Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?

Saunders Lynn & Co, job interview techniques

Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?

Why are managers asking this question? It is a standard question that is often asked, but the question is why are you asking it? Anything could happen between now and five years’ time. What is the benefit of asking this question in the first place?

Potential employees often answer with
“I’ll be in your job”
“I’ll be running the place”
“I’ll be running my own business”

None of which is very useful for assessing if they are the best person for your open position. Often, the general point of the question is to find out how ambitious this potential new employee is. Some people have reasonable ambitions, some have none at all and would be quite happy to be working in the same role for the next five years or more, others would like to push you out of your job ASAP!

The answer should help you decide if you have someone that is likely to be moving at around the same pace that will fit with the company. Some companies need someone that is happy to sit in this job for the next two, three four or more years. Others are quite happy to hire the upwardly mobile and ambitious.

I find this first question is not so important, the follow up question is critical. Your next question should be:

“What skills and experience do you think you need to acquire in order to be able to take on that role?”

I like a bit of ambition, what I don’t like is blind ambition. If the person in front of you is clueless as to what they need to do to get there, don’t hire them. If this person has really thought about where they want to be in five years’ time, then they’ll have an articulate answer about the experience they would like to acquire to fill in the skill gaps to help them get from A to B.

Someone with a plan and some forethought is far more useful to a business than someone that wants a job and has no idea of the heavy lifting required to get promoted.

Kerri O'Connor
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Kerri is a former marketer, sales executive and all round passionate die hard within the architecture, interior design and construction industry in Australia. The last eighteen plus years have been spent listening to senior executives, general managers, business owners and graduates.