One of the most commonly asked questions at a job interview is “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” or “Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?”
If you don’t have all your life mapped out, the question can cause confusion and moreover, seem annoying. Do you really know what you will be doing or do you really know what you would want to be doing in five years?
Organisations and the way they are run change so rapidly, that it is hard to predict all the twists and turns that your career can take. And responding to this type of question can be challenging even for the most focused and ambitious candidates.
However, the fact that you cannot predict the future does not mean you cannot anticipate it and be ready for it. There are several techniques that can help when constructing an answer to this question to affirm your interest in the position and highlight your skills.
What the interviewer is looking for
First of all, even if the question sounds very straightforward and to the point, try understanding the context behind it. What is it exactly that the interviewer is looking for?
The hiring managers do not expect you to provide a detailed plan of all your actions and achievements within the subsequent five years, they are simply trying to discover answers to the following:
1. Will you still be with the company in five years and does the position fit in your overall career plan?
The cost of turnover is high, and not surprisingly, organisations look for employees that will be productive, capable and importantly will stay long enough to provide a return on investment.
2. Will you be functionally a good match for the position?
It is very important that the new employee enjoys doing the job. This is crucial as happy employees are more productive. They are more loyal and they tend to stay in a role for longer. For an recruiter this is vital and they will test to ensure that you are not taking any job, because if you are, then more likely you will get bored sooner and look for another opportunity elsewhere.
3. How ambitious are you?
Many positions require you to be ambitious. Hiring managers want to find a person who will be sufficiently ambitious to grow and change along with the organisation however not overtly determined that they simply want to use the post as a stepping stone to something bigger with another employer.
Follow these simple steps to give a winning answer
In order to present yourself in the best possible way you need to become more self-aware. Set this as your homework before the interview. Spend some time creating your personal vision statement and then try tailoring it to different situations: an interview, a talk with a manager or a person you meet at a networking event. In the process of creating a personal vision statement do not ignore the importance of reflecting on what you are good at and what you are not.
Question your values, goals and the means you would deploy to achieve them. Make sure to have three key facts that you want the person in front of you know about you.
2. Be Honest
In the work world, where you are expected to deliver results, you are also expected to have a clear sense of direction. Thus, in many situations, not having a clear answer to the question about the upcoming 5 years would not be accepted. Nevertheless, if you don’t have it, don’t make an answer to satisfy the interviewer. You want to be honest to find the job that is right for you, not just any job.
Having said that if you plan of taking a trip around the World in six months and you reveal this to your interviewer you are unlikely to be rewarded with the job offer.
3. Focus on learning
By mentioning that in 5 years you want to be in this or that position has it’s threats. You can seem either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. The situation can get worse if you mention that you want to have the same position as the interviewer.
Instead, focus on learning. Mention the capabilities and the skills you would build or improve over the 5-year period.
4. Know the possible career tracks
Again, do your homework! What are the career tracks someone in your position can follow? If you don’t know, talk to your professional network to get a picture of the possibilities.
5. Mention Results
If you are being interviewed for a long-term project manager position, do you see yourself successfully finishing that project in 5 years? Mention the milestones you see yourself completing and the ultimate delivery of the project.
Dos and Don’ts when answering this question
- Reflect and refresh your memory of your skills and experience in order to have a personal answer
- Understand what the interviewer wants to get from your answer
- Give a positive response outlining your desire to be with this organisation and delivering great quality work
- Give an answer which shows your intention to move from this company within a short space of time
- Limit yourself to a specific position – ideally you would be expected to show a desire for growth
- Just say you have no plans. Show that you have given thought to your career and chosen this post as a key central part of that plan
“I know it’s difficult to plan that far ahead however within five years I can see myself as a project management professional who has a reputation of delivering international projects on time and within budget. I will have a track record of several successful and innovative projects that have brought significant profits to the company. I will also work on my personal and professional development to become an expert in this field whose word is valued and respected both internally and externally among peers. Overall I can certainly see myself working with this organisation contributing as part of or leading the team and thoroughly enjoying my work.”