Why do companies ask what other companies you’re interviewing with? Do you need to tell them the company names?
And what are you supposed to say if you’re not interviewing anywhere else?
I’m going to explain exactly how to answer this easily and stress-free… and I’ll reveal exactly why employers ask too. Let’s get started…
First, why do interviewers ask what other companies you’re interviewing at?
Here’s the deal. I write about interview questions a lot. And usually I talk about how questions have hidden traps, how there are “secret” things the hiring manager is looking for, etc.
This question is different. Most people make a big deal and get all worked up when the company asks who else you’re interviewing with. But it’s NOT a big deal and there aren’t many hidden traps or pitfalls really. Just a few.
This is the reason they ask, plain and simple:
They want to get a sense of your job search and what you’re looking for. That’s it. Seriously.
There’s no hidden motive.
They want to see how their company and position fits into what you’re looking for overall. It’s a big red flag if you’re applying for 10 HR jobs and then one single sales job. They’re going to wonder “why sales?”… So ideally you want to be able to show them you’re looking at many sales jobs.
The ONE Thing You MUST Do:
When they ask “what other companies are you interviewing at?”… your main goal is to show them you’re looking at jobs that are similar to theirs.
Two Things NOT To Do:
That’s it? Well not quite. There are two big things to avoid. Here they are…
First, don’t reveal the names of the other companies. There’s no benefit to sharing this, and it’s not something they need to know. So politely decline. I have word-for-word answers in the next section, including what to say if they press you for company names!
The second mistake to avoid… Don’t say that you’re not interviewing anywhere else. You want to seem in-demand, and like your job search is going well. That’s probably the second most important thing to do in your answer, right behind showing them that their job fits what you’re looking for overall!
Why do they care how your job search is going? Employers want someone who is in-demand and desirable, so you do NOT want to sound frustrated, disappointed, or anything else like that.
Now let’s look at some example answers, including how to avoid giving them other company names, what to say if you’re not interviewing with any other companies, and more.
Example #1. If you’re just starting out or haven’t had many interviews, say something like this:
“I’m still in the early stages of my job search so I’m just beginning to take phone interviews. It’s going well so far and I’m speaking primarily with technology companies like yours about sales and marketing positions.”
Like I mentioned earlier you do NOT want to sound like you have no other prospects. So use this script even if you’ve had zero other interviews. Just say you’re doing phone interviews and it’s still early in your search.
Example #2. If you’ve had some interviews, but no job offers yet:
Use this if you’re a bit further along in your job search.
“I’m actively interviewing and I’m talking with a number of early stage technology companies like yours. I’m focusing my job search on sales and marketing positions in particular. I’ve met with a few companies face-to-face but I don’t have job offers yet. That could change soon, so I can keep you updated.”
Tell the truth about job offers. Don’t use this script above if you actually have job offers. There’s no benefit to lying about that.
Example #3. If they press you for specific company names:
After your initial answer, they might say, “Okay, but which specific companies are you talking to?”
Do NOT give them company names. Use the script below. You don’t need to tell them which specific companies you’ve interviewed with and any company who presses you for it is shady and unprofessional in my opinion. The script:
“The companies I’m interviewing with are software firms, similar to yours, in the greater Boston area. I’d rather not share names and I’d do the same for you if another company asked me.”
One exception: It’s different if you’re interviewing with a recruiter. They represent many companies and need to know who you’ve already spoken to, or else they’ll be wasting their time potentially sending your resume to companies who already know you. So if you’re working with a recruiter, go ahead and share this info. If you don’t, they’re very unlikely to spend any time helping you.
To recap, if you look through the sample answers above you’ll see we followed the the most important rules – showing them we’re being laser-focused in our job search and that their job fits what we want, making it sound like the job hunt is going well so far, and not revealing any specific company names.
Remember if you’re just starting out, always say you’ve had a few phone interviews. Don’t ever say “this is my first interview of the year.” Just copy my script #1 and say that each time.
That’s it. That’s how to answer the question of “what other companies are you interviewing with?”