I have interviewed numerous young men and women over the years, so there’s not much I haven’t heard.
I have listened to unbelievable stories about past jobs, heard gossip about former and present co-workers and have learned of nightmares about crazy bosses.
But even with all the comments and stories communicated from interviewees, I believe the worst answer a young professional can make during an interview is one I actually hear over and over again from intelligent and qualified individuals.
To be clear, this statement doesn’t come from the recent college graduate interviewing for their first job out of school.
It typically comes from the young professional, three to five years out of school, looking for a career change. And it’s always in response to a question that I, and practically every interviewer, will eventually ask.
The question, understanding it has multiple versions, is basically, “What do you want to do with your career, or what would you like to be doing at our company now or in the next few years?”
The response, which can also have a few variations, usually goes something like, “I would like to be managing a team of people and helping the company succeed.”
The only good thing about this response is that it’s honest.
But it’s a horrible response to a very standard question.
First, this says it’s all about you. Nothing in this response says anything about bringing value to the company. The last bit, about helping the company succeed or grow, is just fluff added on to the major point, which is me, me and more me.
Second, it infers you don’t want to work. You only want to manage. You are ready to take out your baton and start orchestrating while the audience applauds your leadership and management style.
Third, it demonstrates you have given no thought to what you want to do with the next few years of your career. There is nothing specific, no plan. You have given a generic response to possibly the most important question of the interview.
Okay, so it’s not the best response but is it really that bad? Will it actually cost you the job?
But does it make you look like an average hire, looking for a little more opportunity while doing a little less work, then planning on skipping from one employer to the next when something better comes along?