When you’re in an interview, you’re probably ultra-focused on the job and company at hand. You need to show your interviewer how enthusiastic and committed you are. You have to portray yourself as the perfect candidate and make them believe this is the perfect company for you—that your life will only truly have meaning once you become the new account manager for enterprise-level candidates in the Northeast at Such & Such Co. Or maybe you’re playing it cool. They’d be lucky to have you.
Either way, an interview question like “Where else are you interviewing?” is designed to shatter your carefully cultivated illusion, right? Well, not really.
Why do interviewers ask about where else you’re interviewing?
This question always throws people for a loop: Why are they asking, and how much do they actually need to know? But it’s not a trick. Nor are employers looking for someone who has no options besides this one or someone who barely seems to care about their open role. They’re looking for someone honest, but interested.
Hiring managers are curious about what other companies you’re interviewing with for a few reasons:
- They want to scope out the competition.
- They want to see how serious you are about the industry and roles like this one.
- They want to gauge their likelihood of landing you as a hire.
So how do you respond to this in a way that doesn’t make you sound either desperate or unattainable? Here are some ideas—plus sample answers for common situations.
How to answer “Where else are you interviewing?”
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way—the answer is not, “This is the only company I’m interviewing with.” No need to give the interviewer more power than they already have. But don’t lie and list off all the top companies in your field either. Regardless of your situation, your answer should follow a few steps.
1. Briefly state whether you’re interviewing elsewhere.
Think about how to frame where you are in your job search in a way that doesn’t diminish your candidacy or hype it up too much. And don’t feel the need to linger on this part of your response. A simple “I’m still early in my job search” or “I’m interviewing with a few other fintech startups in the city” before you move on to the next part of your answer will suffice.
2. Talk about what the positions you’re applying for have in common—including this one.
Show your interviewer that this position fits in alongside the others you’re looking at. Even if you’re applying to a variety of different roles or openings in a few different industries, the jobs likely have some overlap, like the opportunity to use a certain skill set or set yourself up for a job you want in the future.
3. Reiterate why you’re especially excited about this role.
When your interviewer hears that you have other options (and you always do, whether or not it currently feels like it), they’ll immediately question how their company stacks up. You don’t want them to come away from this question thinking that you’re never going to accept their job offer if they make one. So reassure them by ending on what excites you about this job—the more specific the better.
Example answers to “Where else are you interviewing?”
Here are some sample answers to this question based on a few common situations:
Example answer if you’re interviewing with competitors
Say you have a couple of interviews set up at other companies within the industry. That’s a great spot to be in. Your best bet would be to explain how you’re actively exploring your options and that you currently have some other interviews lined up—but are most excited about this position.
“I do have a couple of interviews coming up soon with Digital Ventures and Renley and Co. for senior marketing positions. But I can tell you that, based on what I know, the position here at TipTop offers exactly the kinds of challenges I’m looking for in my next role.”
Example answer if you’re interviewing in other industries
A trickier situation is if you’re interviewing for positions in a variety of industries. You don’t want to come off as uncommitted to the type of role you’re applying for, so this requires a bit more finesse. To make this work, try finding the connection between all the positions you’re targeting. Once you have this common thread, let it guide your response.
It might sound like this:
“I’m interviewing with a few companies for a range of positions, but they all come down to delivering excellent customer experience. I wanted to keep an open mind about how to best achieve that goal, but so far it seems that this role will really allow me to focus all of my energy on customer experience and retention, which I find very appealing.”
Example answer if you’re not interviewing anywhere else
You know not to say this directly, but how do you get around it? The trick is to simply choose to answer a different question. Instead of responding with your lack of other interviews, let your interviewer know what types of positions and companies you’ve been applying to.
Here’s how it could go:
“I’m still pretty early in my job search. I’ve applied to a number of opportunities that will allow me to use my skills in data visualization to help educate clients, but this position is most exciting to me. In fact, I think this position is a particularly good fit for my skill set because I can leverage my significant experience working with medical data sets while ensuring HIPAA compliance and patient privacy.”
In short, you want to actually give the interviewer the info they’re asking for, but you also want to get across that you’re especially invested in this position. As with all interview questions, both you and the interviewer have agendas. A strong answer to this question should satisfy them both.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.