By Jack J. Kelly
There are a handful of cliché questions that interviewers usually ask because they are easy and safe. These types of questions do not require much thought or creativity. Also, in today’s politically correct and litigious society there is a heightened risk to ask deeper, more probing, and edgier questions. If an interviewer selects from the pre-approved list of generally accepted stereotypical questions such as “Tell me about yourself”, they can’t be faulted or have someone cry discrimination and sue.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is one of those eye rolling questions. I know you want to bite the interviewer’s head off when the question is asked. Let’s be honest, you don’t even know what you are doing for lunch this afternoon, let alone where you want to be in five years from now. While some fortunate or industrious people do indeed have a five year plan mapped out, most do not.
The irony is that although the interviewer may ask you a trite stupid question, she expects you, the candidate, to offer an intelligent, thoughtful and imaginative answer. A cliché question can’t be followed by a cliché answer in which the job candidate exclaims, “I would love to be working for you” in five years. Unfortunately, the entire interview process, for the most part, is still stuck in a time warp. The same bland questions that have been asked to our grandparents and parents, are still being recycled today. Since at some point in time we will all be asked these questions, I can help you navigate through them.
In response to the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question; prepare an answer that demonstrates an understanding of the company, it’s culture, how it works today, as well as the firm’s future growth potential. Express that you would like to be with the company five or ten years from now, and project where the job you are currently interviewing for may grow into during that time period. Please keep it within reason, or the interviewer will be onto your game.
For instance, here is what I would say in this situation. Although I am an Executive Recruiter and the CEO of my company, if I was an employee interviewing with another search firm, my answer would be something like:
“I was attracted to the ‘Headhunting Search Group’ (HSG) because of it’s fine reputation within it’s area of specialization, and commitment to global growth. I would hope to demonstrate my ability as a recruiter, bring over my book of business, team of recruiters, add new clients, increase the number of candidates and job orders, and improve your social media identity.
By successfully growing the business for HSG over the next five years, I would like to manage a larger group of recruiters than the ten people I currently oversee. Also, given HSG’s commitment to international growth, I would love to move to London and help build out a team in that important mission critical location for HSG.
This plan would enable HSG to move closer towards achieving their global expansion objectives, and afford me the privilege and opportunity to continue challenging myself and growing my career”.
Your response to the hiring manager should clearly convey that you’re smart, career-motivated, driven, enthusiastic, and have a solid, in-depth understanding of the firm’s long-term goals and objectives. Additionally, you are able to demonstrate that your personal career arc is aligned with the company’s objectives, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.