Recruiter/Hiring Manager: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Candidate: Eye roll, followed by dry mouth, sigh, light-headedness. Feeling dizzy. Passes out, bangs head on desk. Thud. Candidate now has a knot on her head similar to Lt. Worf from Star Trek. Wakes up staring at ceiling tiles. Runs through the office door never to return.

Yeah, yeah – that doesn’t actually happen. But figuratively, it happens all the time.

With the speed of change in the business landscape these days, can anyone really plan five years ahead anymore? And what relevance whatsoever does this question have on my ability to do a great job today? It’s a feeble attempt by an either untrained or inexperienced interviewer to get me to blow sunshine and butterflies (and maybe a unicorn or two) about how I’m going to give blood, sweat, and tears to your company if only you’d have mercy and hire me.

Do you think the Minnesota Vikings care where Brett Farve sees himself in five years? No. They want him to win a Super Bowl THIS year. (note: Brett will probably still be there in five years. He’ll never retire)

Trust me when I tell you this – great candidates hate this question. How about this for an answer: “In five years, I’d like to be better off than I am today.” What’s that tell you? Yep. Nothing. Or, “I’d like your job.” Uh oh.

This question is stale, dated, and fails to address the real issue. It reeks of complacency and ineptitude. So why do we still ask it? Instead, get rid of it.

Interviewers are trying to assess alignment and commitment when they ask that question. Is there alignment between this candidate’s future and ours? But it shouldn’t be time-bound. Instead, talk about passion. Ask about what really motivates me. Measure alignment based on that. And the organization should take on the responsibility of making sure great employees stick around (make me be committed to you, don’t just expect me to give it to you).

It’s time to realize that employees are less likely to stay in one position or work for one company that long anymore. My dad worked for the same company for 32 years. His dad did the same.

Those days are over. The workforce is much more fluid and dynamic these days.

If you can get a star player for one or two years, that person will do more and have a greater positive impact on your organization than an average player who hangs around for five years or more.

Asking candidates about hypothetical five-year commitments is just silly.

Think about it.