You’re sailing through an interview—answering all common interview questions about your personal and professional life with perfect examples and smart anecdotes—when all of a sudden the interviewer throws a somewhat more personal question at you: “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”
This question which is among the top 10 interview questions is not designed to check your intuitive powers so don’t let it throw you off track! Several candidates find themselves stumped by this question, mainly because it’s not as simple as it may sound and also because if not answered correctly, it could be a total deal-breaker. When interviewers ask you this, they aren’t actually looking for a definitive reply—after all, nothing is certain in today’s job market, particularly five years from now. Honestly, they are merely trying to gauge whether or not you plan on sticking around for long, how precise a fit you are for them and what your professional ambitions and goals are as a whole.
So how do you tackle this question? Let’s take a look how:
Understand what employers expect from you:
Interviewers don’t really expect you to give precise details about what you’ll be doing in the next five years. They simply want to know if you’ve thought about your professional growth or if you do have a plan. There are numerous reasons why they ask this question. Apart from being inquisitive about your overall career plan, they are also keen to find out some basics about you: – Have you given thought to your career? Are you determined or do you need initiative? Do your aspirations match with those of the company? Are you going to stick around for long or are you going to jump ship for the next great opportunity?>
In an ideal world, we’d always say, ‘Speak absolute truth’. Tell them precisely where you want to be in the next five years, even if it’s totally crazy and unrelated!” And if the company doesn’t hire you because they aren’t accommodating, then probably it’s not the right company for you anyways. However, in a not so ideal world you sometimes have to take a role that works for the moment, and then fine-tune yourself as time goes on. If that’s the case:
– Express that you’re eager to excel in the role being offered and then would like to continue growing within the organisation will be a good answer. One of the significant things that you can do is to listen to the problems that need to be resolved while you are interviewing.
– Try addressing them while you answer the five-year question and position yourself as a long-term solution provider for the company. It’s also good to show a healthy level of realistic aspiration but avoid sounding too ambitious! This can set the panic button and alarm the hiring manager.
– Strike the perfect balance between over-ambitious and realistic. While you don’t want to undersell your capabilities or come across as somebody lacking in drive, you also don’t want to portray yourself as a ruthless go-getter who would step on a lot of toes, to claw your way to the top.
– Employers have heard it all, particularly the well-rehearsed and rehashed clichés! So avoid standard answers to the top interview questions and be honest. Show that you have put some contemplation into your career and haven’t applied for the job simply on a whim.
– It’s ok to not know what you want a year from now let alone five years! So if the far-off future appears unclear to you and you really have no idea where you will be in the next five years, then don’t resort to lying. But don’t leave it at that – tell the employer that you still have aspirations and are pretty thrilled about the prospect of working for them.
– You need to communicate that you do have a sense of direction and are not a lost soul who doesn’t have a clue where he is headed to. You may want to emphasise that you are pretty open to opportunities that come your way and would welcome any career training and advancement they would offer.
A good answer would go something like this:>
A good answer should reflect your focus, ambition and future plans that are aligned to the company you’re interviewing with. Some examples are:
– “I do not have a precise role in mind, but my aim over the next five years is to be at a place where I can make a difference. Career advancement is significant to me, so I look forward to taking on more responsibilities and gain more industry awareness in the process. Hopefully my experience will allow me to help the company achieve the desired goals in the coming years.’
– Or maybe something like “I’d like to progress in the field of marketing and see myself in more senior roles. Judging by our discussion so far, this position would give me the chance to sharpen my skills and develop new techniques to help me progress. I’d also like to take on more responsibilities in the process to make constructive contributions to the team that will help the company achieve more success.”
In all probability, no one knows exactly where they will be in five years both personally and professionally. So if you are unsure about how to answer interview questions like where you’ll be five years down the line you are certainly not alone! Use your difficulty with this question as a wakeup call to make some decisions and explore career options.
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