Most interviewers ask this question to be able to cut off interviewees whom they deem unqualified. It is the most asked interview question that many have not mastered how to answer and hence, fail to take up roles in the job market. Here are some bad and food responses that will help you make the slot for that dream job position you have been yearning for. Note that responses must be in line with specific roles that a person may be vying for.
SOME BAD RESPONSES
1. “Well, that’s a very hard question. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 5 years….hmmmm….that’s tough.”
Don’t overthink it. This is the mistake most people make. It’s great that you take the question seriously, but you are not being evaluated based on accuracy of answer. Use your answer to reassure the interviewer that you’re invested in this career path.
2. “I plan to be a VP at a major firm with at least 7 direct reports, a company car, and a salary of 150K (plus options of course).”
Don’t be too specific. Ambition is good. Goals are good. However, if you are too specific, you run the risk of stating goals that are not realistically achievable in the job available. From the interviewer’s perspective, that means you’re not a good fit.
3. “I’d love to be CEO in five years. Then again, I’d also love to be touring with my band if that takes off.”
Don’t be flaky. You can come across as flaky if you seem to have a million different ideas about what you want to do — or if you have zero clear ideas about your future. In reality, many good candidates are exploring different options or are still trying to figure it out. However, a job interview is not a session with your career coach. You want to give the impression that you’re focused and have a plan (even if it’s not the only plan you’re considering).
4. “Well, I’m not sure. I’m thinking about law school or business school or clown college.”
Don’t raise red flags. Many job seekers have long-term visions of going back to school or starting their own business. These are admirable goals, but there’s no need to share them with your interviewer, especially if you’re still weighing your possibilities.
Of course, if you’ve already committed to full-time grad school or another path that will conflict with your ability to perform in the job, it’s only fair to be open about that.
Also, there are some career paths that require advanced degrees and/or other additional training. For example, many finance and
management consulting career paths require an MBA. In these cases, it will be expected that your five-year plan will include more schooling.
THE RIGHT RESPONSES
1. “My goal right now is to find a position at a company where I can grow and take on new challenges over time. Ultimately, I’d like to assume more management responsibilities and get involved in product strategy. But most importantly, I want to work for an organization where I can build a career.”
This answer offers some insight into the candidate’s goals and interests (becoming a manager, being involved in product strategy) so it’s not too generic. This response also strongly expresses a desire for a long-term career with the company.
2. “I am driven to be the best at what I do and I want to work somewhere where I’ll have opportunities to develop my skills, take on interesting projects, and work with people I can really learn from. Some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry work here and that’s a big reason why I would love to build a career here.”
With this answer, the candidate is emphasizing her focus on learning, performance, and achievement. She is also complimenting the company and its reputation for hiring quality people (including the interviewer, perhaps?). The reference to “building a career here” indicates an interest in sticking around and contributing.