Having a convincing vision about your future at the new company can be crucial to getting an offer. In this episode, I explain why this question is asked, and I show you a simple, five-step approach to answering it in a compelling way.
Welcome to this episode, in which I talk about how to answer the common interview question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. One of the candidates that I was coaching asked me, “I am just applying for this new job; how should I know what I want to do in five years? Why doesn’t the interviewer focus on the present?”. I understand this reaction, and only a few people have a clear picture of their 5-year plan. So, why is the question asked? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that it helps the interviewer understand what motivates the candidates in the long run, whether they are ambitious and driven and how well the role aligns with their expectations. The other reason is very rational: money. Why? Well, because employee turnover is expensive. A new person needs to be recruited, trained and on-boarded, and there is a loss of productivity in the beginning. Studies have shown that replacing an employee that quits costs between a couple of thousand dollars and up to twice their annual salary, depending on the role’s seniority. By asking applicants about their future vision, the interviewer tries to understand whether they intend to stay for a while or if the new job is just a “transit station.” Of course, that does not mean that you need to commit yourself to doing the same work for five years. And maybe you do have plans to use this job only as a stepping stone. That is fine but nothing you would want to focus on when answering this question. Instead, a good approach can be to develop a genuine answer under the assumption that you will still be working for this company in a couple of years. Either way, here are five steps to formulate a balanced and convincing answer:
Step 1: Imagine you get the job, start working at the new company and you really thrive. You do the tasks you like, have supporting colleagues, a great manager and develop new skills. If everything goes perfectly, what will you be doing in five years? How did you grow since you started? What role would you have? Maybe you have become an expert or taken a leadership role? Make sure you have ambitious but still realistic goals, and do not pick the hiring manager’s current position. After all, you don’t want to be seen as a threat.
Step 2: Think about what milestones you have passed during these years that enabled you to get there. This could be deepening or broadening your skills, achieving specific results or taking on new responsibilities. Think about it as the journey you took from your first day of employment to what you do after five years.
Step 3: How will you be able to contribute in five years? Why would the company want to see you where you envision yourself? What impact would you make? What value would you create? This could, for example, be higher customer satisfaction, increased productivity, improved quality, elevated sales or faster innovations.
Step 4: Why do you picture yourself like this? Think about why you would like to have this position. For example, you might be able to utilize your strengths even more, make a bigger impact or it would be well aligned with what motivates you. However, don’t name money as your motivation; if you do, the hiring manager might envision how the company invests in training, and on-boarding you only to see you leave for a competitor that offers you a few bucks more.
Step 5: Combine the results of the first four steps into one answer. It shouldn’t be longer than 30 seconds. Also, I recommend softening it to show that you have a vision but still are flexible. You can make it a little less specific by talking about “in the future” instead of “in five years” and by adding, at the end of your answer, that you are interested in learning how other people have developed in this role. Here is an example of what a person applying for a junior consultant position might say: “In the future, I would like to be a project manager at this company. I have learned the necessary consultancy skills and worked as an individual contributor in several projects. My customers have given me great feedback, and I could grow in my role as a consultant, take on more and more responsibilities and become a project manager. In this role, I could have an even greater impact on ensuring high customer satisfaction. This would be a great scenario, given that I am a driven and goal-oriented person. But, of course, I am also curious to learn more about how other people have developed in this role.”
That’s it for today. These were the five steps for answering the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you