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How to answer ‘What other companies are you interviewing with?’

Author Lily Zhang for The Muse

This question always throws people for a loop. Why are they asking, and how much do they actually need to know?

Well, hiring managers are curious about what other companies you’re interviewing with for a few reasons. They might want to scope out the competition, see how serious you are about the industry or even gauge their likelihood of landing such a star candidate.

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 he or she already has.

So, how do you respond to this in a way that doesn’t make you sound desperate or unattainable? Here are some ideas, depending on your particular situation.

If you’re interviewing for competitors

Say you have a couple of interviews set up at other companies within the industry. That’s a great position to be in. Your best bet would be to explain how you’re actively exploring options within your field, and that you currently have some other interviews lined up — but are most excited about this position.

For example:

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, this position has exactly the kinds of challenges I’m looking for in my next role.

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 than the previous situation. 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 an 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.

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 complicated data sets.

In short, you want to answer the interviewer in a satisfactory manner, but you also want to get across that you’re especially invested in the position you’re currently interviewing for. As with all interview questions, you and the interviewer both have agendas. Answering well requires accomplishing both.