Where do you see yourself in five years? Ugh. One of the most dreaded interview questions EVER. No one really knows where they will be in five years. Even if you do have a plan, there’s no way to know that it will pan out. But interviewers will still ask, so we just have to learn how to answer the question.
First, here are three things NOT to do:
1. Avoid titles.
No hiring manager can tell you what title you’ll have within their company in 5 years. Avoid giving overly ambitious and unrealistic projections. Saying you want to be a Director or reach an Executive title is an instant turnoff. Since there’s no way to know what title you’ll actually hold, it’s best to avoid speaking in these terms. Plus, it puts the emphasis on the title rather than the actual things you’ll be doing or value you’ll provide the organization.
2. Never say “I don’t know.”
While this may be a completely honest answer, you don’t have to be too honest. Hiring managers know you can’t truly answer this question in great detail, but they do want to see that you have a desire to grow and add value to their organization. If you convey that you plan to simply go with the flow or see where this role leads, you’ve basically sunk your ship before you even set sail. Just as you shouldn’t show that you have a clear destination from which you refuse to change course, you can’t give the impression of being at the mercy of whichever way the wind blows. That much honesty inspires little to no confidence that this is a job you’ll actually invest in.
3. Don’t share your big dreams.
You may plan to open your own company one day or know that you have your heart set on working in a completely different field. In either case, that makes whatever job you’re interviewing for a means to an end. While you may think that sharing goals of opening your own business makes you look like a hard worker, it just tells a hiring manager that you have no intention of being with the company for long. Companies make investments in their employees through trainings and other professional and personal development plans. Telling a potential employer that you’re not in it for the long haul leaves you with a firm handshake and the hiring manager’s sincere thanks for your honesty.
Now that you know what not to do and why, here are three things you need your answer to convey:
1. Interest in the role.
Let the interviewer know that you’re excited about this position because it plays upon your natural skills and talent. It’s important for a hiring manager to know that the job at hand is really of interest and that you’re not already thinking about your next step or title.
2. Ability to grow.
Furthermore, explain that the role offers a great opportunity to learn a broad part of the industry but also allows for more specialization as you grow. Hiring managers are looking for high potential candidates. You don’t need to know everything before you start the job. But they do want to bring people in who are interested in learning, growing and developing their skills and expertise. They look for candidates who are capable of growth and offer long-term value.
3. Commitment to the company.
Conclude by communicating that you’re looking to refine your expertise in this role and increase your value to the organization as you start to become more specialized. Hiring managers aren’t looking for you to take on the world. But when they ask “where do you see yourself in five years?” they want to know that you’re someone who is growth minded, can add long-term value to the company and has an interest in doing exactly that at their organization, not somewhere else.