I have a few friends who are hiring for their teams right now and I’m always interested in hearing about what they look for in candidates. I’ve always found it fascinating that even across industries, hiring managers look for a lot of the same things.
Last week, I was discussing this tricky question with some friends working in the entertainment industry: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I was very surprised to hear that the candidates were getting this one really, really wrong. So I’m here to ask you to consider this…
Does your 5-year plan sound ridiculous?
First off, here’s why you’re being asked about your 5-year plan to begin with:
The interviewer is usually asking you this question because they want to make sure your goals actually align with what the company can provide you in terms of growth. If you want to be an astronaut in five years and you’re applying to be an Executive Assistant, it’s obvious that the company will not be able to keep you on board.
Basically, if a company takes the time to hire you and train you, they don’t want to lose you in a few years.
Here’s how to answer it:
Sometimes you’re going to have to play the game on this one. That being said, if you’re applying to roles in a thoughtful and strategic way, your answer will be honest and good.
- Share how the role you’re interviewing for fits into your goals for the next 5 years
- Share a 5-year plan that you can reasonably achieve within the company vs. one that involves leaving
- Show ambition, but don’t come across as a flight risk (or someone who is completely out of touch with reality)
By the way, in an ideal world the job you’re interviewing for actually would enable you to achieve your 5-year plan. If not, ask yourself why you’re interviewing for it in the first place.
Here are some answers that do sound ridiculous*:
*And by the way, these are all ACTUAL things people have said – not made up!
- I’d like to be running the company in 5 years (when applying to internships or entry-level jobs)
- I am a “multipotentialite” so I could do so many different things in 5 years – I definitely can’t decide right now!
- I want to run my own [insert unrelated venture] company
- I don’t have a plan, I really just need a job
Here are some others that are not ridiculous, but would likely still count against you:
- I’d like to apply and enroll in business school (when business school is not a requirement of doing the job)
- I’d like to live in a different state/country
- I’d like to take a year off to [travel/pursue a hobby/etc.]
- I’d like to take my side business and grow it to something that I can work on full time
Again, I’m not saying these aren’t good goals – they are – I’m just saying that they are goals that will make a company think twice before hiring you.
All in all…
Keep your 5-year plan ambitious, yet attainable, align your goals with those of the company, and interview for roles that will actually help you advance in your career and fit into your actual plan.