When hunting for your next career move, you should consider multiple opportunities in order to choose the right one. But how candid should you be when prospective employer asks if you are interviewing elsewhere?
The good news: If you’re asked that question, the interviewer likely is signaling a strong interest in hiring you. Otherwise, they wouldn’t care.
They may ask this question to determine whether:
- You’re genuinely interested in the specific role and their organization;
- Your job search is well-thought-out and focused, rather than scatter-shot;
- You’re interviewing with any of their direct competitors;
- They will need to move quickly if they want to offer you the job; and/or
- There is a realistic chance you would accept their offer, if given.
You want to respond in a way that makes you sound neither desperate nor unattainable. Your answer should make it clear not only that you’re definitely interested in the specific opportunity for which you’re interviewing and in working for their firm in particular, but also that you’re in demand in the marketplace and have submitted only carefully targeted job applications.
Create a little FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
The answer rarely should be, “This is the only company I’m interviewing with,” because being in demand always makes a candidate appear more attractive. Plus, you don’t want to dilute your bargaining power should they offer you the job. So, even if you’re not interviewing anywhere else, it’s best to leave the impression that you have other options.
You might say something like: “It’s still pretty early in my job search. I’ve applied to a number of opportunities that will allow me to use my skills, but I find this position very exciting. In fact, I think it’s a particularly good fit for my skill set because [fill in the blank].” The important thing is to exude confidence and sound like your job search is going well, with a number of attractive possibilities on the horizon.
Answering that you’re interviewing with lots of other companies might lead the interviewer to conclude that you’ve not taken a strategic approach to your job search, and that you’ve applied for every job opening you could find. You want to sound like you have a well-thought-out career plan.
You can say: “The other organizations I’m interviewing with are, like yours, leading names in the X sector. They have openings for similarly appealing positions in [your specialty] and, as my ambition is to reach the position of [fill in the blank] in the future, I applied for select roles that would help me achieve that goal.”
If you’re exploring options in a variety of market sectors, you don’t want to appear uncommitted to the type of position you’re currently interviewing for, so a good tactic is to find a common denominator between all the opportunities. For example: “I’m interviewing with a few companies for a range of positions, but they all revolve around service to the community. I’m keeping an open mind about how to best achieve my career goal but, from what I’ve learned so far, it seems that this role will allow me to focus on public service, which I find appealing.”
You’re not required to divulge specific details about other employers you’re interviewing with, including details such as the names of the employers, job titles, the number of firms you’ve applied to or are interviewing with, or the timing of your interviews. You simply can mention the types of companies you’re speaking with, without going into more detail.
If the interviewer continues to push, you can say: “My preference is to keep the details of interviews and offers confidential. I’ll do the same for this conversation, out of respect for your firm’s proprietary business plans.” Employers often appreciate this attitude, especially as integrity and confidentiality play a vital role in the practice of law.
There’s one important exception, however: You need to be completely transparent when speaking to a legal search consultant. We represent many firms and need to know who you’ve already contacted, or else we may waste everyone’s time by sending your resume to organizations who already are aware of your candidacy.
You may want to disclose the particulars if you think that naming a brand would make you a more attractive candidate. If you’re interviewing with competitors, you can say, “I have interviews with X and Y but, based on what I know, this position has exactly the kinds of challenges I’m looking for in my next role.”
Understand, however, that you’re opening the door for your interviewer to try to convince you not to accept an offer from the competitor, and why joining their firm would be a wiser choice. This actually can provide additional useful information for your decision-making process. Of course, when you mention other job interviews, you want to make it clear to your current interviewer that their role is a priority.
Speed the Process
One quick way to get an offer is to mention that you already (or will soon) have one from someone else.
If you’re far along in the hiring process elsewhere, don’t be coy about the fact that you’re interviewing with other companies. Bring it up yourself, even if not asked. Say: “I’ve completed final interviews with three companies and they said they would let me know about an offer within the next week or so.” Being candid about this shows you’re in demand, which helps prioritize your candidacy and potentially streamline your interviewing process.
Never exaggerate either the scale or progress of your job search, however. This can backfire as an employer might decide they cannot move quickly enough to accommodate your timeline and take you out of consideration altogether. Rather, you want to position yourself as an ideal candidate who may get snapped-up quickly by other firms. Again, it’s smart to create a little FOMO.