‘So, Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?’

shutterstock_Tom Wang

The job interviewer leans forward and asks, “So, where do you see yourself in five years?”

If the interviewer has even a hint of self-awareness, he or she will probably deliver that question with a self-aware smile, fully cognizant of the impossibility of knowing where any of us will be five years from now, much less tomorrow. Nonetheless, it’s a question that pops up quite a bit in interviews, and (for many job candidates) it’s an equally reliable stumper.

Inappropriate answers include, “I’ll have your job by that point.”

If your true long-term dream is to race cars, paint pictures, become a professional pilot, or pretty much any job other than the one you’re interviewing for, it’s also probably best not to mention that in your answer. Companies prefer employees to stick around; if you give the impression that the potential job is just a short-term stepping-stone to something completely different, chances are pretty good you won’t be hired.

Instead, focus on your personal growth. If you’re interviewing for a job as an entry-level programmer, mention that in five years you could see yourself managing projects. If you’re a mid-level manager, talk about how you want to increase your knowledge and skill sets of various technologies, and manage larger teams. The goal here is to show how your development over the longer term aligns with the company’s objectives.

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Image: Tom Wang/Shutterstock.com

3 Responses to “‘So, Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?’”

  1. Kent Fredric

    > Inappropriate answers include, “I’ll have your job by that point.”

    Great. That’s going to be my default answer to that question now.

    But then I’ll have to smile and point to their superior and go

    “But that makes sense, because they’ll retire and you’ll be doing *their* job” 😛

  2. Here lies a BIG problem with people who do interviews and people who they really want. This is where knowing something about cognitive personalities comes into play.

    People who are very technical and analytical (as me) will NOT be able to answer that question in the manner described. Why? People of that cognitive personality do not think in those terms of challenge/solution, growth and a lot of other buzz words.

    This is the mentality of a sales manager. If you judge a technical person by that measure, most if not all will fall short. If you measure a sales type to the measure of a technical person, it’s going to be as bad if not worse.

    The people who are best able to answer those questions are the types that think in terms of A and B as their processing capability is influenced by the amygdala and pre-frontal cortex. Those are the kinds that take things casually, and they know how to present things to others so that they will all agree to it-in the absence of logic. The entire growth question involves an analogy of stereotypes that says if the person can’t see their own growth, how can they grow with us or help us grow?

    Technical people as me are polar opposites or near polar opposites in that context. The way some analytical people are wired is such that what one does personally and one does in some other capacity are severable and separate. One does not reflect the other-and they can illustrate that over time and prove others wrong on that if given the chance.

    If you came to me and asked me about interpersonal growth, if you wanted me to answer that honestly, I’d have to say it’s a buzz word that makes absolutely no sense and has no specific meaning. Managers-especially sales type managers would blow a fuse or run in fright in hearing that. Why? In my example, something has been introduced that they can’t process. The amygdala comes in-which is fight or flight. The “feel good” feeling in their pre-frontal cortex dies and processing is offloaded to the amygdala. That person doesn’t get hired.

    When hiring managers accept and understand how technical people tick, and they accept it and learn that what works in management land doesn’t necessarily work in technical land, things would be a lot easier for everyone.

    I have noticed a stereotype in resumes that were sent to me erroneously as recruiters thought I was the employer. If you worked as a developer, and could handle any industry thrown at you, that’s no good. If you started in a hospital taking someone’s BP and evolved to a developer (even if the skill level isn’t as strong as it might need to be), that will get someone hired before a hard core developer.

    When I tried to explain to people how I’ve evolved to what I have over time, nobody understands it and accuses me of using BS for their inability to understand things. Go figure.

  3. If you’re searching for a job now, this may be the only chance you’ll ever have to answer “I know exactly where I’ll be in five years… I have 2020 vision.”

    Be like me and don’t waste that opportunity.

    Haven’t heard back from them. Don’t think I got that job.