That five-year plan: Being asked about your goals and timetables in a job interview may be disconcerting, but according to some hiring officers...

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That five-year plan: Being asked about your goals and timetables in a job interview may be disconcerting, but according to some hiring officers it’s an essential interviewing technique.

“Hypothetical questions often reveal as much about an individual as the specific answer it generates,” said Roger Hughes of Hughes Consultants, based in Oak Brook, Ill. For the past two decades Hughes, a psychologist, has conducted pre-employment assessments for organizations.

“The five-year question allows candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of relevant career paths in their profession, to express specific areas of interest within their field — and to signal to the interviewer the level and appropriateness of their ambition,” Hughes said.

Hughes adds that “when evaluating individuals, the skill of the interviewer does not lie in the apparent ingenuity of the question but in the interpretation of the answer.”

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He calls this “connecting the dots.”

Christopher Hetzel, of Lake Bluff, Ill., is a retired executive who has done a lot of hiring.

“I always brought up the five-year question, but the difference is I shared my own and my employer’s five-year view first,” said Hetzel.

Applicants who successfully answered the question about future plans then got to answer another, one that Hetzel threw in “for fun.”

“I would then shift gears for variety and ask them which character they would like to be in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and why,’ ” said Hetzel.

“If a candidate said he wanted to be Dorothy because she had a plan for returning to Kansas, we were on track,” he said.

Unfortunately, one woman replied she wanted to be Toto, the dog. “She wasn’t invited back for a second interview,” reported Hetzel.

Even if she had a five-year-plan.

The shipping news: Sending jobs overseas doesn’t only hurt U.S. employees who lose their jobs because of offshoring — but businesses themselves can also take a hit, according to a report by The Conference Board, a nonprofit business and research organization based in New York.

And it’s more than just a public backlash.

“Layoffs are not the only hurdle facing offshoring companies,” the report stresses. “Offshoring can also cost the loss of a local tax base and damage to their brand. The negatives don’t only affect a company’s home workforce; rapid growth in offshore destinations often strains local infrastructure and creates damaging cultural stress.”

That’s a lot to think about before deciding to switch to cheap labor.

Internet tips: “So far, the Internet has not proved to be a magic wand; it has not changed the essential nature of job hunting,” according to veteran adviser Richard Nelson Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute?”

Bolles and Mark Emery Bolles are co-authors of a new book, “Job-Hunting on the Internet” (Ten Speed Press, $11.95).

“Instead, you should view the Internet as a tool, just like any other … use it as just one of many such tools at your disposal, in an overall strategy for your job hunt.”

The authors also warn that “your chances of finding a job (through the Internet) are less than 10 percent, which is pretty bad.”

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