Eric Mathiasen, a software engineer in Chicago, says that asking someone in a job interview, "Where do you see yourself in five years? " is "just a...

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Eric Mathiasen, a software engineer in Chicago, says that asking someone in a job interview, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is “just a dumb question. It tells the candidate far more about the lack of creativity of the interviewer than it tells the interviewer about the candidate.”

Mathiasen says when he is asked that hypothetical question his reaction is that there is “no right answer, it can’t be verified and it has no direct relevance to the position I’m interviewing for.”

Mathiasen says he has “yet to have a five-year period in my life where much of anything … happened that I planned. … Every time I’ve made plans, something bigger has come along to disrupt them — usually for the better.”

In fact, he says, actually setting strict goals “would have set my career back a good five years by now.”

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“I don’t think I’d hire someone who told me they had an immutable plan, because they’d be too inflexible to handle the constant change modern business drives.”

Instead, he suggests, it would be “far better that a job candidate be open to opportunity and ready for unseen challenges.”

At least for the next five years.

Emotional IQ: “People with good emotional intelligence are in charge of their emotions, rather than having their emotions in charge of them — and they make better employees,” observed Audrey Brodt, a licensed psychologist with a consulting practice in Littleton, Colo.

Knowledgeable hiring officers and managers now include “emotional intelligence” in the selection process and in evaluating promotions. And knowledgeable employees should keep that in mind.

“If you want to make yourself more valuable in the workplace,” said Brodt, who has a doctorate in psychology, “first become a good observer of how you handle yourself with others. Does your behavior contribute to cooperation or to conflict and divisiveness?”

Brodt, who has been a consultant since 1995 and does pre-employment assessments, also suggests you ask yourself what kind of person you want to be in the workplace.

“There’s a saying that it’s not what you do but who you are while you’re doing it,” Brodt said. “With this self-information in hand, you can identify things in your own behavior that you would like to correct — and that will help you to be better prepared to stop and observe when strong emotions come into play.”

Honing your emotional intelligence skills has a positive impact not only on you but also on the people you work with.

“It definitely diminishes conflict in the workplace, which allows you — and those around you — to work better,” Brodt said.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.