Tales from the interview: Anticipating your own incompetence is not a good interview strategy

Raymond Chen

Some years ago, there was a candidate who was interviewing for a programming position in my group. The first interviewer asked the candidate about career plans with that old standby, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

— In five years, I see myself in program management.

This is a fair answer. Many people see programming as a stepping stone to management. It doesn’t have to be, but it’s certainly a career path more than one person has taken.

My colleague decided to probe further. “What is it about program management that appeals to you?”

— Well, after five years, all the kids graduating from college will be so much smarter than me, and they’ll know all about the latest technologies, so I won’t be able to cut it as a programmer any more. I’d have to go into management.

It’s bad enough that your career plan includes never developing any new skills and “failing upward” into management. It’s another thing to anticipate it in your interview.


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