In the past, we have talked about answering some common interview questions like “can you walk me through your CV?”, “can you tell me about yourself?”, and now we are back with another FAQ: “where do you see yourself in five years?”
It’s one really tricky question because it’s open ended and forces you to talk in the long term.
Who plans what they are going to do in the next five years, you wonder. I don’t even know what I am going to do in the next five months, you scream out in your head.
And what is the guarantee that you are going to stick to the supposed plan?
Hiring managers/employers/interviewers know this.
There are a couple of reasons why they ask this question:
- To see what you come up with on the spot.
- To gauge if you plan to stay in the company long term.
- To gauge if you are a good investment.
- To see what your definition of success is.
- To gauge what growth you are looking for.
- To gauge if the company can provide something that matches your expectations.
Hiring can be a time consuming process, and companies want to make sure that they choose someone who would be worth all the time spent in scanning resumes, creating shortlists of candidates, interviewing etc,. Everybody looks for the perfect candidate, don’t they?
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are ever required to answer the question: “where do you see yourself in five years?”
- Don’t be Bluntly Honest:
Honesty is a good policy, but it might not be the best when it comes to this question. You don’t need to worry if you think your long term five year plan won’t really sit well with the interviewer. You don’t need to be that blunt.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean you lie. It merely means you practise some diplomacy.
Refrain from saying things like “I don’t see myself here in five years…”, or “I probably will go back to my hometown to look after my family…”
Even if you intend to do something like that, you don’t need to make it known. Because that is not what the question is about.
- Balancing Act:
On the flip-side, you might be tempted to show how ambitious you are, and how seriously competitive you are. Which is a good response, but that needs some generality.
You don’t need to go into specifics here. It is not a good idea to be saying bluntly specific things like “I see myself in your job in the next five years…” or “I intend to become a VP by that time…”
But that doesn’t mean you don’t show your enthusiasm.
- How to Talk About Your Goals without Being too Blunt and Direct:
The company wants to know how enthusiastic you are about working there long term, and what your goals are. Being too blunt and specific is a problem, but funnily enough, being a little, just a little, grand isn’t.
Instead of saying “I intend to replace you and become a VP…”, you can say something like,
“I wish to become an expert in the industry, and reach a position where I can lead and act as a mentor. I also would love to learn a bit more about management in the coming years…”
Such an answer talks about the fact that you want to reach a particular kind of post, you want to acquire a specific skill related to your industry, and you want to reach particular milestones. Without making it sound like an attack.
- What to Do About the Question When You Are Switching Industries:
But what if you are switching industries? How do you handle the question then?
Again, since you don’t need to be too specific here, you can say something like,
” In the next five years, I would like to have expanded my knowledge about the industry and my skill-set. I think it is important to always put in efforts to gain skills, regardless of one’s post…”
Such an answer conveys that you will be spending time in learning and expanding your skill-set, even when you reach beyond your entry level position.
It is just about general and just about specific, isn’t it? And notice how there’s no lying involved. Just re-framing things in a way that conveys a growth-mindset.
One just needs to strike a balance between being general and being specific! Between being grand and being articulate.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a question that subtly looks at your definition of growth, goals, success, learning and development.