As part of Interview Intervention: Communication That Gets You Hired, I included what I consider the 14 most effective job interview questions an employer can ask a job candidate. While there are loads of great interviewing techniques and questions, I feel it’s important to balance time and effectiveness when determining whether a candidate and employer relationship will be strong long-term.

To aid in that effort, I identified the 14 I consider the most comprehensive—to gain the best understanding of the candidate’s overall fit in the least amount of time. I am gradually releasing these through the blog and today’s is Number Six. You can see a complete list immediately by downloading a complimentary ebook from the milewalkwebsite!

Effective Job Interview Question #6: “If you were still working here three years from now, what do you think your most significant contribution would be?”

This question is designed to elicit what is most important to the candidate and see whether the candidate has a realistic view of what she can accomplish. Is she a creative thinker? Does she have practical work experience that can help her formulate ideas and execute them? Can the candidate set and execute on goals?

As much as I love this question, I want interviewers to avoid questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years.” I understand they want to gain insight into your ambitions and desires for the future, but most people can’t see past tomorrow, let alone five years from now. Furthermore, today’s job market changes so quickly that new opportunities are created on a daily basis, and career paths are changed in an instant. If someone would have told me in 2003 that I’d be opening a recruiting firm the following year, I would have bet my entire bank account against it. I honestly wish someone could dis-invent that question or somehow permanently remove it from every interviewer’s repertoire of questions.

This question is designed to evaluate whether you are goal-oriented, a planner, and an executer. The best response will be similar to how Harry reads a book in the movie When Harry Met Sally. When he starts a new book, he actually reads the last page of the book in the event he dies before he finishes it—so at least he knows how it ended. A little morbid, I know, but effective during this type of question. You want to tell the interviewer the result and follow it up with how you would accomplish it. For example:

Candidate: “Three years from now I would expect that I helped build for you a successful video practice with approximately $3 million in consulting revenue. During the first ninety days, I would begin identifying, developing, and packaging the solution offerings. Based on my current experience with these products, I already have strong ideas that I would want to obviously discuss and confirm with your management team to ensure they align with your corporate direction and strategy. Once we agreed and built the offerings, we would start developing the marketing campaigns, educating and supporting the sales teams, and identifying the appropriate product development and professional services resources to support the implementations for our customers. Based on our first year’s results, we would plan the targets for year two. I already have completed market research for the demand for these solutions so I have a good idea of the potential customer base. That would help prepare realistic targets …”

You can see the candidate first provided a direct response. Most importantly, she followed up with a mixture of evidence that shows how her experience and exposure to the market has placed her in a good position to make immediate contributions as well as ensure the company can set and meet its goals by executing a well-thought-out plan.