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Interviewer: "Where else are you applying and do you have any offers?" - Page 2

post #16 of 34
I agree with gdl and concordia on this. I interviewed with consulting firms and I had no problem telling them who else I was interviewing with and where I wanted to be in 5-10 years (even if it wasn't working there). I had this asked of me a few times, but always in a disarming and polite way. I responded in kind, but I wasn't shotgunning interviews to see what stuck either. I think the focus issue is the primary reason they ask this IMO. They want to hire people that want to work there and will be a fit. It seems perfectly justified on their part to gauge where your interests lie in any manner possible. I'm guessing McKinsey doesn't want to hire someone going through their process just in case their banking interviews don't work out - and can you blame them?
post #17 of 34
to me it reeks of 'I'm only interested in you if someone else wants you' and 'let me know what kind of person my competitors are looking at'
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt View Post
to me it reeks of 'I'm only interested in you if someone else wants you' and 'let me know what kind of person my competitors are looking at'

So?

If you have someone applying for a finance job and they're also looking at consulting, marketing, manufacturing, etc, you know they aren't focused.
post #19 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by cchen View Post
So?

If you have someone applying for a finance job and they're also looking at consulting, marketing, manufacturing, etc, you know they aren't focused.

Anyone smart won't answer anything else other than the same industry your firm is in. To me this is a weasel question based purely on knowing if by rejecting or taking their time with you their competitor will have what seems to be a strong candidate.
post #20 of 34
While I understand why you (as an employer) would want to know the answer to this question, it is really disingenuous to say you're asking if he's focused. The purpose of the question is to gauge urgency and find out about your competitors. And honestly, it's none of your business.
post #21 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valor View Post
While I understand why you (as an employer) would want to know the answer to this question, it is really disingenuous to say you're asking if he's focused. The purpose of the question is to gauge urgency and find out about your competitors. And honestly, it's none of your business.

It is not. I couldn't put it more clearly. If I'm interviewing a person who tells me he wants to work at my firm because the company is A, B and C, and that all these factors are very important to him, then tells me he is interviewing with firms X, Y and Z who are the antithesis of A and/or B and/or C - I'm going to think this candidate does not understand the industry, the competitive landscape, and is not focused.

It's extremely easy to train for interviews and spout all the BS answers that you think the interviewer wants to hear. Career offices at schools train the kids and they go through dozens of mock interviews to ace that "skill". It's harder than ever to distinguish the better applicants - every piece of information helps. Important and relevant information as to how this candidate is approaching his choice of employer and what motivates him to join a particular firm can be something that makes a difference in getting to a better level of understanding of a candidate.

Now the point about finding out about competitors - true, that's part of it too, but IMO to a lesser extent. But even so, why are some you saying it's non of my business? If you're going about your business without trying to understand what your competition is, then I would say that you're doing it wrong (or maybe you're in a job that doesn't require that). A good salesperson will try to get from a client or potential client some information about who else is competing for the business. It is very much so his business to ask these questions - which doesn't mean the client will be forthcoming about it.

Also, when it comes to campus recruiting - the schedules of who is interviewing with whom are fairly transparent. If you can see who all the other guys are who are competing for that offer, why would that be unfair for me to ask who else is competing for you ? It seems fair to me. Again, you don't have to answer the question, but I will judge you on that decision.

Lastly, I hate all the suggestions to lie. It's just poor advice.
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valor View Post
While I understand why you (as an employer) would want to know the answer to this question, it is really disingenuous to say you're asking if he's focused. The purpose of the question is to gauge urgency, work out the candidate's level of desperation, and find out about your competitors. And honestly, it's none of your business.

made a small addition there...
post #23 of 34
I'm in a far different field than what the IB guys are, and do not hire college grads (as I only deal with senior positions), but do think it's fair game to ask a grad where else he is applying. I mean, if he's applying for ten positions that can be described by X, and your position can be described by Y, he's just there because he wants a job. I'd be much happier as an X interviewer with this candidate.
post #24 of 34
My advice is that when you get asked this question by an interviewer, you have just a few companies that are similar to the one you are interviewing. This flags to the interviewer that you know what you want to do and where you believe you would be the best fit. It also demonstrates to the interviewer that you believe firm X is on par with Y and Z in your eyes.


Your interviewer is looking for an answer and is going to be disappointed if you hedge. And even if the interviewer is asking just because he wants to see you squirm or because he wants to know what the market thinks of you overall, this answer is still safe.
post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt View Post
made a small addition there...

Complete agree.

GDL, if you are serious about what you said, then ask the candidate what types of companies and roles he's applying for, not the specific companies. I've had interviewers ask me what companies I've applied for and the dates of their offer expiration which is completely not their business. If they want to know about your competition and such to ask it in a much more indirect way instead of going for the straightforward (which other companies have you applied to?).

I think employers ask the question straight up for a number of reasons:

1. Gauge competition
2. See if they can lowball the candidate (desperation as Matt mentioned)
3. See if the candidate would actually accept the offer or is just practicing (candidate has offer from better firm)
4. Gauge Focus

If it were otherwise, you could easily phrase the question much differently to both put less pressure on the interviewee and get a better view of what you're looking to get.

As a corollary, I recently did interviews for my alma mater and the rules specifically tell interviewers NOT to ask what other schools the student has applied to, because it puts undue stress on students and because it puts them in a really awkward spot.
post #26 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Master-Classter View Post
the only legit reason (ie not, is the market saying you're valuable) I can think of to ask this is that the interviewer wants to know if there's any particular reason you're interviewing with them instead of just everyone.

They may even want to know if you are interviewing just in their industry or not--at least when it comes to undergrads. I work in an odd little niche industry that doesn't get a lot of outside exposure. Our competitors know who we are, lawyers know who we are, some academics know who we are...but finance bro #529 won't know us like he will know MBB and all the big IBs. This doesn't mean that people who see something pop up on a campus recruiting board with magic words like "consulting" or "finance" won't jump right in and apply.

I don't recall if I was asked this exact question in my interview...but I am certain that it helped that I talked about other firms in the industry. It showed that I wasn't some recent grad desperate for a job--I wanted this particular job. And if not this exact job, I want the same job at one of the competitors since this was clearly an industry I was familiar with.

I don't think you screw yourself by naming actual firms you are applying to (though I would always phrase it as "I am looking at" or "I have chosen" and never mention not getting an offer). If you are applying to be an analyst at Goldman, I sure hope you can tell them that you are also looking at Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, etc. because the big banks are more alike than they are different and if you want to be a banker you should know that there are more qualified applicants than there are jobs...so you have to look at all the companies hiring for your target position. If you are interviewing at Goldman and you say are also looking at a big accountancy and a law firm, they will see that you had the resume and cover letter to get you an interview...but you are definitely not sure that you want to be a banker.
post #27 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valor View Post
Complete agree. GDL, if you are serious about what you said, then ask the candidate what types of companies and roles he's applying for, not the specific companies. I've had interviewers ask me what companies I've applied for and the dates of their offer expiration which is completely not their business. If they want to know about your competition and such to ask it in a much more indirect way instead of going for the straightforward (which other companies have you applied to?).
No interviewer is going to directly ask you to "name the specific other companies you're looking at and their offer expiration date" - at least I never had that happen. The questions (again, only in my case) were more along the lines of "what are you interested in?", "where do you want to go from here?", and worked along those lines. I'd be surprised if any interviewer at an MBB or bulge bracket firm straight out asked offer expiration dates. The only situation I could see that happening is if they caught you in a lie or perceived lie. Also, it's an interview. How you handle such a question is probably something that in and of itself is an indicator of you as much as the actual answer.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Valor View Post
I think employers ask the question straight up for a number of reasons: 1. Gauge competition 2. See if they can lowball the candidate (desperation as Matt mentioned) 3. See if the candidate would actually accept the offer or is just practicing (candidate has offer from better firm) 4. Gauge Focus If it were otherwise, you could easily phrase the question much differently to both put less pressure on the interviewee and get a better view of what you're looking to get. As a corollary, I recently did interviews for my alma mater and the rules specifically tell interviewers NOT to ask what other schools the student has applied to, because it puts undue stress on students and because it puts them in a really awkward spot.
People in IB and consulting know about other firms in IB and consulting and know them very well - because their competitive livelihood depends on it. They don't need some freshly minted undergrad or MBA to enlighten them about their competition. I'm pretty sure Goldman doesn't think..."hmmm, we wonder what JPM is focusing on these days, let's ask this 25 year old candidate to find out". Regarding the low ball thing...I'm not positive about the bulge bracket IBs, but the MBBs have pretty standard offers. They're not in an industry or position where they need to low ball someone. They're relatively small and very efficiently run companies. Obviously, this won't be the case across all companies in all industries.
post #28 of 34
Thread Starter 
Well, to be more specific to my case, I was interviewing for an Analyst position at a Reinsurance advisory firm (Gen Re, Willis Re, Aon, etc) and I remember the interviewer saying that I seem like a finance-oriented candidate because I mentioned my extracurricular as an analyst for a student-run investment group. I then proceeded to tell him that I haven't applied to any finance firms at all. Then when he asked me which firms I've been applying for, I mentioned a couple. One of them was completely irrelevant, as it was related to advertising (Digitas, which he said he knew about because he used to work in Boston). One of them was a market research/strategy consulting firm, and the last one I mentioned was Capital IQ, which I'm sure a lot of the finance folks know about. I was kind of flustered when I answered that question so I obviously did not give an optimal one. But I guess the only common quality they all have is that the positions were all for client-serving roles. But even then, almost every company in the world has some sort of client-serving section. Fuck. So that, combined with him saying I sound like a finance type.. I dunno. Feels like a ding. Edit: Might I add, he also emphasized how important it is to have an open dialogue between the interviewer and the interviewee. He was very specific about how many people he was interviewing, how many openings there were (only 1 lol), and when he would get back to me. At the same time, I guess he was expecting me to reciprocate by letting him know what my situation is. He also asked me if I had any offers by asking if they should accommodate me in interview scheduling in case of burning offers. To this, I told him I was waiting to hear back from a firm with an offer or not by the end of March.
post #29 of 34
I don't know if it's a ding, but you definitely gave the interviewer the impression that you're all over the place and have no specific interest in his firm or industry beyond just getting a job. He may or may not care about that - if he cares, you'll be dinged unless you're a stellar candidate and head and shoulders above others.
post #30 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gdl203 View Post
I don't know if it's a ding, but you definitely gave the interviewer the impression that you're all over the place and have no specific interest in his firm or industry beyond just getting a job. He may or may not care about that - if he cares, you'll be dinged unless you're a stellar candidate and head and shoulders above others.
True. Then again, reinsurance is such a small, niche industry, that I don't know what kind of answer would have been optimal. Would it have been good if I mentioned that I was applying for all the reinsurance firms? (which I haven't). And his saying that I seem like a finance type obviously means that he doesn't think Reinsurance and finance are the same industry (which they really aren't, but I'd argue they're slightly more similar than they are different). I did tell him I was mainly interested in consulting (I think, don't remember exactly). And as a client-advisory firm, I want to say (or hope) that consulting is fairly similar to what the firm does.
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