‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ is a popular job interview question, and a tough one. Who can predict the future? What do they want you to say?
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Many job seekers think that ‘I see myself in your job’ or ‘I want to move into management’ are good answers because they show that you are ambitious and want to grow and move up. However, this isn’t always the best answer to give.
If you’re interviewing with a large corporation, this upwardly-mobile answer may be OK—because (depending on your job level), there’s probably room for you and your future boss to move up.
However, if you’re interviewing with a small company, your boss may not have room to move up, so ‘I want to move up’ may be a threat to their job. Always factor in the company’s unique situation.
So what’s the best way to answer this ‘5-year’ question?
Remember that they understand that you can’t really predict what will happen in five years. But, they do want to know how this position fits into your long-term goals:
- Are you interested in this job/industry for the long term? Or are you planning to be somewhere else entirely five years from now?
- Once they make an investment in you (in terms of onboarding and training), will you be there long enough for that to pay off for them?
- Are you interested in growing into another kind of role or broadening your skills, or is this job exactly what you want to do for the foreseeable future?
Your answer will depend in part on where you are in your career—and there are pitfalls to be aware of. If you’re over 50, don’t tell them about your retirement plans. No one wants to hire someone who’s just watching the clock until they can go. Tell them how much you’re looking forward to contribute and even develop new skills.
Overall, a good answer sounds something like, “I want to grow and develop my skills and contribute to the company’s success.” You can even talk about how you look forward to greater responsibility as you learn more about the company, or that you hope to be ready to do more things.
If you do want to move up, you can say, “If you are considering me for a management position in five years, I would be interested, but that’s not really my top goal. My biggest goal is to learn, grow, and contribute in a meaningful way toward our success.”
This is a strategically diplomatic answer that will impress your interviewer.
About the author
Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.
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