The most unimaginative and laziest question recruiters can ask?

Akshobh Giridharadas

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Geopolitics & Diplomacy at Fletcher School, Tufts | Op-Ed Writer |TEDx speaker | Panel Moderator| Thought Leadership.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Hands down, this takes the verdict for being the most banal question that can be asked of a candidate during a job interview.

Apart from being a terrible cliche, the underlying truth is that this question sends out message of being both lazy and highlights a complete lack of thought by the person interviewing the candidate.

The reason I revile this question adnauseam is it comes in the form of this ruse of the interviewer pretending to understand you and what makes you tick. But in reality, he or she is simply throwing fire crackers at your feet and seeing how well you can tap dance.

Apart from the futility of trying to accurately map out one’s futuristic career, the question is so archaic, because it fails to take into account — the unpredictability of predicting the future. That is industry disruption and digital transformation across various sectors.

This is best elucidated by Sheryl Sandberg, the current Chief Operation Officer (COO) of Facebook. She said it was impossible for her to map out her career when she finished from Harvard Business School in 1995 since Mark Zuckerberg was only 11 years old then. Much of the internet hadn’t been invented then, let alone Facebook. Back then, MBAs took their elite ivy league degrees and went knocking on Wall Street’s doors. The question of working for startups or the tech sector were anomalies.

Even after her stint in the public sector in D.C with the U.S Treasury Department, she was advised not to look at the tech sector, since the dot com bubble had just burst. And friends scorned at the funny name, when she told them she was joining a startup named Google back in 2000.

Let’s try and see if we can put this flippant hypothesis of where do you see yourself five years from now to test?

Let’s say had this been an interview conducted in 1997, the candidate wouldn’t know of the existence or the power of search, as Google wasn’t founded till 1998.

Five years later in 2002, the candidate asked the same question wouldn’t be aware as to the impact of social media as Facebook and Twitter hadn’t come into existence.

Skip fives year further, try asking this question in 2007, and Uber and other ride hailing apps weren’t really a thing.

And go back five years from now to 2012, selfies weren’t all that popular and Instagram had only just become a household name after being acquired by Facebook.

You get the point! In an era of rapid disruption, we are seeing former industry behemoths like Nokia and Kodak having been knocked off the perch and legacy industries having been forced to think in terms of a digital first economy due to digital transformation.

So how can we entertain the absurdity of being asked where we are going to be five years from now?

I put out this tweet recently where I highlighted the digital transformation gaining steam with AI, VR, AR, Big Data, IoT, Fintech, Mobile Payments and so on.

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Our careers could be made by industries that haven’t even come into existence yet. This isn’t a call to be clueless, but a mere reminder that the ones asking you “where do you see yourself five years from now”, are pretty clueless themselves on where they will be five years from now?

Albeit brazen, but I do hope the next time someone gets asked where they see themselves five years from now; they will retort with a “ tell me the exact industries, companies and job roles that will come up and then I will tell you the exact role I want to be in”.

Geopolitics & Diplomacy at Fletcher School, Tufts | Op-Ed Writer |TEDx speaker | Panel Moderator| Thought Leadership.

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Originally published at on August 13, 2017.