I purchased and listened to the interviewing series of podcasts, and found it to be terrific. It helped me to get a few offers, and I accepted one at a much more prestigious firm than my current one. The podcasts were well worth the price, and I'm going to be getting an annual salary boost 100 times the cost of the series. Thank you Mark and Mike.

I don't remember this being covered in the series, so I thought I'd pass on a response to the "Where do you want to be in 5 years" question.

One of the natural responses is to try to inject some humor into the (stressful) interview process by saying to the interviewer, "I want to have your job!" I've heard interviewers I work with rail against this answer, to the point of being turned off of a candidate for that one answer.

Of course, the answer is glib and not only misses a chance for some considered discussion, but it shoots down any opportunity for follow-up conversation -- I would imagine "I want your job" being met with silence -- there's nothing else to say.

It's probably obvious to anyone who has listened to the interviewing series, but a good answer would be to describe the type of role you'd like to play in a firm, including responsibilities. To make this a GREAT answer, similar to the weakness question, you would go on to describe what actions you are taking NOW to prepare yourself for that role.

iann22's picture

What has worked for me was to provide an honest answer, which wasn't limited to what I wanted to do for the new company, but where I wanted to take my own life.

I am a Project Manager and my answer was that my ultimate goal was to work on a global project that I could be proud to tell my grandkids about. Something like helping organise the Olympics.

I was given good feedback that this was an impressive answer. It was even repeated in a team meeting in front of all my peers.

I personally felt that limiting my answer to what I wanted to do in the company I was interviewing for was somewhat disingenuous.

I'd be pleased to hear if others think this is a good approach.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

I don't recall having that question in a long time, possibly more than a decade. Like Ian, when I did get asked it, I'd tend towards a general answer not necessarily tied to the company I was interviewing with.

Where I work now I'm part of an internal consultancy unit where we get placed on projects as and when needed (it's a bit like the 'Crazy Corporation' model that Tom Peters talked about getting on for 20 years ago). As part of getting placements we have to produce written profiles listing our skills and achievements. One of the sections is future aspirations where we have to put our short (within 24 months) and long (over 5 years) term goals, this kind of addresses the question.


US41's picture

Good interviewers do not ask "Where do you want to be in 5 years?" It's a bogus question, and it doesn't help you accomplish the goal of the interview: to determine which candidate can do the job most effectively and fit into the team.

In fact, as a manager, I would not ask this question of my directs, either. It's like asking them what color underwear they are wearing. Smart people keep their actual plans and ambitions a mystery to others.

AManagerTool's picture

Wow, 41, for once I actually disagree with you.

I often ask this very question during development planning (coaching) sessions. If I don't know where they want to go, I will have a hell of a time helping them get there. That said, I don't let anyone know that I secretly want to take their jobs or rule the world. That's just dumb. It's like the storyline of the villain in every James Bond movie I have ever seen. Why the heck do they always tell Bond what they are up to just before they feed him to the sharks with lasers on their heads?

Interviews are a different story. The question is worse than useless there. It's pure filler. Who cares what they want to do in 5 years?

iann22's picture

Here's a tip for all the international master criminals on the forum... ... If you do capture James Bond then tell your guards to shoot him immediately. DO NOT take him on a guided tour of your base while detailing your plans and do not leave him alone with attractive bikini-clad women.


US41's picture

[quote]I often ask this very question during development planning (coaching) sessions. If I don't know where they want to go, I will have a hell of a time helping them get there.[/quote]

I have no idea where any of my people want to go. I assume that the ones I have made the mistake of asking either tried to create a smokescreen or lied.

Who tells their boss "In five years I plan to be in your desk?" Or "In five years I hope to be out of this hell hole?"

However, I successfully coach my folks. It looks like this:

1. I give them feedback which starts up a collection of data as to what they are strong at and what they are weak at
2. I identify their talents I observe on the job (I use the Now Discover Your Strengths list for a reference)
3. I take their two big strengths and I ask them to do something to enhance their strengths.
4. Their non-strengths I handle with feedback.

Then we use the MT coaching model.

The company requires me to review them and name two strengths and two areas for development. What I do differently is not develop the areas for development so much. I focus on the strengths and get them more training for those.

And yet somehow I have no idea what they want to be when they grow up.

I want the coaching to be of benefit to them - and to me. I'm not coaching my folks so they can be successful bartenders on remote tropical islands. They can do that on their own. I'm their boss, not their mentor.

asteriskrntt1's picture

A skilled interviewer asking this question doesn't really want to know where you want to be. They want to know if you have a plan and can articulate that plan. Being able to articulate a plan is generally seen as a positive thing for managers. :P

For example "In five years, I expect to be in a more senior role developing a good team. Embedded in that is my commitment to further developing my marketing, management and relationship skills. I have a great relationship with a mentor and a couple of colleagues who are more senior than I. Additionally, I am looking at doing my certification in direct marketing, which is a great supplement to my MBA. I am already a member of Toastmasters and developing great relationship skills. Finally, I regularly upgrade my management skills via Manager Tools and other self-directed learning vehicles. I plan to attend more management seminars."