Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, there is no way to know where you’ll be in your career five years from now. So why do interviewers ask a question that you won’t be able to give a definitive answer to? They are looking to gain a better understanding of your career goals and how the position you’re interviewing for fits into your grand plan. The key to answering this question is to demonstrate your motivation, and long-term interest in a career with the company you’re applying to.
Prepare an Answer
Nothing will make you seem more unprepared than answering, “I don’t know” or “I haven’t thought about it.” For interviewing purposes these types of responses should be removed entirely from your mind. The interviewer is looking to see that you have thought about your future, and how their company plays a role in your future. Not having an answer, or coming up with a cliché response such as, “Well, no one really knows where they will be in five years…” will make you look unfavorable as a candidate. When answering this question emphasize the value you will bring to their company and how it relates to your career goals.
Companies want to know they are hiring an employee that will stick around, not someone who will leap at the next available opportunity that arises elsewhere. When answering this question, it’s important to factor your role in the company into your answer. Even if you aren’t looking to stay with a company forever, employers want some sort of signal that you’ll be around for a while and won’t be a flight risk. Try something like, “I’d really like to be part of a company that I can grow with, so in five years’ time I hope to have gained enough knowledge and experience to be in a more advanced role here.”
Avoid Being Too Specific
No one is looking for exact details -interviewers aren’t going to quiz you five years from now to see if you really are managing a team of twenty employees like you claimed you would be doing. Instead, interviewers are looking to see that you’re ambitious, and if you have a proper understanding of how to move up the corporate ladder as a member of their team. Answers such as “I would like to be in X role in five years”, might make you look out of touch with the company if the progression to that role is more likely to be a ten-year journey.
Keep it Professional
This question is meant to discuss your long-term career goals -not your personal goals. If you’re looking to write a book and travel to Australia within five years’ time that’s great, but it’s not something to share during the interview. Stick to your professional goals and what you would like to achieve on the job. Also, be sure to keep your answer relative to the position you are applying to! If your real dream is to be an airline pilot, but you’re applying for an accounting position, don’t mention this. Employers are looking to see that your goals align with their company and that their organization has a place in your future.
Need additional interview advice? Check out our series of interview blogs that provide Long Island job seekers with job search insight.