“Where do you see yourself in the next five years?”
Regardless of the type of business, this is the most asked question during an interview.
But there’s a reason this question often gets asked, and that’s because it’s actually a good question. It's a chance for interviewees to state their goals and ambitions, to prove their willingness to succeed. It's also an opportunity to outline the career they aspire to create over the next few years, a question we should all think about.
This question benefits the interviewers as well. They can determine if the person is right for the position. Do the candidates have similar goals and aspirations associated with the job position? Are they suited to make the necessary commitments required of the position?
Although we may want to answer this question during an interview, it’s not appropriate to say, “Let me tell you where I see myself in the next five years.” It sends a signal that you are only concerned with yourself and not the company.
You can, however, turn this question around, and ask the interviewer, “How would you hope to see the person in this position develop over the next five years?” This is the third question in my series of three best questions to ask in an interview.
Asking this question of interviewers continues to show your interest in the company as well as their needs and requirements. Even further, it shows your desire to commit to a position for a long time. You are indicating you want to grow with the company and to develop the skills necessary for the company’s success.
This question may also be the single best way to gain insight into how the company views your future contribution as an employee; which is something you want to know before you start the job anyway.
If you ask this question, be sure to look for three things in the answer.
First, does the interviewer even have an answer? Has he given sincere thought to the growth and potential of the position, or is it clear that he is simply filling a hiring need?
Second, does the company offer a personal growth program? Can the interviewer give examples of employees who have enjoyed growth within the organization?
Third, what are the overall growth and development goals for the company and/or the business unit? Will these goals correspond with the growth and development goals of the people who will fill these positions?
Asking an interviewer, “How would you hope to see the person in this position develop over the next five years?” is a great twist on one of the most widely used interview questions. But it’s a twist that can serve a much greater purpose and provide necessary information for both sides.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.
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