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Interview Question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

by - April 26, 2017

Winning a multi-million dollar lottery...

Becoming a travel blogger...

Married with 2 kids and dog...

What a fun question, right? This question gets you thinking and even dreaming about your future. But when this question is asked during an interview, what should you say? Why do employers ask?

Well, the simple answer is that an employer wants to better understand you. And not just the you of today, but also the you of the future. A nice way to get a glimpse of this is to find out what your career ambitions are. Most interviewers are at a minimum, wanting to ensure that you do have some professional goals. Next, they want to see that your goals actually align well with the company and what it is able to offer.

Let's look at an example. Say you were interviewing at a local elementary school. Your 5 year goal is to become a College Economics Professor (a peek into my past: Economics was not one of my favorite courses in college). Well the elementary school would not be able to offer this type of role to you. From this, the interviewer may wonder, "Why is this person interested in working at an elementary school?" or "Is this person desperate for a job?" or even better "Will this person leave as soon as they are able to find a job at a university? Just from this question you might assume this would not seem like a great match for the employer or the candidate. 

Another example that we can look at is the case of a junior accountant interviewing at a mid-sized accounting firm. His 5 year goal is to become a Financial Portfolio Manager. Assuming that the firm currently has or may have in the near future, opportunities within this area, the candidate could be a great match based on their interest and long term professional plans. 

Remember, a potential employer will want to ensure they hire the best candidate. This not only means the candidate with the best skill-set for the job but also the person who is an overall fit for the company and/or the team. Being able to see where a person could fit, whether now and in the future, will help paint a clear picture for your interviewers of whether they will "fit". Lastly, no employer wants to hire someone that they know may not be completely happy from the start. Think about it. Would you enter a romantic relationship with someone if your 5 year goal is to have 5 kids and theirs was not. Well, maybe you would, but this would definitely give you a bit of pause. At least I hope so. 

I say all of this to point out that if the interests of the employee and the employer are not in sync then it is a big sign that things may not work out so well. I'd encourage anyone to answer this question for themselves to ensure they are on the correct path with their current or potential employer or career endeavors.  

So, tell me. I'm curious. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? ;)

Happy Wednesday (and also Administrative Professionals Day)! 

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