I got a reply from one of the top government contractors for a position. They gave me several questions to answer and send back to them...one of them being:

"where are you currently within your job search?"

To be honest I got an interview with another top company already and awaiting responses from some others.

I'm not sure what they're trying to get from that question, if they're trying to determine I'm "hot" or whether they have flex room with their potential offer.

What would be the best way to answer this? I thought of saying "Actively searching" but I'm not sure what the best strategic approach would be (if any)

5 Answers 5


They might have a need to fill a position starting x weeks from now. They know it will take time to arrange interview, conduct them, make a decision, do the final background checks and get the person into the chair.

If you are just putting resumes online and applying to one or two things but with no desire to move to a new position unless the perfect offer comes along; then you might not meet their window.

If you are unemployed and desperate but they have to wait to see if they win the contract and the position won't start for 3 months; you might not fit their window.

This is equivalent to the questions a car salesman or real estate agent asks. If you are just looking, and they are trying to make the sale by the end of the day, you don't fit their window.

There is no perfect way to answer this question. If you know their window, and want to make sure you fit it, then you can choose your words carefully. If you answer honestly, then you could eliminate yourself for consideration for some positions. The tricky part comes with positions that won't be available for months, you can't know if you will still be in the market at that time.

The prudent way is to discuss the situation with the recruiter, to minimize the wasting of your time and the companies time, while still keeping you in the running for good positions.

  • To properly discuss the situation, make sure to call the recruiter instead of simply responding via mail.
    – parasietje
    Mar 12, 2014 at 17:04

I ask this question to everyone I interview. It's important for recruiters to know how quickly we need to move, especially if you're a strong candidate who has interest from other companies. We ask candidates complete multiple interviews and a test before we can hire them, and sometimes that can take weeks depending on interviewers' availability. If I think you're awesome based on my initial call with you, and if you tell me you have other employers that are farther along in the interview process, then I'm going to pull whatever strings I can (eg. after-hours interviews) in order to expedite things on our end.

I think this question is beneficial to both the employer and the candidate. But if you question an employer's motives, I'd say it's perfectly acceptable to counter the question with, "I'm interviewing, but your company is among my top choices; how soon would you like for someone to start?"


Note top government contractors. This may be one of two things, one related to the current shutdown/debt ceiling mayhem the other being related to conditions under which some companies seek recruits.

Government contractors may not be able to hire at present because their contracts are suspended until the politicians GTST. However, contractors have another habit recruits might find annoying.

Companys X, Y, and Z are bidding on some managed service contract for DOn, where n is Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Edumacation, Transportation, or whatever. Each has to provide DOn with a resume for every position it intends to fill. Since the companies are each proposing to populate a building with 1000 warm bodies, they each need 1000 resumes - preferably without any overlap with other companies bidding on the same work. Therefore, the gist of this question is 'are you being submitted to the government for the same (or different) roles for each of several contractors?'. In some cases you may not even know this is why your resume is being solicited or how tenuous this opportunity is.

Thus it's possible you might be hired, but only if the contractor wins the bid. If you're out of work, you may find employers are hot to talk to you to fill their resume pool, even though you don't stand a snowball's chance of actually being employed. If you're working somewhere else and you're in a hurry to get out, don't hold your breath.

Having done government work (for the US Air Force in the 1990s) I've noticed two things: first is the pay is miserable, which is OK if the alternative is none at all, the other is that one has outsized opportunities to learn new stuff. These tend to be big organizations with aggressive technology portfolios. Private industry would not trust people with trivial amounts of experience with such responsibilities. Someone hardly in the Air Force for more than two years is designing and maintaining Oracle databases - at age 20 with no college this is pretty significant.

Ideally, you are in one of two situations: first is that you are working somewhere but not in a big rush to move. Once the requisition is sorted out you will get an offer, if you are actually needed. For IT work, you are actually needed (if you know what you're doing).

The second is that you're camped out at home with a recently acquired degree and can mow lawns until something better comes along, and you need a 'break' to get some experience. Believe me, this is an experience.

In the meantime, to answer the question, if you are close to 'closing', what it means to them is that they have to find another resume for the slot. If you're still wandering in the wilderness, they'll presume you're available when the contract comes through. If one or more other contracts has you listed for the same position, you're likely to be more valuable than if there each contractor has a distinct candidate.

  • He doesn't say he's in the United States. There isn't currently a "shutdown" for about 7.1b people. Feb 21, 2019 at 9:48

Quite simple. If you already have 10 applications running and are in the last stages of negotiating a potential contract, there's less opportunity there for them (and they'll have to take care to not send your resume to the companies you're already talking to or have talked to recently too of course).
It's also a means to gauge how serious you are.


Usually what I find recruiters usually want from me when they ask me this question is, they want to know if I have any offers on the table already. For example, if they know I'm going to a final interview next week, they're not going to introduce me to a client of theirs who they know is going to take a month to schedule a phone screen; they're more likely to introduce me to a client who has a quicker turnaround time. The reason is because doing so looks bad for them. Think of it from their side. Here's how interviews normally work:

1) The recruiter introduces you to their client.
2) Their client spends time scheduling time and employee resources (people) for your interview.
3) They spend time screening you.
4) They schedule more interviews with you.
5) They allocate resources of employees whose time could be spent contributing to the company, but are instead being used to interview and grade you.

All of these things are costs incurred by the client company. If they go through all of this, and then it turns out it was all a waste because you have another job lined up already, how does that make the recruiter look? The recruiter wasted their time and their resources on a candidate who was never even a potential recruit at all! That looks really bad on the recruiter.

That's what the recruiter wants to know, and why they want to know it. Just be honest and say you have offers coming and more on the way, and they'll schedule you (or not) as appropriate. You could say something like:

I have some offers coming and more interviews scheduled, but I really like your company (including reasons would be good!) so I'm willing to delay some of those things to give you an opportunity, as long as the delay is reasonable.

Be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot here: a job today is better than an interview tomorrow, no matter how good the company is!

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