Where do you see yourself in five years?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

The old cliché interview question. Like most clichés, and most common interview questions, it cops a lot of flak. Mostly from people who don't know how to answer it.

The five-year question does not have a single correct answer nor is it a trick to try to catch you out.

There is no single right answer to this question but that means there is also no single wrong answer. There is plenty you could say that would be considered a good answer and plenty you could say that would be considered a bad answer.

Before you try to sort the good from the bad step back and think about the question being asked. Ask why you think an interviewer would ask this question?

(I recommend practicing this skill for all interview questions - every question is asked for a reason and if you can analyse and figure out the reason before answering then you chances of giving a good answer increase dramatically.)

Back to the five-year question.

Why would an interviewer ask that?
What value could they get from it?
What type of answers do they want to hear?

Once you start thinking in these terms you can see which answers would be better or worse.

I'll give you my take…

The five-year question is designed to give you an opportunity to showcase the level of thought and consideration you have given to your career in general, and this role specifically. It provides insight in to how enthusiastic you are about this role, if you even know how this role fits in to your career plan, and how ambitious and forward thinking you are.

To break it down even further, there are three simple things you need to showcase in your answer

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Forward thinking
  3. Longevity

With the caveat to all this being your answer needs to be relative to the role you are interviewing for.

These people are taking a risk to hire you. There are extra costs implied with any new hire so they want to ensure they have the right person.

They want someone who is enthusiastic for this specific company (and role).
They want someone who is forward thinking, specifically within the context of this company (and industry).
They want someone who is has long-term potential at this company.

If you can provide an answer that showcases all of those things then you will leave a great impression.

But that's going about this whole process arse about face.

Want to know the real trick to preparing impressive answers for the five-year question that you don't even have to think about? Do a five-year plan for yourself.

You should not be waiting until you are interviewing for your next job to think about the next few years of your career. You should be thinking about your career future all the time. You should always have a very good idea of what you want in the near future for your career.

The ironic thing is that If you can define a five-year plan just for yo (i.e. independent of any specific job interview) then when you are actually interviewing for your next job you are almost guaranteed to be much more successful.

Why? Because you would have only searched for jobs that align to your career plan. You would have already filtered out the shit jobs, found only the ones that bring some positive value to your career, and you would be confident that this job is (one of) the right next step for you.

That confidence and certainty would manifest itself in the interview - showing your enthusiasm, forward-thinking, and longevity.

The more you think about your future career the more your present career will align with it.

How often do you think about the next five years in your career?

Zac Sky