I am currently in the process of changing my advisor and hence looking for new prospective advisors at my university. I got interviewed by one and she asked If I was in touch with any other advisors. I told her what the truth was but what exactly is the reason for asking this question? What does the potential advisor want to know?
One reason an advisor might ask this question is to know how time-sensitive the decision process is. If you're not considering other advisors at the same time, there is no competition and the potential advisor can spend some more time making her decision.
Another reason might be to gauge your interest in her research activities based on the other people to whom you're talking. Are you looking only at her field or are you looking more widely? Since you're coming from someone else at the same university, she'd likely be using such choices as a means of determining your level of interest in what she's doing. In other words, she probably wants to know if you're just looking for any advisor, and she happens to be someone you're talking to, or looking at her as a serious option.
This is a question I often ask prospective students when they ask me about being their adviser, whether it's for initial advising or to try to change. There are a few reasons:
- It may give me a better understanding of precisely what parts of my work interest them. If a student is attracted to both my work and that of a software engineering professor, they likely have a different set of interests than if their other possible interests are privacy or machine learning.
- If I know who else they're talking with, I can better help them find the best fit. That best fit may well be one of the other faculty members they're talking with.
- If they aren't talking with anyone else, I can suggest they do so, and perhaps make a few specific suggestions.