From Violet: During an interview, I’ve been asked “Do you have any other pending offers?” Why do interviewers ask this, and what is the best response? Generally, I don’t have actual offers on the table, but may be in the interviewing process with other companies when asked this question.
I suspect most job seekers want to hear, “Because interviewers are mean people just playing mind games with you!” That’s not likely true, however. Interviews are full of these questions that make you question the other person’s motives. Then you start wondering what you should be saying. In a split second, you’re calculating the pros and cons of each potential response. If you don’t get the job, you’re left wondering if that answer ruined your candidacy.
The first thing to remember is that no one can be certain why an interviewer asks anything other than the reviewer. His or her motives and desired answers are only known to the interview. Frustrating, but true. But look at it this way: They’re also trying to decode your answers, too. Sometimes, this question is just the start of a line of inquiries that reveal what they’re after.
But often there are clear indicators of what the interviewer’s questions is getting at. Here are some possibilities.
- Earnest curiosity.
Giving interviewers the benefit of the doubt here: They want to know what they’re dealing with. Their ultimate goal is to hire someone, but until you’ve signed on the dotted line, they’re playing a waiting game just as much as you are. Their first choice might decline and accept another offer. Or maybe that person was just practicing interviewing and had no intention of taking the job. So in this instance, they just want to know how things might line up. If you’re the first choice, but you’re courting other offers, they want to be prepared to seriously consider someone else if you decline.
- Testing your desire for the job.
This isn’t quite as sinister as it sounds. Some employers want to know how badly you want the job. If you’ve got two other offers lined up but you’re still interviewing, maybe this proves you want this job more than the others. Or maybe you’re trying to get a counteroffer to take to those employers. Don’t be surprised if the next question asks why you haven’t accepted the other offers or when you’ll make your decision or what the positions are.
This is what’s so frustrating about the process. You’re thinking, “If I say I have other offers but this is my first choice, do I sound desperate or passionate?” And the answer is: It’s all about how they perceive your response. Some interviews might think you’re just searching for a paycheck; others will think you’re keeping other offers at bay because you really want this one. If you mention that you have several offers and each one seems to be a radically different job, and perhaps they go against some of the career goals you mentioned in the interview, then you’ll sound like someone looking for a paycheck, not a career.
- Testing your reaction to the question.
This one’s a little trickier, but some questions that come at you are just to see how you handle them. Do you have a quick and believable response? Are you flustered and obviously lying? Can you maintain composure or do you panic and start to weep? Some employers ask mind benders to assess your reasoning skills. Others ask this question to gauge your ability to think and act quickly.
- Fact finding.
Some employers like to understand the behavior of the people who interview with them. They simply want to know if job seekers are actively looking to be part of their company or just stumble upon the position. They might even ask where you’ve applied so they know who their competition is. It’s not really about you in this case; it’s all about them.
- A combination of the above.
Sometimes it’s all or some of the above reasons. Maybe the interviewer wants to know how badly you want this job and is also judging how well you handle the question. Or they want to know if they need to have back-ups ready to go and knowing about your other offers gives them an idea as to why their most desired candidate is choosing someone else.
Like most interview questions, there’s no certainty. Based on interviews I’ve gone on, expert opinions I’ve read, and even friends’ anecdotes, you can only make educated guesses at this because everyone has a different experience. The bottom line here is to answer how you’re most comfortable. I don’t condone lying, but I also know several people who feel that this question isn’t anyone’s business and are offended when it’s asked. I know someone who said (and I paraphrase), “I’m looking to leave my current job to find something more fulfilling, so I am interviewing at multiple places. But I assure you I’m not wasting your time or mine interviewing for positions I don’t want.” Again, how the employer reacts is anyone’s guess, but you want to make sure you’re comfortable with the answer you give so that you don’t regret it down the road.
Readers, if you’ve been in this situation, how did you handle it? What was the result?