How to Find the Perfect Job Applicant (or Look Like One)

Most readers got our point — and for those who were made extremely uncomfortable, we will provide some thoughts in a minute — but some took us to task for saying that asking someone where they expect to be in five years is a great way to uncover the applicant’s “ambition, personality, values, thinking process, etc. The way people answer this question can tell me a lot about them and whether they are the right person for a particular job/environment.”

Well, we don’t claim to be recruiters. But between the three of us we have hired literally hundreds of people and our experience has been that if you are looking to discover those things, there is a much more direct — and we would argue better — way of finding out. Ask the person what they have been (or are now) utterly committed to in their life: “What really turns you on and attracts you almost in spite of yourself? What are the things that you can’t put out of your mind?”

What our organizations need today — perhaps above all else — is commitment. People who truly want to do a great job. Who are driven to do so. The best way to find out if someone has that kind of desire and commitment is to ask about times they have demonstrated it in the past.

Does it have to be work-related?

It would be nice, but no.


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Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown

Leonard A. Schlesinger is the president of Babson College. Charles F. Kiefer is president of Innovation Associates. Paul B. Brown is a long-time contributor to the New York Times. They are the coauthors of Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future(HBR Press 2012). Learn more at

While we are flattered by the response to our previous post,Career Plans Are Dangerous, we weren’t quite anticipating the push back. All we were saying is that if you find yourself in a profession which is evolving rapidly, career planning just doesn’t make a lot of sense. And our advice to employers was equally straightforward: If no one knows what the future in your field is going to be, then asking the standard interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?” is silly. Leer más “How to Find the Perfect Job Applicant (or Look Like One)”