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Had an interview the other day. While we were talking about the recruitment process, I just mentioned in passing that I was involved in one other recruitment process as well. I was just making conversation and trying to be genuine, since the timing of the two processes is of relevance to both me and the two companies.

However, I dunno if I'm overthinking things, but I thing I noticed some ... I dunno, nervous or odd inquiry into this other job posting? The two guys I was being interviewed by starting asking questions like "is the job similar to ours?, "which one would you rather want"?. I wasn't prepared for these questions at all, I thought their response would just be "well, yeah that makes sense", and then we'd carry on.

Did I mess up? I really was just making conversation and speaking from the heart, but in hindsight, I think I should've kept my mouth shut, for two reasons:

  1. Firstly, it may sound like me saying "you better hurry up and hire me, otherwise somebody else might take me". That's not what I was saying at all, I was just trying to make conversation because I'm a blabbermouth.
  2. It might suggest that their job isn't my first/only priority since I'm looking elsewhere. Which is silly, since of course I'm not betting my future on landing only their job ... if I don't get it, my job search might be postponed by weeks/months, so of course I'm searching for multiple postings ... but some companies might take this as a sign that I'm not invested enough in them.

Am I overthinking things, or did I mess up?

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  • Doesn't seem like you've messed up by mentioning that you are interviewing elsewhere, but it is likely that you did by poorly handling the followup questions. But as I was not there, nor can read minds, can't really tell for sure. Jun 18 '20 at 10:47
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You were being a little naive in not expecting the follow up questions - there's generally no issue with mentioning that you're going through other recruitment processes, after all it's pretty much to be expected where you're in a position that you are actively searching for a job (as opposed to being headhunted for example).

Fortunately the questions aren't particularly difficult to prepare for:

"is the job similar to ours?

It's simple - and there's no gotcha element here really, you can just answer in what ways if any it's similar.

"which one would you rather want"?

There's nothing wrong with answering this with a "I'm not sure", obviously if you do have a preference for their opportunity it can be good to say that, if you preference goes the other way however I'd stick with the "I'm not sure" - there's honesty and then there's a bit too much honesty, and while straight up saying you have a preference for the other opportunity can be a bold negotiating move if you know you're in high demand most of the time it's going to go against you.

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  • +1 The time for "I like you but FooCorp are offering me ....., can you match it?" is when there's a committed offer on the table, not at the interview stage. Until the offer arrives, the onus is on the candidate to show they want the job. Jun 18 '20 at 11:51
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Short answer: no, you did not mess up. It is true that you were not really prepared for the interview, but it might actually work in your favor (they will see your answers as honest), if you did not give them too much information.


Normally, you should not mention anything which is not related to the current interview. However, it can happen that in the last stages of the interview you need to tell the companies that you have several recruitment processes started, and you need some "thinking" time. That is actually also a test for these companies, because it enables you to see how they treat you, how confident they are that they are making a good offer to you etc.

If a company starts to freak out if you tell them that you are interviewing for other jobs also, you need to start being circumspect. That might be a red flag for the company, or it may be that the recruiter is inexperienced.

The two guys I was being interviewed by starting asking questions like "is the job similar to ours?, "which one would you rather want"?

Those questions make sense, and provide them the shortest answer possible, with the minimum of information. Examples:

  • Yes, the jobs are relatively similar.

or

  • I did not make any judgment yet about which offer is more attractive. I think that it is too early to make that judgment, because I still do not have enough information. I do not want to make rushed bad decisions.

If you choose to say:

I would rather not answer these questions

then they will start having doubts about what you need to hide so much, and as a result you lower your chances with that company.

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No, you didn't mess up.

They already know you're interviewing for jobs - you're at a job interview after all.

I'd be more interested in how they reacted after they learned something they should have already known - are they looking for someone desperate enough to take a bad job? Are they so myopic that they believe it's bad to be considering options other than them? Are they professionals who can acknowledge that you're a professional too?

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Am I overthinking things, or did I mess up?

Yes, at least a little.

Interviewing somewhere else is perfectly fine and expected. However you brought it up somewhat poorly and then you weren't ready to talk about it in an intelligent and confident way. So you made a small boo-boo and weren't able to easily recover. That's a ding to your communication skills, although only a minor one.

Make sure you don't do this again and make sure you can easily talk about it during your next interaction. Don't bring it up yourself, unless there is a specific reason to bring it up (e.g. you are in the offer stages and timing is important). If they ask, make sure you have a well prepared and rehearsed answer ready to go. Don't lie, don't brag, don't undersell, just stick with the facts. And reassuring them that you are indeed very interested in their position is good too!

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You didn't mess up anything.

They are likely just fishing for information, more on competitors than on yourself. It's very valuable to know what competitors offer, which aspects of their jobs is more appealing to applicants and so on. Say that you replied something like: "well, the other company's job is pretty similar. However, they offer free training for this cool stuff and you are also supposed to travel once in while...". Think about how great would be for them knowing this stuff, regardless your status.

Whether you mention concomitant applications is a strategic decision and something you should always decide in advance. In general, if you earned an offer somewhere else, mentioning it might make your position stronger. But there are also downsides: a company might think that they are not your first option.

Always define your goals. You want more time, money, power? Is mentioning a competitor's offer useful to reach it? Then decide.

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