How to answer the question ‘Which Other Companies Are You Interviewing With?’

Should you even get into a discussion about which other companies may be interested in interviewing you?

An awkward question in any interview, but should you even be answering it?  Liz Ryan, Forbes contributor, suggests how to answer it in the following script.

An MBA graduate, Gordon, writes and asks Liz the following:

Dear Liz,

I need your help! I just got my MBA at the end of December and I’m job-hunting now. I am interviewing with firms who recruit at my alma mater and I’m also job-hunting on my own.

One of the firms that interviewed me on campus is interested in me.

I’ve had one telephone interview and one face-to-face interview (they flew me to San Francisco for the interview, but the job is in Atlanta). Both interviews went well.

The company recruiter “Kris” called me yesterday to check in. I missed her call and she left me a voicemail message.

On the voicemail message she said, “I’m just calling to check in, Gordon. Let’s talk in the next day or two. I’m curious which other firms you’re interviewing with and where you stand in those interview pipelines, and I want to get a better sense of your compensation requirements.”

I don’t want to tell Kris which other companies I’m interviewing with. I can’t see how me sharing that information would be advantageous to me. What should I do?




Liz replies:

Dear Gordon,

Congratulations on your MBA! That’s an enormous accomplishment.

Your instinct is right. It’s none of Kris’ business which other firms you’re interviewing with. She is asking because the more she knows about her competition as she tries to recruit you, the better for her!

Don’t ever tell a recruiter or a hiring manager which other companies you’re talking to. Spilling your guts to Kris about your job search activity can’t help you, even if you’re currently interviewing with lots of blue-chip employers.

Let’s say that you told Kris “Actually I’m expecting offers from Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and Snap this week.”

How could that help you?

Kris might decide it’s not worth the effort to keep pursuing you when so many other employers are doing the same thing.

Or, she might wait a few days and ask you “Have you received those job offers yet?” You would have opened the door to Kris asking you all sorts of intrusive questions about your job search.

There is no way your spilling the beans on your job search status can help you. It can only hurt you.

When you talk with Kris, ignore her question about competing employers. If she brings it up again, politely let her know that you’re not going to give her what she wants:

Kris: So Gordon, which other employers are you talking with?

Gordon: Funnily enough, several recruiters have asked me the same question. I’m sure you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing the names of the other applicants you’re talking with and of course I feel the same way about the other employers I’m involved with.

Kris: We use the information about competing employers to get better at recruiting.

Gordon: I just don’t feel comfortable — it’s private information. Shall we talk about compensation requirements?

When you tell Kris what you’re looking for in a compensation package, don’t forget these essential elements:

  • Base salary
  • Bonus potential
  • Ownership, if appropriate (e.g. stock options)
  • Long-term incentives
  • Retirement plan
  • Benefits (paid time off, health insurance, dental)
  • Professional development (membership dues and continuing education/conferences)
  • Expectations around working hours and travel
  • Flexibility (e.g. the ability to work from home)

You only get one shot to negotiate your job offer. Kris’ firm wants you — that’s great news! Show Kris and her colleagues that your MBA tuition dollars were well spent by bringing your best negotiation game to the table now.

We are rooting for you!



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