The Truth Behind the “Where Else Are You Interviewing?” Question

May 23, 2013

Bad Interview Questions: Where Else Are You Interviewing?

“Where Else Are You Interviewing?”

This was a question I was taught to ask when I worked for a recruiting agency. I have been doing some serious thinking about this question, and I wonder — what value are we really getting from asking this? Should we add it to the list of bad interview questions and cut it out of all together?

The Truth Behind “Where Else Are You Interviewing?”

Not many people may realize this, but in recruiting agencies, asking where else a candidate is looking actually serves one purpose — to help the recruiter find out who is hiring so he or she can call in to the company and try and get job orders (jobs to work on).
As a candidate, I strongly advise you to play it close to the vest when it comes to divulging this information to an agency recruiter. Most likely they will try to get hold of a hiring manager at the companies to pitch their candidates for the position.
My philosophy is that, as a candidate, you should always let the recruiter know you are interviewing elsewhere, but that elsewhere can remain a mystery.

What Recruiters and Interviewers Should Be Asking Instead

As an interviewer, you may want to think about revamping this question. “Where else are you interviewing?” sounds a little blunt, and quite frankly provides you with no valuable information.
What matters is knowing how far along a candidate is in the interview process, and not getting blindsided when that candidate calls and says he or she has received an offer from another company. The typical argument for asking this question is to find out what the competition is hiring for, but that really does not help you.
Here are three examples of questions to ask instead:

1) How does this opportunity stack up with others you are interviewing for?

This question will get candidates talking about what really matters to them. For example, responses like “I am interviewing at XYZ, and they are offering a more competitive salary” or “I would be managing people at XYZ, and that is something that interests me” can reveal a lot.
This question is a great way to find out where your opportunity stands in relation to others the candidate may be considering.

2) If I called you tomorrow to tell you that you had this job, what would you say?

You can tell a lot by how a candidate answers this. Of course, in the real world people need to consider an offer before they accept it, but if the candidate says something like, “I need to weigh this against other offers I get,” chances are he or she is just not that into you.

3) What do you like about this opportunity? What do you like least about the opportunity?

The first question is easy, the second? Not so much. If you can get any answer besides, “I love everything about this job!” it will be worthwhile.

Bottom Line

So recruiters and hiring managers alike, please, consider taking “Where else are you interviewing?” OFF your list. It won’t tell you anything. Replace that question with ones that actually tell you something.

What questions do you find most valuable when interviewing candidates?

Senior Corporate Recruiter

<strong>Lindsey Gurian</strong> is the Senior Corporate Recruiter at <a href="">Acquia</a>. She was previously a Senior Talent Specialist at Sonian, responsible for recruiting initiatives at both the firm and its portfolio companies.