“Tell me, where do you see youself in five years?”
(Guiding hiring managers away from dumb interview questions)
Certified Career Management Professional
Let’s face it; we all have butterflies in our stomach when we sit down for a job interview. It’s perfectly natural. We may be eager to be asked the “weakness question,” since we’ve been up all night practicing a great response, but our trepidation can still be overwhelming. However, our objective is to get the butterflies to fly in formation. But that can be challenging when we’re facing inept hiring managers who are clueless when it comes to interviewing job candidates.
The interview is the crux of your job search. Regardless of what you did to get in the door and in front of the hiring manager, if you blow the interview it’s all over. You’re done. That’s why preparation on your part is so essential.
Part of good interview preparation is an understanding what the focus of the interview discussion should be. It should not be a rehash of your resume and what you’ve done for former employers in the past. Remember, companies don’t hire you for your past; they hire you for their future. While business is all about making a profit, employment is all about solving problems and issues that will lead to greater profitability. That’s why you’ve been chosen to interview. You’re not there because you’re a nice person who’s out of work and needs a paycheck. You’re there because the hiring manager has problems and issues that need to be solved and he or she has determined that you have the skills, experience and expertise to do just that.
Approximately 80% of hiring managers have never been trained to conduct an effective interview. They dislike the process and would rather get back to their regular job. For this reason they typically resort to a standard list of questions they ask of each and every candidate. A fair number of these are dumb questions which may derail a good interview with a quality candidate. In that situation no one wins.
Among the dozens that have been asked by hiring managers, here are some of the most common:
“What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?”
“If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?”
“Why do you want this job?”
Here’s my favorite:
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I would be tempted to respond to this question by asking, “Tell me, is this company going to be around in five years???” I believe these are dumb questions because they have nothing to do with the focus of the interview which should be a discussion of the problems and issues faced by the hiring manager.
I know there are those who may disagree with me. They defend the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question by suggesting that the hiring manager may want to find out a few things: Have you given thought to your career? Are you ambitious or do you lack initiative? Do your goals fit with those of the company? Are you going to be a long-term employee or are you going to jump ship for the next big opportunity?
I find it interesting that hiring managers are always interested in whether you’re going to be a “long-term employee”, yet they’re fully prepared to let you go at any time, regardless of your performance.
If they’re truly concerned about having you around for a while, suggest the negotiation of a minimum two-year employment contract. See how quickly they back off.
Here’s a question I’d like every candidate to ask during their interview: “Based on my outstanding performance in this job, what assurances can you give me that I can look forward to a long-term career with your company?” Good luck waiting for a positive response on that one.
Company websites boast that “our people are our greatest asset.” What a load of B.S. In reality it no longer matters how many years you’ve been with the company, how hard you work, how much money you make for the company, how much money you save the company, etc., etc. In today’s economy you are constantly vulnerable to some bean counter who demands a workforce reduction to make his quarterly numbers and bottom line look good. Remember, as long as you’re working for someone else, your job is always in jeopardy.
Take subtle control in your interview by asking relevant questions that will uncover the problems and issues facing the hiring manager. Remember, your ability to solve those problems will increase profitability, and that should be the focus of the interview.
Here’s a question to ask to help you initiate that discussion:
“I want to thank you again for inviting me here to discuss my qualifications for the position of Senior Project Manager. One of my objectives today is to clearly define the value I bring to the table and how I can help you achieve greater profitability. The best way for me to do that is to gain a clear understanding of some of the key issues and challenges you’re facing with respect to this position. Could you take a moment and describe what they are? Let me put it another way… what would you hope to accomplish by hiring me?”
This is a great question because it forces the hiring manager to address the issues and challenges at hand. Now you can have a meaningful discussion that will clearly separate you from the competition.
More dumb questions that have been asked during the interview process:
“How would you cure world hunger?” (Asked at Amazon.com)
“Does life fascinate you?” (Asked at Ernst & Young)
“If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” (Asked at AT&T)
And on, and on, and on.
Let the other candidates dance around those dumb questions while clutching a sweat-soaked resume.
What’s the most ridiculous question you have been asked?