“How long do you plan to work here?”
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
Think these are two different questions? Nope! Interviewers are likely to ask a question about how the job fits into your long-term goals. But, really, they’re interested in finding out one thing (and it has nothing to do with testing your psychic powers).
Here’s what they want to know:
“How quickly are we going to have to replace you?”
Hiring people takes time (and costs money). Training new people takes time (which equals money). A hiring manager is looking for the candidate who is the best investment, the person who is qualified to do the job, who is available to do the job when needed, and who will be around long enough to be worth the investment in hiring and training them. That seems like a reasonable thing to want to know. But when we asked our members what interview question they hated most, a forward-looking question of some kind was near the top of the list. Rachel explained why this type of question trips her up:
“Sometimes it seems like there is no right answer to that.I’ve been outright asked a few times, and its always been part time jobs that I don’t see myself at in 5-10 years. So are they looking for honesty or do I tell them that making burgers or a register is indeed my dream job?”
There are good ways to answer this question, even though it’s impossible to be totally accurate. Find something about the current job opportunity that does match up with your long-term goals (customer service skills are critical to your success in most any job — almost no matter what you do, you have to deal with people!), then work that into your discussion.
How to answer:
“My long-term career goals are to put my customer service skills to work in a challenging industry, and I’m looking forward to working hard to help you achieve your goals and determining whether the quick service industry is a field I will enjoy long term.”
This answer is totally honest, and it highlights your skills and motivations while not committing you to anything. Make it clear that you want to invest yourself in the success of the company, and that as long as you are given the opportunity to learn and improve your performance, you don’t anticipate changing employers in the foreseeable future.
A more industry-specific example would be if you’re applying to a retail cashier position: answering the question in such a way as to say in five years you hope to contribute even more value, perhaps as a retail shift manager (and maybe throw in that you’d like to find more time to volunteer or advance your education – personal goals that add to your value as an employee are a great addition on this one). That answer shows them that you will take the job seriously and you see it as an opportunity to advance your career.
If they ask you about a longer time period (say, “where do you see yourself in 10 years?”) then in addition to listing more advanced career goals, you can also include some lofty personal goals (e.g. “learning Spanish” or “getting my college degree,” etc.)
Either way, no one can predict the future. You know this, hiring managers know this. They’re just looking for an indication of whether they can count on you to take the job seriously and stick around for a while.
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Answers to the “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?” Question
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” — we all know the question. So why are we still stumped when someone asks this granddaddy of a ridiculous interview question in our interview? Here’s why – because most job seekers believe it has no relevance. The reason? No company can (or ever will) guarantee an employee a job for five years.
But, quite frankly, this is the wrong way of looking at this question. And, in actuality, this question (although obscurely phrased) is actually one of the easiest interview questions to answer — if you know how to answer it properly.
The secret? Most interviewers look for interviewees to answer by way of long-term professional goals. So instead of sweating, rolling your eyes (don’t do it!), or drawing a complete blank when asked your five-year goal, use it an opportunity to share your motivation for the job, your goals for building your expertise, and your eagerness to succeed. It really works — we swear!
Check out these five tips on how to best answer this doozy of an interview question:
Tip #1: Choose the best answer.
Only after you’ve gotten a good feel for the company, as well as for the potential position, will you actually be able to state your five-year plan suitably. Why? Because the hiring manager is using this knowledge as a basis for the “right answer” — don’t be fooled, there’s always a right answer! For example if you wish to be hired by an older company looking for employees who want to develop their expertise, not management skills, it’s probably not the best idea to talk at length about your managerial goals.
Heads up: Interviews work both ways. Always keep in mind that you are using this interview as a means to analyze the potential employer as well. If their needs don’t mesh with your creative goals and career outlook, it might be necessary to look elsewhere.
An answer for those who want to be experts: If your career goal is to be an expert in your field (this is more likely to be true of younger professionals, or those who are newer to their careers) you may want to say something like, “ In five years, I see myself as a successful graphic designer (or your creative field), and learning new skills that will benefit the company and help me achieve my career goals. I am eager to experience new challenges and excited to invest five years time specializing in a career I find extremely interesting and motivating."
An answer for those who wish to be management: If your career goal is to move up the ranks because you’ve become an expert in your field, you may want to say something like, “In five years I see myself in a management role. This would allow me to demonstrate my aptitude for managing others and having more responsibility. I am a dedicated employee and hope to better both my career and my company via my commitment and enthusiasm.”