Do you ask your interviewer about your competition?

So, here’s the deal. Timmy gets his big break and gets the interview he’s always wanted. Goes in. Kills it. You know how Timmy does! The interviewer is doing interviewer things and drops the question, “So, Timmy, do you have any questions for me?”

Do “I” have questions for you!?! Heck, yes! I’ve been preparing for this interview for all of my life, or at least for about thirteen seconds before walking in the door! I do have some questions!

What question can an interviewee ask that will totally turn you off? 

There are probably a lot. We covered one a few weeks back in terms of asking about money, which is a big turn-off for a lot of interviewers. But one question came up and I wanted to crowdsource some results! Here’s the question:

“So, Mrs. Interviewer, can you tell me how I stack up against my competition?” (The other candidates who are also interviewing)


I’ve got some feels on this:

  1. Gutsy. It could definitely blow-up on you in a hurry! Might be an immediate turn-off, and I’m not sure it would ever be a real turn-on.
  2. It does allow you to redirect the conversation back to strengths if your competition has some things they like over you. “Well, let me tell you a little more about how I also bring this to the table…”
  3. Most Hiring Managers will politely decline to talk about other people interviewing, maybe chuckle a little at the question, it’s a bit old school, so the older the people in the room, probably more likely to get a positive response.
  4. It’s aggressive, so if the role is a position where aggressiveness is a trait that is desired, it might be worth a shot.

I think there might be a better way to ask the same question, but use different wording to engage the conversation:

“What have you seen, by others interviewing, that you really liked about what they would bring to this position? Or, was there something you were hoping to hear from me, or others interviewing, that you’re not hearing?” 

This now takes it off the personal comparison of one candidate to another, and back to what the hiring manager is really looking for. Which again, allows you to redirect to your strengths, or minimize a weakness.

What say you TA and HR Pros? Hiring Managers? Does this question turn you off? If not, is there a question that would turn you off on a candidate?

Hit me in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Do you ask your interviewer about your competition?

  1. I would keep away from that second question/rephrasing. Basically you’re saying “I want you to think hard about how I don’t measure up with my competition.” A good interviewer will have already done their best to see if you fit that trait, and just bringing it up again can do nothing but hurt your chances.

  2. It’s a little harder in video interviews, but I’m a fan of the “door knob” close for face to face. The moment the interview has ended and soemone touches the door knob, it triggers a dropping of the defenses we put up in an interview. At that moment, pause, turn to the interviewer and say “I wanted to say again how interested in this role I am, are you interested in me for the role?” This is a magic moment where they are unprepared for the question (Columbo used to do this, and yes I’m that old) and default to an honest answer. If they say yes, great! If they say “well we are interviewing several other candidates for the role” you know they think they can do better.

  3. To me, I often take it as a clear sign that they’ve prepared for the interview and have perhaps been coached. This reminds me to double back and dig deeper into the answers they’ve provided so I can get the real story and not the scripted story they’ve practiced.

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