource if they can hire you in three.

And, of course, stating that you have a few lined up give you both more room to talk about "why would you like with us/ what can you give me when I start working with you".

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It's entirely up to you to decide how much information you want to give them. If you think you're in a strong position and want to make it clear that they are going to have to make a good offer in order to attract you, then say so, and explain how you will decide between competing offers on the table. On the other hand, if other applications aren't getting anywhere and you really want this job, tell them vaguely that you've been exploring other options but this is your first choice.

1

The question "are you interviewing at other companies" is a blunt way of trying to find out if you are devoted to their company and primarily interested in their company above all others.

Normally, it is usually obvious when a candidate is focusing on a single company, but some employers go the extra step of asking the blunt question. My view is that if you even have to ask a question like this, the likelihood is that the candidate is not solely interested in your company.

In terms of answering it, just the simple truth that you are considering other companies is enough.

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Why do we overanalyze this? Just answer yes in any case, there won't be any benefit in admitting: no I'm not interviewing with anyone else. The only thing you'll convey is "I can't get other interviews at this time", surely not "I'm interviewing only with you because I want really bad to join your company", like, even if you wanted, what if they found a better fit? You'll always have to have some kind of B or C plan (but feel free to have plans till the Z), this is basic survival.

There is only one thing I came up with if you actually said "no", perhaps you'll convey you're not much interested in changing your workplace, and this will be up to your interviewer to interpret depending on their assumptions and their current situation, but this of course is valid only if you're currently employed.

Referring to your possible answer, as a rule of thumb never answer a question with another question if you don't want to sound like a smartass. It could be funny and all between friends or useful for the discussion when you're in a meeting and want to move the concentration spotlight to another area/dilemma, surely not in a formal setting.

0

Do not waste their great question. Sometimes, this question can be used to help you in unique way.

Few years ago, as a software developer, when I interviewed with 4 companies at once, in all places I discussed this openly. I replied like

Besides your company, I am currently interviewing with the IBM, Oracle and Microsoft in this city [two names were an example here, one of them was true] in area of my expertise (and passion), seeking an interesting project and good team to spend further years with. During the interviews I already found one very interesting opportunity and another technologically compelling offer but my search is not over yet, this is why I am here. Maybe your offer is what we both are searching for. :) So after answering your questions, I also have some questions for you to better discover this job opportunity.

Since in my city the software development job market is unsaturated and these players are mutually aware of their presence, they always tend to compete in drafting quality people, this turns the table... Not only I want them, but they are wanting me to buy into their offer.

This makes the interview feel a bit closer to two business partners agreeing the contract. Now they know they can lose potentially interesting resource to 3 other known companies. And this all started with honest answer to they question about my interviews with other companies.

So if possible in your setting, think about using their question for your benefit in truthful and sensible way.

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