“Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?” Teaching Interview Skills

ikeajob-interview.JPGWhere do you see yourself in five years’ time? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why did you choose this company?

For two extra points, which is not a good ending for this sentence?

My weakness is that:

a) I work too hard
b) I am impatient for results
c) I don’t mind selling my soul to a company for cheap.

In many countries these are standard fare for a job interview, so much so that many of us probably almost have stock answers which we’d be ready to give, if not excellently, fairly convincingly, at short notice.

I was a bit surprised to hear some past banker students say they though a lot of people in their country would be startled to hear some of these questions at a job interview, even in their own language. It’s not that surprising that business happens in different ways in different countries, but it is interesting to me that something we take for granted would not be common at all in some places.

I went to look for some Business English resources – specifically at the BBC’s Learning English site to see if this has any implications for teaching. Even though the BBC is of course based in the UK, the questions they include are pretty much the exact same ones I would expect to hear in the US, in general at least. But what my bankers said raised an interesting question about teaching something like interview skills.

The BBC materials are still useful in my opinion, because they show relevant vocabulary that students are likely to encounter. And frankly, if you’re doing an interview in English in whatever country, speaking English well is important…though it could be argues that future perfect is less important than a quality answer. But – is that something that can be taught in an English class?

It’s probably worth keeping in mind that an English language interview nowadays will not necessarily take place in an English-speaking country nor even be for a job with a company based in an English speaking country…but…to the extent that it’s probably harder to wrap your mind around strategic answers than answers giving basic information, those types of questions are worth practicing. And the good answers worth remembering.