What This Classic Interview Question Can Tell You

interview - FreedigitalWhere do you see yourself in five years?

Is this weathered old interview question still effective? In this dynamic age where entire industries can disappear in five years, is this question obsolete? Far from it, this question is like a classic movie – it sticks around forever. Where do you see yourself in five years reveals a great deal about a candidate’s personality and potential.

Take a look at these common answers to the question. Right or wrong, you form an impression very quickly based on the type of response. I know you have met more than your share of these candidates.

The Dodger: “Great question. There are so many options. Right now I am really focused on this position. I hope to be expanding my responsibilities and improving your client base.”

The Slacker: “I have not thought about that. I don’t know. I may want to be a manager. Also, I’ve always wanted to complete my master’s degree.”

The Overconfident: “Well, I will be sitting behind your desk.” Or,” I could be running my own firm by then.”

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The Comedian: “Hey, five years ago who thought I’d be here – at an insurance company! But, seriously, I am very motivated to be a property and casualty guru. I hope to be leading the large loss claims unit within three to five years.”

The Contender: This answer varies based on the candidate’s goals. A strong individual contributor may say, “My goal is to build my skills in XYZ and tackle any challenges over the next couple of years. I hope to be considered an expert in XYZ within three to five years.” A strong management candidate may say, “I see myself leading XYZ department/division and tacking issues such as ABC.”

As a recruiter, you can spot the wrong candidates within minutes. The answer to this question only confirms your suspicions. However, sometimes you have a real contender who may need a bit of coaching on this standard question. The right answer has these elements:

  • Address the question head-on;
  • Focus on the hiring manager’s needs;
  • State realistic aspirations; Demonstrate commitment to sticking around for more than a year or two.

Ultimately, it does not benefit your client or the candidate if the candidate is not a match. A smart choice is to open the screening process with this type of classic question. Not only will you save valuable time, but you will also go a long way to preparing your candidate to deliver a compelling and confident answer come interview time.

Image courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Debra Wheatman is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). She is globally recognized as an expert in advanced career search techniques with more than 18 years' corporate human resource experience. Debra has also been featured on Fox Business News and quoted in Forbes.com, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. Contact Debra at .debra@careersdonewrite.com, or, visit her website at Careers Done Write.

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3 Comments on “What This Classic Interview Question Can Tell You

  1. Ugh. Sorry, but I must respectfully disagree. None of these answers can be correlated to on the job success. This question is a “hypothetical” – perhaps the most ineffective form of question you can pose in an interview. The motivated job seeker – well prepared for this “classic” (albeit awful question) can make up whatever it is they think you want to hear. These type questions only serve to make the interviewer feel clever.

    See article: https://staging.ere.net/2013/06/24/googles-weird-interview-questions-a-complete-waste-of-time/

    My advice – avoid the hypotheticals and stick to the facts. Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Far better to explore previous experiences versus dabble in being an amateur psychologist or interpreter of some candidate’s version of their crystal ball.

    1. this is really scary and to think ishow talent is recruited now a days holy crapp batman.

      Enthusiasm, core values and eye contact cant be trumped

  2. I agree with John Hoskins- this question is best asked of someone who has a credible track record and has credibility in her/his response. Everyone else -those with less experience and are still feeling themselves through the pathway of life/jobs- won’t have a meaningful answer. The bs’ers, yes, they will be spotted since their reply will be obviously contrived but to ask beginners this is not fair to the candidate. Mature replies come with mature experience.

    Paul Forel
    Executive Search

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