Think About This: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?


“My short term goal is to bluff my way through this job interview. My long term goal is to invent a time machine so I can come back and change everything I’ve said so far.”

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Go ahead and start practicing your answer to this question. Almost every interview I have ever had has asked me this. When I asked my friends on my Facebook page to help me practice some interview questions – this question came up.  In my interview yesterday they asked me the same thing; for the first time I decided to answer honestly with no contrived answer and said, “Awww, I HATE this question! I don’t know. It depends. The future is uncertain.”  I don’t know what they thought of my answer (yet) but for the first time I actually felt good about what I said in response – because it wasn’t a lie, or a bluff, or to try and wow them with my personal and professional goals. I feel that my answer showed that I am open, honest, and do not spend too much time dreaming about the possibilities of my future, rather- I am open to anything that presents itself.

As a Human Resources person, I see the interview as an opportunity to get to know the job candidates character. I want to know if they will make a good match for the team. I want to see if they can think on their feet. I should already know their qualifications for the job – that’s why I called them for an interview. What their resume doesn’t tell me is what kind of person they are. That in my opinion  is the purpose of the interview. I think all interview questions should be scenario based – they should be related to the position you are applying for. Questions that can’t be practiced – but in order to answer effectively the candidate has to research the position they are applying for. Maybe I should market myself as an interview question writer where I research various positions and come up with interview questions for them. If you Google “interview questions” you get about 261,000,000 results. Most of them are generic questions that are asked in almost all interviews regardless of the actual job.

I understand part of the reasoning for the question – they want to know if I am going to take the job, throw myself into it, or if my goals are in line with the organization. They want to know if I am going to stay there for 5 years. Well, I don’t know. I might. I might not. I think a better question would be, “If we select you for this position, what are your goals as they relate to this organization?” Then I can frame the answer around the position – that I don’t yet have, and still can’t answer definitively; but at least it makes the question relevant to the job I am applying for.

I also offered insight to my personal goals for the next five years – to work on my writing and becoming a ‘real’ writer – as a job. I told them I started this blog, and they asked if they could read it. Of course! So, my interviewers from yesterday – if they have read my blog – know way more about me then what they learned in the 1/2 hour interview. This could backfire on me, but I figure if they don’t like it – they won’t hire me. I am okay with that because I am for the first time being honest with myself as well as my potential employers. It feels pretty good. Eventually, someone will interview me that appreciates not getting those ‘canned’ responses and find value in that; and hire me because I am qualified AND because they like who I am as a person and feel that I would be an asset to their organization. That is the organization I see myself staying with for the next 5, 10 or 20 years.

All interviews are pretty much the same, and if you are a job seeker (especially in this tough job market) you have to stand out. You have to make an impression. Canned responses, and overly practiced answers to these questions aren’t what employers are looking for (at least I hope not). It has become such a taboo to ‘be yourself’ in an interview – but for me, my new practice is to be just that – myself. If potential employers don’t like it – I probably don’t want to work for them anyway (and they probably won’t like having me there).

So where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Do you have an interview pet peeve? If you are someone who conducts interviews for your organization- What questions do you ask? What answers are you looking for? 

8 thoughts on “Think About This: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  1. Tell me about a time when a teammate let you down.

    This is the end-all, be-all interview question for me and I’ve interviewed hundreds. If this is your only question, you’ll get to the root of candidate capabilities and personality traits.

    This question forces the candidate to tell a story of how they handled adversity, how they interact with low-performing colleagues and how they propped up a losing strategy. It also provides a glimpse into the emotional inner-workings of the person in front of you.

    If their answer begins with “oh man..”, you’re on the right track because their emotional memory of the event is clear as they begin to recall the pain they suffered at the hands of another person professionally. Try it out and I’ll bet you keep it in your stable for some time.

    • That is a great question! What are your expectations for the answer? For me, this would be an emotional question – and there is a possibility that if I answered honestly, I might even tear up. Would I lose respect for that from you or gain it?

      • As with all behavioral interview questions, there are no “right” answers or answers that you can easily check off as wrong or right.

        This doesn’t put you, as the interviewer, at a disadvantage however. It allows you to go from “thanks for coming” right into the heart of it all without wasting time about why they ‘think’ they are right for the job. The only way to prepare for a BI is to be yourself and tell your story and that’s what makes it so magical.

        I’m running on sorry. I want to hear the candidate describe the project, proposal, pitch or presentation that they worked on and how it led to a teammate letting them down. Often times, I’ll immediately see that the candidate was not really let down by their teammate at all but that the candidate failed the pitch and blamed someone else. A key indicator that he/she will do this again. The first answer I need is “I was responsible”

        Secondly, if the candidate wasn’t really responsible for the failure, I want to know first, how he/she propped it up in time to succeed. The second answer is “I can deal with adversity and win”

        Third, did the candidate mentor, correct or assist the failed teammate or was the colleague tossed under the bus so to speak? The third answer is “I can help a teammate in need and not just discard talent to increase my own visibility”

        Lastly, What did the candidate learn? If the answer is “never trust anyone but yourself” well…you have your answer there. If the candidate answers along the lines of “I learned to stay ahead of a project and assure that it was right by pitch time by collaborating with my colleagues,” you’ve got a winner

        • Thank you so much for the responses! You aren’t running on at all – this is what I wanted to see happen. I too think that the behavioral questions get to the heart of the matter much better and you get a great view of who the candidate really is.

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