This question can be a really tricky one. Are they genuinely interested in your career goals, or are they trying to find out if you’re gonna jump ship before 5 years is up and that you might be a bad investment? We at CA Financial Appointments, have some advice on how to go about answering this interview classic.
It’s not personal
Keep it strictly about your career. The interviewer does not want to hear about where you want to move to, what schools you want to enrol your kids in, or whether you want to take up kitesurfing or paddle-boarding. This is not a ‘getting to know you’ question – that was covered in the “Tell me about yourself‘ bit. This question is all about work and what kind of investment you are going to be.
Don’t directly reference your interviewer’s job or level
Your interviewer may only be a level or two above you, which in 5 years’ time could be a well achievable place for you, but implying that in 5 years you’d like to be where they are runs a huge risk of just plain insulting them. You don’t know how long it took them to get to where they are, so by implying that you could do it in 5 years, you may well be putting their nose out of joint. It could also make them feel a little threatened by you. Instead, talk about moving up in a less direct manner. Of course you aren’t planning on being in the same place you are now in 5 years’ time, but talk about it more in terms of your own career/skills/position, rather than reference a person’s position.
Talk about goals
A great way to answer this question is to talk about specific goals. This is what your interviewer is looking for – what you aspire to do to get where you want to be. Be careful not to talk about making the immediate goal one that would see you out of the position you are going for. It’s a great idea to talk about the first goal you have being one that the position you’re interviewing for will enable. This makes it clear to the interviewer that it’s not a stepping stone job for you.
Use your knowledge of the company
If you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to reference things about the company as a whole that allow you to show the interviewer that your goals can be achieved within their company. This provides reassurance to your interviewer that you are in it for the long-run and also gives them an idea of how you expect to be developed by them, which is not at all an unreasonable expectation to have.
Essentially, this question is aimed at assessing what kind of investment you are going to be to the company, and whether you are going to be worth the time and money involved in hiring you.