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Let's suppose we are in an advanced stage of the recruiting process of a company and this question pops up. Also, this is a startup, so the interviewer is not an HR agent but the whole startup team (four members).

The truth is "yes", but I'm in an earlier stage with other companies; furthermore, I am genuinely less interested in the other companies' offers. However, I am not sure how to deliver that answer.

On one hand, I think it might give the impression of someone who is not focused on their particular company and is only trying to get a job. Also, in that case I don't know if it's fair to the other companies to name them. On the other hand, I think it may help give the sense of urgency needed to make the startup decide faster and to let them know that I am someone "marketable" who is not there only because it is the only chance he had.

Are there any general DOs and DON'Ts for this kind of question?

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    Last time I got asked this question, I answered with "I'd prefer not to say, if that's alright" to which they responded 'that's fine' and less than 24 hours later I got the job :) try adding an air of mystery about yourself it can't hurt, provided they know you're qualified for the job. – user59347 Apr 27 '17 at 12:16
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    Totally depends on your situation, if you're an unemployed graduate it would be strange if you weren't pursuing lots of options.. if you've been with the same company with 40 years, and have just told the startup "I'm only thinking of leaving because you guys are so exciting".. then obviously don't tell them you're actually looking elsewhere too... – JeffUK Apr 27 '17 at 12:22
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    @GrimmTheOpiner from my first read, he is the candidate, and asking how to answer "Are you interviewing at any other companies?" when he is, but is not as far along in the process. – Stephen S Apr 27 '17 at 13:44
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    I have always assumed that anyone interviewing with my company is also looking for jobs elsewhere. – cdkMoose Apr 27 '17 at 14:36
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    "That depends. Are you interviewing other candidates?" – John3136 Apr 28 '17 at 1:33
163

Just say yes

You can point out that you expect them to be interviewing other candidates as well. You can also say that you find it unwise to stop looking elsewhere until you reach an agreement with them or at least until they give you an offer.

In general believing in the startup project is good, but it's not like you are a founder or a partner and they better not expect that level of dedication from you (you should remember that as well).

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    Some extra context may be helpful. While my company doesn't ask this question, it may also take some time to decide between multiple candidates. In general we hope that if someone has an offer on the table with a date on it, they'll tell us so that we can speed up the process to compensate. It isn't to judge the person, but instead to make sure we're competitive as a company against other companies that may be vying for them. – Nate Diamond Apr 27 '17 at 19:51
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    "point out that you expect them to be interviewing other candidates" -- that argument's probably not worth having in valuable interview time... – Steve Jessop Apr 28 '17 at 11:46
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    @SteveJessop agree. Instead, point out that whilst you are applying elsewhere, this job seems the best fit and you are most interested in receiving an offer from this company. – vikingsteve Apr 28 '17 at 13:45
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    Honesty is always the best policy. Imagine if you got an offer from them, but got a better offer from someone else. Telling them that (which is a smart thing to do since they'll likely rework their offer to be competitive), would then mean admitting you'd lied. It probably wouldn't be a big deal, but some might take it as a slight ding against your character. – SethWhite Apr 28 '17 at 18:57
  • @SteveJessop I see your point and I do not think that this whole topic would come up in a tight interview. If it is brought up by the company or if the asker just wants an answer for himself I stand by what I said although in retrospect I have to admit that the second point I mentioned should have come first. – Rad80 Apr 28 '17 at 19:42
115

Are there any general DOs and DONTs for this kind of question?

  • DO say "yes", because it's the truth, because it conveys the impression that you in demand, and because it creates a sense of urgency lest you be snapped up elsewhere.
  • DO say "yes" even in the case where you haven't yet interviewed elsewhere, but since you are looking for a job you certainly will (and probably soon).
  • DO say "yes" consistently to everyone who asks, even if they aren't in HR.
  • DON'T say where else you are interviewing. It's not their business and you never know who knows who. If they ask where, just reply "I'd rather not say".
  • DON'T indicate how far along you are in your other interviews. Again, that's your business and only you need know how you will be juggling the interviews. When appropriate and true, you can inject some urgency by indicating that you expect to make a decision soon.
  • DON'T indicate details about the other jobs (like specific roles, salaries being offered, or perks). When the time comes to negotiate with this company you can always say "I have been offered a higher salary elsewhere" if it's appropriate.
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    "DON'T indicate how far along you are in your other interviews. Again, that's your business and only you need know how you will be juggling the interviews." It's certainly only your business, but should also be used tactically to your advantage. If you need to make a decision soon, and think you might get an offer that beats anything outstanding if you get it in time, that's a good reason to let them know. Alternatively you may wish to put them at ease and give them time to craft a solid offer if you are not rushed and know they are unlikely to pass you over. – Matthew Read Apr 27 '17 at 18:32
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    I think I disagree with "don't indicate how far along you are" under certain cases. For instance at my current job (a place I really wanted to work) I had just started the interview process with them when I got an offer from a company at another location. I let my current job know and they accelerated the process to meet the deadline of the other offer. Their offer was much more appealing to me, so I turned down the first offer. All this to say, I'd qualify that claim with an "it depends" and possibly indicate after the fact if you've received another offer. – Nate Diamond Apr 27 '17 at 19:54
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    @MatthewRead: if you're not rushed it's probably better to say "I'm not rushed" than to say, "I'm at stage such-and-such in a current interview process". If you are rushed, then you're right, giving details like "I have an offer in hand and I'd need an offer from you by the end of tomorrow" might motivate them more effectively than "I'd need an offer by the end of tomorrow but I decline to explain why". Marginal difference, though, it just affects the likelihood of them guessing that you're exaggerating the urgency. – Steve Jessop Apr 28 '17 at 11:49
  • ... that is to say, don't make the mistake of getting into details, because then they'll start trying to make their own judgement of the situation instead of accepting yours. It's like the difference between asking someone whether they're hungry, or asking when they last ate. Unless the person asking is your anaesthetist, they don't really need to know when you last ate. They only need to know whether you want to eat now ;-) – Steve Jessop Apr 28 '17 at 11:56
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    "DON'T say where else you are interviewing. It's not their business and you never know who knows who." I disagree, to a point. I had an interview with Company X, then the next day had a phone screen with Company Y. The hiring manager told me that he left X for Y, and I gave full disclosure that I interviewed at X the day before. X is known for being extremely selective with who they even interview; I believe this disclosure helped get me a job at Y. Know your industry and know your interviewer, you can use this information to your benefit. – Dang Khoa May 1 '17 at 1:46
49

You should definitely say yes.

But it would be a mistake to mention which companies you are talking to. If asked, you may answer with (true but) generic terms, like

I am currently in hiring process with one big IT company, and two startups. Each of these processes are in early stages.

Doing so, and if you really are interested by their project, it may be the opportunity to reinforce your motivation about the job.

Bonus: if they take longer than expected to make a decision, it may be easier for you to contact them arguing other hiring processes are going on and you need to know about their decision before making your choice.

Bonus 2: (as suggested by @Kerkyra): Saying you are interviewing with only one company would convey the message that either you don't take your job search seriously, or your profile wasn't interesting for other companies (or that you are picky, or overconfident, all negative points).

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    Second bonus: saying you are nterviewing with only one company would convey the message that either you don't take your job search seriously, or your profile wasn't interesting for other companies (or that you are picky, or overconfident, all negative points). – Kerkyra Apr 27 '17 at 9:52
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    Definitely keep your mentions generic. That's a hidden gem most interviewees forget (whether talking to recruiters or HR). – PrometheanVigil Apr 27 '17 at 12:16
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    +1, but I'd personally not even reveal it was a "big IT company and two startups". If they push I'd just say "Sorry, I'd rather not give details at this time." The problem is that if you give some info like the above, they may well just keep pushing until you give the information they want (or you're forced to say the above anyway.) – berry120 Apr 27 '17 at 13:45
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    @TannerSwett, suppose you tell them you are interviewing at Company A and the hiring official at Company B who you are interviewing with has a friend over there. He might call him up and tell him not to hire you because they are interested in you and then you might not get the first job (because they later interviewed someone they liked more) but he second has already passed on you and you would never know that was why. – HLGEM Apr 27 '17 at 17:01
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    Or suppose he didn't like you, he could call up his old college roommate and tell him not to hire you either. You never know who knows who at which companies and some people (you won't know which ones when interviewing) are just vindictive. – HLGEM Apr 27 '17 at 17:04
10

Unless you've focused yourself on this particular startup company in particular because you just have to work there, you should be interviewing at other companies and you should answer honestly.

When going into a startup environment as an employee you need to be very clear on what the expectations are regarding your 'dedication' to the company and what your rewards will be.

A startup founder who expects you to be as dedicated to his company as he is should be offering you something more than just a job.

If the fact that you're also looking elsewhere is a problem for these startup founders (because they think you're not sufficiently dedicated to their 'cause') - then you probably don't really want to work there anyway.

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    +1 for "A startup founder who expects you to be as dedicated to his company as he is should be offering you something more than just a job." – Glen Pierce Apr 27 '17 at 14:06
2

You say whatever is the truth.

There are basically three situations: One, you are employed, and you spotted a vacancy that you are really interested in. You are not interviewing anywhere else, because you will either stay where you are or join this company, you are not interested in others. The new company has strong competition: They must be better than your current one.

Two, you are looking for a new position. At one point you get your very first interview. Say that you applied elsewhere but this is your first interview. That tells them they may get you if they make an offer quickly that is good enough to make you stop looking elsewhere.

Three, you are looking for a new position and have more than one interview. It shows them they have competition.

If a company holds it against you that you interview elsewhere, then they are a bunch of losers that you don't want to join. Companies don't do that usually. If you went to the interview and ran away if they tell you they interview others, you would be a loser that they wouldn't want to hire anyway. People don't do that usually. You want to join a company run by adults.

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    I upvoted for "you want to join a company run by adults" - OTOH, think who you'd have passed up in their early years... Apple, Microsoft, Netscape, Google, Facebook, ... – Spike0xff Apr 30 '17 at 4:20

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