what does this interview question mean?

A reader writes:

Right now my current job is terrible and I’ve been lucky enough to snag an interview here and there. During the last interview, I was asked by the manager if I was currently applying for other positions at other companies. I was taken aback as the question could be taken two ways — either the manager was concerned that I was applying everywhere in a desperate effort to get out of my current position or they were concerned that I was in high demand.

My response was two-fold. First I reiterated that I was leaving my current company because the small size meant I reported directly to a vice president and that there wasn’t a path to advancement. Secondly I pointed out that I was applying very selectively to positions and that I applied to this specific position because I was impressed with the company values and that I was suited to the position at hand.

From your perspective, what is the purpose of that question, and was my response appropriate? Should I have mentioned other companies that I had interviewed or applied with to inflate my value? Or would that backfire in some manner?

The most likely reason the interviewer asked this is that she was wondering if you were actively seeking to leave your job (and thus conducting a full-scale job search) or were motivated solely by this particular opening. It’s also possible that she might ask this routinely as part of her interview schtick (I think every interviewer has questions they love to use, some of them better than others), and that she wasn’t getting at anything in particular about you.

Your response was perfectly appropriate. Explaining that you’re applying selectively is good. And no, you don’t want to mention specific companies you’re applying at, as nothing good can come of that. (For instance, if you mention another company where she knows the hiring manager personally, she might decide not to “compete” with her friend for you.)

I wouldn’t try to read too much into this question.

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Amy*

    She could also have had a timeframe in mind. If, for example, she's just starting the interview process for her opening, but you're close to an offer with someone else, she may either try to speed up her own process or decide not to continue pursuing you right now.

  2. Jeff Hunter*

    It could also mean you're "good enough" but not the perfect pick and they're going to keep you on the back burner to see if something better comes along.

  3. Mike*

    Hey, thanks again for picking up the question!

    Just to clarify for the commenters here they made it clear that I was a great candidate and things went really well. I didn't get the position, but I was told to continue applying for positions at the company.

    The time frame is an interesting point however. I would guess they would simply come out and say so if it was an issue. Or if I had another offer sitting there it would only be right for me to mention it at some point as well.

  4. Riaz*

    Applying for other positions at other companies? – Manger was trying to assess your marketability. If a candidate is well qualified and has marketable skills, companies would look forward to interview them. The response from the candidate in this situation would be "yes – I have had couple of interviews during the past week". If a candidate did not have any interviews for the past couple of weeks; this implies that the candidate does not have marketable skills and no one is interested in this candidate

  5. Anonymous*

    Mike, I'm in the same position you are: Sucky, sucky job, been looking for another one since 2007!

    I just wanted to say that I thought your response to the question was superb, and reading your letter and AAM's response was extremely helpful to me!

    Good luck in your search!

Comments are closed.