How To Answer “Where do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

Image where do you see yourself in five years

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. 

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in An Interview

Tell me about yourself image - Copy

Have you ever been asked to tell a bit about yourself during an interview? Have you felt yourself going blank as you get asked this question? Have you found yourself entirely clueless?

Going completely quiet as one gets asked “can you tell me something about yourself?” is more common than you think. In that one moment, it is as if people forget everything they have accomplished in their life.

We bring you some tips to keep in mind while you prepare for an interview, so that when you do get asked the question, you have some great things to say.

Firstly, Why is the Question so Tough to Answer:

Answers to questions which require you to talk about your strengths, weaknesses, your experience, your CV can be memorised.

A question like “tell me about yourself” no doubt, can have rehearsed answers. But it is still a very unstructured question, which requires you to pick just the right things to talk about. We are left wondering what exactly does the interviewer want to hear. That is what makes it tricky.

Here are some tips.

 

  • Prepare Well:

Not with a word to word rehearsed answer, but going to an interview, with a loose script in mind is a good idea. In other words, going to an interview with the answer to the following questions in mind is a good idea.

  1. What is my educational background?
  2. What is my career background?
  3. What qualities make me stand out from other candidates?
  4. What are my interests and aspirations?
  5. Why am I a good fit for the company?

Collectively, the answers to these questions are a response to the bigger question “can you tell me about yourself?” .

 

  • The Resume Trick:

Common wisdom says it is not a good idea to simply summarise your resume. Besides, the question “can you walk me through your CV?” is there to fill that role.

However, you can use the relevant detail from your resume as a reference, and then use it as a way to talk about yourself.

For example, one can say something like:
“As you can see, my resume shows I have experience in IT, and you might be wondering why I decided to apply for this managerial position. Well, I have always considered myself a…”

 

  • The Quality Check:

Now comes the core of the answer.

When you are asked a question like this, you can talk about an instance which highlights a couple of your qualities. Beginning by giving some context as mentioned in the previous point, you can then talk about those qualities, followed by a specific example.

Here, your quick-thinking plays a role: you choose the example, and the quality according to the company culture, the position and other requirements of the job.

Does the position require you to be a good administrator? Sharp critical thinking skills? Great interpersonal skills? Good communication skills?

So, when you prepare for your interview, also think about this, and then try to recall a time when you displayed the quality.

But, wait, what if you are applying at a position from a different industry? How does one choose an example then? Wouldn’t that become irrelevant?

The answer is no. The example would not be considered irrelevant if you tailor it in a particular way, which highlights the quality, and not just the technicalities.

 

But what if you don’t have experience? How does one choose an example then?

One need not choose an example from just the professional field. Unpaid experiences count. Remarkable incidents and achievements garnered from extra- and co-curricular- activities one did as a student, volunteering, charity work, community/social service can also be used as examples to talk about the relevant qualities.

 

Remember, the purpose of the question is to get an idea about how much you understand about the requirements of the position: the qualities you require to handle the tasks successfully.

 

  • What Not to Do:
  1. Do not go off track.
  2. Do not use too many fillers like “well”, “umm”, “okay”, “so”.
  3. Do not start talking about awkward personal details.
  4. Do not parrot what’s written in your CV and cover-letter
  5. Do not make it too long.
  6. Do not ask “what do you want to hear?”

 

So now, the next time you find yourself faced with “tell me about yourself”, you will actually have things to talk about!

Preparing the Perfect 30 Second Introduction

 

30 sec Intro

 

Imagine you have gone to a conference. There will be lots and lots of professionals, eager to do some networking. No one has the time to actually have a long discussion but everyone is willing to network, somehow.

Or just imagine you are someone looking for a career opportunity. You get on an elevator, and there walks in the CEO of a company you were going to apply at!

There’s a new client you need to network with, preferably for the long-term. There’s a call and you need to make them listen first, you need them to stay. You need to sell your brand. And fast, they have a list of companies waiting for tie-ups!

In situations like these, the thirty second intro comes to the rescue. It’s  also known as an elevator pitch.

 

First things first, what does it mean?

As the name suggests, it is a short, clear, concise introduction of your brand (personal or company, depending on the situation). While you might consider it as a verbal equivalent of your business card, it is supposed to be much more engaging.

It should have the brevity of an elevator ride: you should be able to give a basic but engaging introduction of your brand in the approximate time-span of an elevator ride.

You have to be prepared because you never know when opportunity knocks, right? It’s almost like a script you rehearse and follow. Almost. We will get to it soon.

 

Now, what should you include in the short introduction?

This will depend according to your purpose and audience. But the very basics include:

  • Who you are, that is, not just your name but also your clear job title.
  • Chief skills, competencies and chief audience.
  • What makes you unique.
  • An example that gives substance to your claim to be unique. But make sure you don’t go on telling a story. A general example is fine. We will get to the example soon.
  • Perhaps a tagline, a hook to sum it all up.

Even if you are going for an interview, or you want to write a summary for your LinkedIn, you can think of your intro along the lines of these questions, which are essentially variations of the basic outline just laid out above:

  • Who you are, and your current job title.
  • Where you have worked before. Remember, talk about it very briefly, only the highlights.
  • Your chief skills and competencies, your chief audience.
  • What makes you unique. Again, with examples of your accomplishments for substance.
  • What you are looking for and why.
  • Why you are currently in the market.

Remember, it should include all this information but not necessarily in this order. If you can think of a more engaging and fun (but still a coherent order), go for it.

 

What are some things you should keep in mind?

Now, why is it almost like a script?

Because you will have to prepare this beforehand, and perhaps even rehearse, so you know what to speak, when and to whom. Why ‘almost’? Because you are not going to parrot it. You will have to be mindful about your purpose, and the circumstances you find yourself in. It is not enough to stress the importance of changing the “script” according to who you are talking to. And most importantly, let the other person talk and let you ask questions.

You should be able to elaborate on a detail if you have been asked about it.

 

Now, an example! Construct something along these lines, which can work for your LinkedIn summary, your networking events, for interviews or maybe even unexpectedly bumping into someone. Remember, look at the context, assess what needs to be said and go for it!

A: I am A. I am currently a lawyer with the firm YXA. Let me know if you ever need my help in anything.

B: There are so many start-ups these days but new ventures take time to gain traction. Some people actually hope they don’t end up doing something illegal unintentionally! I see this a lot. That’s where I see the value of my job: helping people who want to set up their start-ups but aren’t sure in case of how to go about the legal processes and formalities.  I am B, a lawyer currently employed at the firm YXA. We deal with various arenas of law and legalities. Just recently I assisted a group of women who loved to bake cakes together set up a little bakery start-up of their own. If you have any of such requirements where the legalities need to be sorted out, I would be happy to assist!

A is just too plain. B gives the introduction, who is served, and also an example. There are enough details: not too many, which might confuse, and not too few, which might make one sound shady. There is a scope to ask more.

Once you know the structure in your mind, you will be able to create your own unique intros!

 

Remember, it’s almost a script. Keep the basic outline in mind, but don’t parrot it, and give the other person the time to respond. And don’t forget to hand them your visiting card while parting.

Keep it short, simple. No unnecessary jargon please! Show them what makes you different!

Part Two: Are you Going to Interview A Quiet Candidate?

are you interviewing a qc

In part one, we talked how a candidate might appear quiet and passive owing to reasons like:

  • Their general nature. An introvert appears quiet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing to say. In fact, they can have a lot to say if one talks about the right thing, here when one talks about the job.
  • Life situations
  • Recent tragedy

We saw how it is important to get over the general assumption that a talkative, enthusiastic candidate is a good candidate, and that being generally quiet is a bad quality.

We talked about the false assumption that a lack of confidence or self-esteem doesn’t necessarily amount to incompetency.

Dismissing someone because they are “too quiet” during their interview without giving them a chance can lend unfairness to the process.

Under Pressure: 

But interviews are tough to take. The interviewer has the pressure to make the right decision, with a limited amount of information and background about the candidate at hand. Sometimes, the interview is more than enough but sometimes, there is this inkling feeling: what if I pass over a really good and deserving candidate?

We bring you the final part of the Quiet Candidate series, this time for someone who is interviewing a person seemingly of few words.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while interviewing someone who just doesn’t seem to utter a word.

 

Interview, Not an Interrogation:

Many candidates, especially those on the anxious side may feel intimidated by the thought of having to go for an interview. In such cases, you can remember as an interviewer to convey them that they are here because your organisation is genuinely interested in their skills, accomplishments, and what they can offer, etc. Conveying that one is not going to be interrogated but actually being talked and listened to might help ease the nervousness a bit.

 

Minds Off the Interview:

It is a good idea as an interviewer to lay out the details of the job. When the details are laid out, the interviewee might get a more precise idea about what the job would involve, and whether they would be able to do it or not. You will thus help the candidate in taking their minds off the interview, loosen up a bit and actually begin talking.

 

Assume Out Loud:

If the job needs the person to be talkative, vivacious or at least socially adept, let the candidate know.

And if you feel like the candidate lacks social skills to handle the position, convey that feeling politely. The need to prove your assumption wrong may actually make the candidate talk about their past accomplishments and strengths.

But make sure you aren’t using an accusatory or condescending tone.

 

Walk to the Conclusion:

It is important to remember that the application went a step ahead onto the interview for a reason. Remember this before jumping to conclusions. While this is not saying to not rely on your skills to assess someone, don’t take just the “talking” factor into consideration while making the final decision.

 

Find Other Sources:

If you have a feeling a candidate can do much better than their interview, it is a good idea to talk to the references listed to get a more clear idea and convert the feeling into something more concrete.

One might also get more information about the life of the person, which often helps to make sense of certain oddities in behaviour. Word of God may have a certain weight to it, but words of former employers, former colleagues, professors, teachers are pretty helpful if you want a wider picture of the candidate.

 

Instincts, experience, attention to numerous details, not hanging on to just one aspect, are some key words to remember while interviewing someone who appears quiet and reserved. You better think twice before making any decision!

Part One: Are you A Quiet Candidate?

Are you a quiet candidate image

 

Interviews can be tough for those who are generally quiet, soft-spoken, anxious or are not sure about what to say. Introverts are people of few words, especially on occasions that may feel like mere formality to them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing to say.

Furthermore, life situations, a recent tragedy, constant rejections etc,. could also make an otherwise vivacious person into someone who appears tired and awkward. Such people might come across as mediocre, passive candidates.

It is important to get over the general assumption that a talkative, enthusiastic candidate is a good candidate, and that being generally quiet is a bad quality.

Moreover, it is worth taking note that lack of confidence is not the same as a lack of self-esteem, and that a lack of both does not necessarily mean someone is bad at their job.

Tricky Business: 

But interviews are tricky, especially for someone who is not comfortable with the spoken word. There is a pressure to convey the right things, in the right words, in a limited space of time. That too, without sounding pushy or inauthentic.

What can you do if you fear you will come across as a quiet candidate?

We bring you part one of the bi-article series of the Quiet Candidate. Here are some psychological tips to remember which may be used as starting points for thinking about more practical solutions.

 

Listeners First, Interviewers Later:

Remembering that the interviewer is interested in what skills you can offer, in what ways you can contribute to the organisation/institution etc.,  is a good strategy to bring out the flow of words and getting rid of the anxiety surrounding the concept of interview itself. Remember, you are not going for an interrogation. A panel of people genuinely wants to listen and talk to you!

 

Job > Interview:

As a candidate, you can try your best to make yourself see beyond the interview: the job. As basic as it sounds, thinking about what the job may entail, the roles involved may keep you from dwelling on the interview. Thinking beyond the immediate short-term may help you to find better things to think and talk about. Over-thinking can drive you crazy but long-term thinking can give you perspective and a sense of calm.

 

Check:

Go through the job role. See if it falls within your comfort-zone, and if it doesn’t ask yourself how much prepared and willing are you to move out of your zone. And make sure you talk about that preparedness and willingness during the interview.

If you would not prefer a job which has a lot of talking to do, or a lot of social-interaction, then do not apply for it. Use your knowledge of self and see what else can work. Or apply only after thoroughly weighing the pros and cons. Sometimes, climbing a tree is not a great option when the ability lies in swimming through the waves! But if it is a case where you have to apply for the job, the next point can be useful.

 

Say it:

Some jobs require one to be talkative or at least socially adept. It is very easy for the external observer to misunderstand being quiet as being mediocre.

As a quiet candidate, if you  feel like the interview is not conveying your skills, you can say that you aren’t usually this quiet. Such a remark might be used as a cue, to begin talking about your past accomplishments or strengths, and thus give a sense of direction to the interview.

 

Remember the Why:

An application progressed to an interview for a reason. It was deemed good enough. Remembering the why’s would ensure there is not too much anxiety.

You may use this as an affirmation. Furthermore, recalling by a simple “why” the reason you thought the position appealed to you and why you felt you should apply, can help you find points to talk about.

 

References Are Important:

As a candidate it is necessary to list out reliable, relevant references. While many people often consider this section of their CV a mere formality, it is not so. Rather, what someone else has to say about you may become important when/if your words aren’t enough, and here is when hiring managers often get in touch with your references. Former colleagues, former employers, professors, friends, teachers are great sources of creating a detailed picture of you, which might not have been apparent in the interview.

While it is not possible to control what others assume, it is certainly possible to communicate clearly. And it is certainly, certainly possible to have conviction in your skills, and transmute that confidence in your bearing. So, if you are the quiet candidate, you can heave a sigh of relief that interviewers are indeed deliberating over you!

Part two coming soon!