Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interviewing Tips - The "Where do you see yourself in 5 years" question

The five-year or ten-year question is always a tricky one, because most of the time, the answer to that question will not be one that we think the prospective employer wants to hear, and after all, we're there to get a job, right? On the other hand, you're also dead-on about telling the truth; interviews can quickly turn into a dead zone if you try to embellish your background, credentials, or what you're looking for in a job.

An encouraging side note, however, is that long-gone are the days when employees stay at one place for more than five or seven years. This is one reason why savvy interviewers will skip this question altogether; frankly, it's outdated and doesn't reflect reality. However, you're right to want to be prepared anyway, because my experience leads me to believe that there are a *lot* of outdated, silly, and irrelevant interview questions out there, this being one of them.

My advice is this: remember that telling the truth does not mean revealing unnecessary details. If you are planning on leaving the country in six months, this is a necessary detail, and it would be dishonest to deny it if you were asked about your future plans. However, answering where you want to be in five years need not delve into specifics; how about answering that you would like to be in management and plan on staying in the sports management arena (assuming this is the industry in which you interview)? All of these facts are true, do not put you in jeopardy, and will satisfy the prospective employer, too.

Another take on the five-year question is to reveal career goals that are specific but don't betray the fact that your sights are set elsewhere? For example, cite personal development goals, such as getting excellent yearly reviews, developing good working relationships in the office and with clients, and moving up two levels in your position? You could also mention career areas that you'd like to expand into; for example, if you were interviewing for a sales position, you could mention that you'd like to have the opportunity to work with the marketing department and learn more about the interaction between the two areas. Mentioning technical skills you'd like to gain (software, etc.) is another idea.
Also be aware that some interviewers will ask beyond the five-year, including ten or fifteen years. Again, not exactly a realistic question, but something to be prepared for.

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