This week we’re tackling one of the most feared interview question. That question is, ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’. Many Hiring Managers use this question as a trap for candidates. This question is designed to trip up applicants who wouldn’t fit in, or would move on from the job quickly. Interviewers may also trip up genuinely qualified candidates with this question. However, this question shouldn’t intimidate passionate candidates.

How Not to Respond

Initially, it’s important to establish how you shouldn’t be answering this question. Many interviewees have some kind of knee jerk reaction to this question. For example, some potential employees may struggle to answer. Others will make a joke, stating they’d like to be CEO, or something along those lines. Although humor can sometimes be a good response, this is not one of those situations. This question is very influential and should be addressed as such. Lastly, don’t be overly specific in your response. Stating, “I’d want a company car, six figure salary, and a c-suite title” demonstrates ambition, but it’s far too specific and comes off as pretentious. Saying you want a position in the future that doesn’t even exist at the company may take you out of the running right away.

Hiring Perspective

Firstly, to figure out how to answer it’s important to understand why the question is being asked. Hiring Managers asking this question are trying to understand where this job would fit into the applicants grand career scheme. Hiring takes a huge amount of resources. Interviewing, vetting applicants, training, and worst case, severance packages all are costly endeavors.

Man Plots Out His FutureAgain, this is why interviewers want to make sure they have a good candidate. If this job doesn’t seem to be a long term fit for a potential hire, the return on investment is extremely low. They want to get a sense of your career goals and aspirations. If your resume doesn’t tell a good story leading up to this position, now is your chance to explain your shift in focus. With this perspective, you are ready to answer.

See Yourself In 5 Years

Nobody is expecting you to have a vision into the future, or look into a crystal ball. If you know how you expect your career path to look, answering should be relatively easy. Often these answers are better the more specific they are. However, with this type of answer, this isn’t the case. While a specific answer shows your plan is thought out, it may place you out of the organization. It’s great to say you want to grow in your career, but if there is no room for growth, they will assume you’d leave. This is why candidates shouldn’t be too focused on future job titles. If a company doesn’t have a position you want in the future, they know you won’t be around too long.

Employee Trying to Use a Crystal BallIn closing, the best way to think about this question is not answering about where you want to be, but who you want to be. Do you want to have more experience and responsibilities. Do you want to be a manger with a small passionate team? Figuring out who you want to be further along in your career not only helps you answer this question, but gives great self perspective.