Tough Interview Questions: Are You Interviewing?

Are you actively interviewing

This question is a variation on the, “Where have you been interviewing,” question. I want to speak to this one because it depends on who you’re talking to as to what the intention of the question is.

Let me start with third-party recruiters or a contingency recruiting firm. You may be asked this question for several reasons.

  1. If you have been interviewing, they may turn around and say, “Where have you been on interviews so far?” They may be trying to find out whether you have been to the client. They may be trying to find job leads of other organizations that are trying to hire people like you to reach out to so that they can wind up being positions to work on and earn money from.
  2. Another thing they’re trying to do is to see how far along you are in the process. So, if you tell them that you have met with 14 firms, had 3 finals and you are close to 2 offers, they’re probably going to hit the delete key on your resume when they are finished talking with you.  That’s because they won’t see any point in doing anything.

Thus one is a slimy approach to asking the question and the rest are pretty innocuous.

When an employer asks, they are obviously not going to be contacting firms for job leads.  What they are trying to do is (1) find out if you are an aggressive job hunter.  Companies have a bias against aggressive job hunters.  Their belief is that people who are actively looking for work are less attractive than those who are recruited.  If they have contacted you and are asking this question, you might simply say, “I am not aggressively looking for work.  But when you contacted me, this is an interesting opportunity.  Frankly, since the time you initially contacted me, 2 other firms have approached me as well.” Then, you can talk about where you are with those firms.

Another reason that employer asks is to see how much time they might have before you have to make a choice, whether they can keep interviewing before they have to “get off the pot” and extended offer or move more quickly.  You see, they may like you (that’s part of what the communication is), but they want to see if they can date others for a while before getting married.

Their intention is to get a sense of how much time they have with you before they risk losing you.  If you say that you have nothing else going on, they can sit back and relax a little bit, knowing that they can interview for a while.  

“If anything changes, give us a call.  We want to know.”

Most of the time when that happens, they have already seen a bunch of other people and never come back and make the offer.

However, if you say, “Since the time he reached out to me, a couple of other firms have reached out to me as well.  I have had some really good interviews and there are some interesting opportunities out there,” that will get them motivated to take more action.

Now, if you apply for a job and submit a resume, this may not work because you have signaled that you are an active job hunter.  Thus, all, they are trying to do is see where you are in your process.  If they are on a 1st interview and you are on a fifth interview somewhere, there are 1 of 2 ways that they might respond:

  • accelerate the process
  • hit the delete key because they know they cannot move fast enough.

I have found over the years that when I have mentioned that I have a person that fits the job, many firms where I mentioned to them that I had found this individual that fits your role but it is on late-stage interviews with other firms, they never really move.  So, caveat emptor.  Recognize the impact of what you say and what the firm’s motivation is.


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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