Originally Posted by Valor
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.