There are a number of potential questions an interviewer can ask that you just worry about. They produce butterflies in the stomach of potential candidates, as there is no clear cut or obvious answer. What are they looking for? What do they want to hear? Do I even know? What if I say something wrong? These are all legitimate worries when going for an interview, and questions such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?” are often the crux of this worry.
How can you prepare for this question? What do employers want to hear? Here are a few tips that you can take into your interview.
Start at the start
You are applying for THIS job, so your journey 5 years into the future needs to begin here. It would be great to finish your answer with “My aim in 5 years time requires me to get this position, so I am focussing my efforts on the here and now and ensuring I do all I can to get this roll. And, if successful, I will do all I can to make a difference in this roll”. For this, you need to know where this role can lead to. What does the career of somebody who takes this roll look like? Where is a feasible location 5 years down the line? Research this. It may be that promotion prospects and career mobility are not possible. If so, continue reading.
Many positions require continual learning and self development. What do you want to learn? It may be a sales roll and you want to improve your technique to become a sales expert. You may be working for a drug discovery company so you might want to learn computational chemistry. You mat be on a management program so you want to improve your communication and leadership qualities. Companies love people who look to grow with their organisation. Demonstrate this by showing the skills you want to learn over the next 5 years.
No promotion, no problem!
Some jobs may not have specific career progression or promotion prospects. For jobs like this, it is first of all imperative that you show you are aware of this fact. If you talk about promotion, when it is unlikely you will receive one, you show that you haven’t done your research. Employees tend to quit if they are ill informed about the roll they are undertaking, so a company will not hire you at the first sign that you are ill informed about the duties of this job.
Secondly, mastery of your roll is a noble goal. State that you are keen to learn all of the skills required to become a master in your remit. State what these skills are, and how you plan on accruing them. This will show that you are fully prepared and that you have done your research.
Stating that you want to be CEO in 5 years time is probably unrealistic. Companies want you to be humble, express a desire to learn and grow, and to demonstrate that you are willing to do the hard yards required to become a success in the company. Organisations want intelligent and reliable individuals. People you know will turn up and earn the money they are getting paid. They want consistency of effort, and individuals who are a joy to spend 8 hours a day with. If you demonstrate an ego, or ideas beyond your station, they will most likely reject you. Ambition is GREAT, but you have to be realistic. Frame your answer within the willingness to work hard and learn, and you’ll be good to go. State that you just want to make a difference to their organisation over the course of 5 years.
This potentially tricky question is best negotiated in the same way all other interviews are negotiated – with PREPARATION! If you do your research, have a clear idea about the roll and the organisation to which you are applying, you will do well.