4 Inappropriate Interview Questions and How to Combat Them with Confidence

Interviewing for a new position can be tough, but it can be even worse when the interviewer’s questions start to drift into uncertain territory. We’re not talking about the cringe-worthy — and illegal — questions about race, sex, and nationality; rather, the more covert questions that toe the line between unnecessary and out of line, particularly when it comes to other interviews or offers you may have.

Let’s review some potential questions recruiters might ask in an interview, why they would ask such aggressive questions, and good responses to deflect them.

1.    “Where else are you interviewing?”

Companies ask this question to try to get a sense of what you’re looking for. They want to understand the likelihood that you would accept their position should they offer it to you. The best response to a question like this is to stress that you’re looking into opportunities to use your skills and strengths doing work that you find purposeful, while highlighting your interest in this company. While I would not recommend you disclose names of other companies you’re interested in or interviewing, it doesn’t necessarily hurt to communicate that you’re looking elsewhere. Demonstrating that you are in demand can be valuable and encourage an employer to move quickly toward an offer if they are particularly interested in your candidacy.

2.    “Do you have interviews for other positions scheduled? When are they?"

This question likely comes from a place of pure self-interest. They want to know how long they have to deliberate. They may want to speed up their hiring process if you are close to accepting another opportunity at a competitive company. Keep your answer to this question vague. You could emphasize that you are still in the midst of your search, and you have not made any decisions or commitments. If you have other interviews lined up, say, in the coming week, you could consider mentioning them. Again, keep the company names to yourself, and resist the pressure to offer specificity. If you continue to get pushed for details, I would recommend simply stating something to the effect of “I am not able to disclose any further details on my other job prospects.”

3.    “What other companies or jobs are you considering?”

Similar to the first question, companies want to gauge the likelihood that you would accept this position were it offered to you. There is no need to give details about any other positions; rather, keep the focus on yourself. Consider saying something like “I am considering positions at companies where employees are actively engaged, feel valued, and are excited to be doing meaningful work. Within those companies, I am most interested in positions where I could use my skills in (for example) problem-solving, project management, and stakeholder engagement.”

4.    “Can you confirm that our salary and benefits package works for you?”

Let me start with a word to the wise: If it isn’t in writing, it does not exist.

This question usually refers to a salary and benefits package that was only conveyed verbally as part of an interview. At this point, you neither have a job offer nor an opportunity to negotiate. Sometimes companies will simply want to offer you some transparency to determine if their overall compensation package is within the range you would consider. This gives you the opportunity to say “thanks but no thanks,” and move on, saving both of you the time of further interviews.

In other cases, companies can get pushy on this with a strategy geared toward locking you in to a particular salary level before you really understand the position or have the chance to negotiate. If you are feeling pushed around with this question, consider saying something like “I’d prefer to discuss salary once I have a written offer and an understanding of the complete benefits package.”

Either way, do your research before the interview — sites like Glassdoor and salary.com can be helpful in evaluating what various positions pay.

Need more guidance? Schedule a free 45-minute Jumpstart Call with me today, and we’ll work together to solve your most pressing job search challenges!