How to answer one of the trickiest job interview questions

How to answer one of the trickiest job interview questions

If you’re in the market for a new job, having a few interviews lined up is encouraging. But things can get tricky when an interviewer asks you if you’re meeting with other companies.

How do you answer the question without hurting your candidacy? Here’s some advice from four recruiters.

How to answer ‘Are you interviewing with other companies?’ in a job interview

“This question is often asked to gauge a candidate’s interest in the company they’re interviewing with, and also to determine where they are in the hiring process of other companies. The answer can help show your value as an in-demand candidate,” said Marissa Letendre, a HR leader, recruiter, and career expert with more than 12 years of experience.

If you’re not prepared, not only could you miss out on an opportunity to show your value, but you could also blurt out things that disqualify you.

“You never want to be blindsided in a job interview, for any reason. The kinds of answers you give when you’re flustered or thrown off may not even be true, and they certainly won’t make you look like an enticing candidate,” said Julie Titterington, Chief Culture Officer at Merchant Maverick.

Answering the question ‘Are you interviewing with other companies?’ can be tricky. Here are some tips:

1. Avoid name-dropping

Letendre said you should avoid naming the companies you’re interviewing with. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to put your foot in your mouth when not prepared. However, mentioning specific industries is OK.

She suggests saying something like: “I am interviewing with a couple of other companies in the ____ industry. I’m currently in the early stages of the process, as I have recently started my search, but my interest remains high in this position because…

“Explain why you are interested in the position and the company and how you can be a great asset to the company. This helps show your value as an in-demand candidate and gives you more leverage,” she said.

2. Be honest about your specific situation

Honesty is the best policy, according to Jessica Glazer, Strategic Recruitment Director at Mind HR.

“There is nothing to fear. The company will be interviewing other candidates and you can be interviewing other companies. There is no wedding ring, offer, or commitment that states you can’t be honest with your process,” she said.

Glazer suggests the following answers, depending on your situation:

“I am interviewing/have interviewed with — [add the number] companies and awaiting feedback by [add the date],” followed by “What is your hiring process like?”

Employed and not actively looking? Go with something like: “To be honest, I am working at the moment but when I heard of this opportunity I thought it was interesting. I am not actively looking so do not have any other interviews lined up,” followed by “Although I am not actively looking, I do believe in communication. Do you know when I will know the next steps, as I am quite interested in this opportunity?”

And if you’re not comfortable disclosing too much, you could also simply state: “Yes, I am interviewing and awaiting news from a few companies in the coming weeks.”

3. Don’t lie but do show enthusiasm

“If you say that you are not interviewing with others, and a prospective employer finds out otherwise, your chances of getting hired are toast. A lie like that is a death knell to your chances of getting hired on with that company,” said Janelle Owens, HR Director at Test Prep Insight.

“Answering in the affirmative shouldn’t hurt your chances, so long as you do it right. Respectfully tell the interviewer that you are indeed interviewing with others, but that you favour their company.

“Tell them you’re very interested in their company, noting a couple of reasons why, and that they’re ranked right near the top of your list if you were to get an offer. This flatters the interviewing company and tells them what they want to hear, while also showing your confidence and the fact that you’re desirable.”

4. No need to over-explain

“No one expects you to be only gunning for one position. If you’re a good candidate, the expectation is that you can pick and choose. There’s no need to emphasise the fact that you would be equally happy in another company, but neither is there a need to pretend like this is the only job for you. That often simply smacks of desperation or overconfidence,” said Titterington.

However, being transparent doesn’t mean you should volunteer more information than necessary.

“While it’s important to be honest, it’s a huge mistake to give away too much information,” she said.

“Say yes or say no. No explanations or excuses are required. If there’s an uncomfortable silence after your ‘yes’, that’s not your problem. You are not obliged to tell the interviewer where else you are looking, whether you’re interviewing with a competitor, or how many other applications you’ve sent out.”


This article was originally published on The Ladders.

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