There’s one way of answering, “what other companies are you interviewing with?” that’s going to impress any employer. And there are two big mistakes you NEED to avoid at the same time.
Don’t worry – I’m going to walk you through exactly what to do in this article.
We’re going to look at:
Let’s get started…
There are a couple of reasons why interviewers love to ask if you’re interviewing anywhere else, or what other companies you’re interviewing with. And they often ask this in an initial phone screen, so you need to be ready for it.
Here’s why they ask:
First off… they want to see how your job search is going overall. They want to see if you’re getting interviews in general, whether you seem confident, etc.
Next, they want to know if you’re expecting job offers soon. (This is so they can speed up their process, or at least know what to expect as they begin interviewing you).
Finally, they are curious about what type of jobs you’re looking for. They want to make sure their job fits the overall pattern of what you want.
Employers want to hire someone who’s being targeted and specific in their job hunt, not just applying for anything they see. So you ideally want to show employers that you’ve been interviewing at other companies that are similar to them, or for other positions similar to theirs.
So this isn’t a trick question. They just want to get a sense of your job search and what you’re looking for. And then they want to see how far along you are in your job search.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some mistakes you need to make sure to avoid.
And it doesn’t mean you EVER need to tell them the names of other companies you’re interviewing with – because you don’t (and shouldn’t).
So in the next section, we’ll look at the best answers for “what other companies are you interviewing with?” – without having to name specific companies!
The ONE Thing You MUST Do:
Here’s the key to giving a great answer when the employer asks if you’re interviewing elsewhere.
Your main goal is to show them you’re looking for jobs similar to theirs. So you might say:
“I’m interviewing at other technology-focused companies like yours. I started job searching recently, so I’m just beginning to take interviews, but that’s the type of company I’m focused on finding a role with, and that’s why I applied to this position.”
The key here is to tell them the types of companies you’re interviewing with, without telling them specific company names or going into more detail. That will help you get past this interview question quickly and move on!
Then, your secondary goal is to show confidence and act like you’re having some success so far!
It’s okay if you haven’t had very many interviews. You can still say, “I’m just starting my job search, but I’m beginning to schedule phone interviews, and I’m feeling confident about how things are going.”
Or you could say, “I’m relatively early in my job search, but I’m starting to get some nibbles on my resume, so I’m feeling good about things so far.”
That’s how you can sound confident and optimistic even if you haven’t had as many interviews as you want so far! You don’t have to tell a huge lie here, but you never want to say, “Well, you’re actually the first company to call me. I’ve been applying for six months and nobody else has been interested.”
As a final piece in your answer, if you’re expecting job offers soon, you should tell them. You could say, “I’ve had a couple of late-stage interviews and could be getting job offers at the end of next week.”
That way, they can speed up their process or have you meet with multiple people in a single interview if they like you! You’d be surprised what companies can do to speed things up if they know they have a competing offer coming.
I don’t recommend lying about this, but if it’s true, it’s appropriate to share this… including in a first phone interview with a recruiter or HR person.
Now that we looked at how to give the best possible answer to questions about where else you’re interviewing, let’s go through the MISTAKES to avoid…
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 coming up in the next section, but here’s the general idea of what to say if they ask for company names:
“The companies I’m interviewing with are software firms, similar to yours, in the greater Boston area. I’m not comfortable sharing names of companies, though. I want to respect their privacy, and I’d do the same for you if another firm asked me where else I’ve had interviews.”
The bottom line is: Employers have no need for this information, and are just trying to use you to gather market data on who else is hiring, who their competition is, etc.
While you should be open about whether you’re interviewing elsewhere and how far along those interviews are, you should NEVER feel the need to tell them a company name. Use the answer sample above instead.
One exception: It’s different if you’re interviewing with a recruiter from a staffing agency. 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.
If you’re unsure whether you’re talking to an “in-house” recruiter who works for one specific company, or an “agency recruiter” who recruiters for many employers, that’s a good question to ask the recruiter in a first call.
You want to seem in-demand, and as if 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 or disappointed, etc.
So never tell them that you’re struggling to get interviews. Instead, you can tell a white lie and say, “I’m still early in my job search, but I’m beginning to take phone interviews and it’s going really well so far.”
Now let’s look at some word-for-word example answers. This will be a good recap of everything we’ve talked about above… including how to avoid giving them other company names, what to say if you’re not interviewing with any other companies yet, etc.
This first example shows you what you could say if you’re just starting in your job search and haven’t had many interviews. Remember – you never want to admit that you have no other companies interested. So you’d 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.”
This is the best type of answer because you do NOT want to sound like you have no other prospects. This makes it sound like you’re getting good interest from companies. And you’re also reassuring the company that their job fits what you’re looking for overall!
This should all sound familiar if you read the answer steps earlier in this article.
So you can 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.
Now let’s look at an example answer you can use if you’ve had some interviews, but no job offers yet…
“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.”
Use this if you’re a bit further along in your job search and really do have some late-stage interviews going on.
It’s never a good idea to lie about job offers, though. So don’t use this script above if it’s not true. Lies lead to more lies and can end up getting you in trouble in future interviews.
However, if you do have a job offer expected soon, this is the best answer. And if you’ve already received job offers, you can tell them that, too.
It’s not a trick question when employers ask about the other companies you’re interviewing with.
However, you do need to make sure to sound confident, show them you are looking for specific things in their job search, and show them their job fits the overall theme of what you’re looking for.
If you study the steps above and format your answer to sound like the two examples we just looked at, you’ll have a great answer any time they ask, “what other companies are you interviewing with?”
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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