The Problem with Your Interview Questions

PMI Mile-Hi Chapter

Over the past 10 years, Chris Cook has spent his career in the construction industry. He has a Bachelor's of Science in Industrial Technology Management with an emphasis in Building Construction Management and Master's of Science in Project Management. He is an accredited PMP. Follow more of Chris's insights at his blog EntrePMeur.

The interview process can be painful. A group of individuals surrounding a table ask standard questions from a sheet of paper developed years ago by someone who probably does not work there anymore.

Eventually, one individual asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” You know the question is coming at some point, and you begin to deliver a standard answer of progress and aspiring to move up the company ladder through hard work and dedication.

My criticism does not involve the company wanting a driven employee who wants to strive for better. I critique this question because it asks a standard question that receives a standard answer. If people expect a maneuver, they will have a plan(s) in place. The person being asked the question can delve into their internal bank of answers to deliver the perfect “what I am supposed to say” response. Sugar coating is another term to explain this queued-up answer. I cannot imagine a person envisioning themselves worse off in five years. The future is optimistic and unknown.

My plea is to ask better questions that lead to better answers. Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal, gives a great example of contrarian thinking: “Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on” is a statement he likes to present to a person he is interviewing. The answer may provide insight …

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"Life begins at 40, but often so does arthritis and the habit of telling the same story three times to the same person."

- Sam Levenson

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