Recent feedback from students actively interviewing is that in addition to being asked salary history very early in the screening process, they are also being asked what other opportunities they are exploring. Is it illegal to ask this? No. Do you have to provide a comprehensive, detailed list? No. What is a job seeker to do?
Think about what you have to gain or lose as a job seeker by answering this question or not. If you say you are not exploring any other options, what is the interviewer to think?
- Maybe you aren’t serious about looking and this is just a trial balloon for you.
- If no one else is inviting you for interviews, maybe there is a red flag we haven’t discovered yet.
- With no other balls in the air, we can take our time with you and have no urgency to make a decision.
- This will be an easy negotiation if you have no other options.
If you take a hard stand and claim it is personal information that you refuse to share, what message does that send the interviewer?
- You are trying to hide something and are not being honest with them. They value integrity in their employees.
- Maybe candidate is arrogant and has to always get his/her own way.
Clearly you do not want to discourage potential interest in you as a candidate early in the process. You want to keep your options open while you gain more information to assess the fit of the opportunity. You should be honest and share an overview of your search process. For example, “Given my strong interest in the xx industry and my transferable skills in x and y, I am focusing my search on growing companies in this industry. Given your industry leadership and outstanding reputation, this opportunity is of strong interest to me.”
This lets the interview know that you have something to offer the market, that you know what you want and what skills you can leverage and that you have done your homework. Resist the urge to be annoyed by the question and use it to demonstrate your strength as a candidate.