Imagine this: you’re wrapping up a great interview at a company you want to be a part of. You’ve made a connection with your interviewer, done your homework in order to present a detailed plan of how you’ll succeed in the position, and feel confident in how you’ve handled any “red flags” in your career. At this stage, your guard may be down, and your thoughts may start to drift.
That’s when the interviewer asks, “So where do you want to be in five years?” A trick question? Really? And things were going so well! Avoid the temptation to be dismissive, as this rarely works out well.
So what’s the best approach? For one, shorter is better. It’s imperative to move the conversation back to your strengths and aptitudes, and how they match up with what the interviewer is looking for.
Second, avoid rolling out answers such as, “I want to sit where you’re sitting!” You don’t want to alienate your interviewer by being too aggressive or out of bounds.
Here’s what you should focus on when answering:
Answering this question can be a great opportunity to talk about how you feel about the job, which is a huge factor in why we take on a new position. Do you feel like the company has a culture where you will be valued? Will you be rapidly exposed to new concepts and technologies that you’re excited to learn more about?
Delivering Strategic Value
Does nurturing talent excite you? Is figuring out solutions to operational challenges an area you want to focus on? What do you see doing at this job that is different from your current or previous jobs?
No one wants to hire someone who seems “meh” about an opportunity, regardless of how qualified they are. Are you excited by the prospect of this job? Do you honestly feel like you can succeed in an amazing fashion here? It’s time to communicate it!
Desiring A Long-Term Commitment
This is especially important if you have a lot of short-term positions on your resume. An employer wants to know that you’re in it for the long haul, and won’t jump ship as soon as a new opportunity arises.
A sample answer might look like this:
“Contributing to the profitability of this company by doing [x, y, and z] for you. Ultimately I’d like to play a larger role in defining the company’s future, especially in [name an area, ex. product strategy], but what’s most important to me is working for an organization where I can grow alongside some of the most innovative professionals in the industry.”
Once you’ve answered, turn the tables on your interviewer by asking a question like, “Since we are on the subject, can you tell me where you see the growth of this company / position in the next five years?”