One of the most common questions asked during an interview is, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” There are several reasons why interviewers ask this question, and there is a lot that can be taken from your answer to this question.
How Prepared You Are
This particular question is so common, it should be a part of your preparation before going into any interview. The answer gives you an opportunity to show that you are motivated to either begin or continue your career. It shows the interviewer that you have put thought into your career, and you aren’t just going along with the tide.
How Serious You Are
Interviewers are looking to see what you will be able to bring to the role you are interviewing for. By putting thought into your career path and showing that you have goals beyond the paycheck associated with the position, you are telling the interviewer that you are ready for the commitment it takes to be successful in a career and within an organization.
How to Answer the Question
The obvious joke is, “in your position.” Don’t do that. The question might be a cliché, but you still have to take it seriously, and even if you make joke, which you absolutely should not do, they interviewer will take it seriously. If you stated goal is to take the job of the person who will potentially be your boss, they will remember that and think that you are actually shooting for their job. The joke just became the reason the interviewer will not trust you. And if they do recognize it as the joke it is, it is the obvious joke, and the last thing you want to be is obvious. So how should you actually answer it?
Be honest. Even if you think or know that this is not your dream job, the job is serving a purpose to your overall plan. Be honest, but be tactful. Instead of answering in a way that states where you want to be position-wise, answer in a way that shows what you want to get out of the experience of working there and highlights the value you believe you can bring to the team if you get the job.
Be realistic with your answer. If you are interviewing for an entry level position, stating that you see yourself in the C-Suite in 5 years is a bit of a stretch. Don’t be afraid to not have all of the answers as to where you want to be. Every position is a learning experience and a possibility for advancement. Even if you don’t know where you want to be, or even if you are not sure if this is the ultimate career that you want, frame your answer in a way that shows that you have given thought to the position and your own future.
Use the answer to tie your past with your future. Your career and life goals are often framed by your life experiences. Show how your experiences have helped to frame where you are headed. Even if you are interviewing for an entry level position, your experiences at school, summer jobs, part-time jobs and internships all play a role in your medium and long term planning.
A well-crafted answer to the most obvious question can be the lynch-pin in your interview. It is an open-ended question that give you an opportunity to really show your interviewer who you are, why you are the right person for the job and why they should invest in you.