Interview questions and answers: Where do you expect to be in five years?

This is one of the more modern interview questions. It's a new class of interview questions which deals with the future, and it's used as a motivational interview question, to assess job applicants' commitment to the position.

Interviewees trip over this type of interview question regularly. They either don't understand it, aren't expecting it, or just haven't been thinking about the subject of the future.

The result is that interview answers tend to be very improvised, and usually detract from interview performance. Interviewers do understand the surprise element in this interview question, but they also need to get a particular type of interview answer to find the right candidate.

Your interview answer

You do have a choice of answers, depending on your future plans. However, this interview question is specifically looking for a relationship between your plans and the job. (If you're going for a job as a motor mechanic, and you answer that in five years you expect to be an airline pilot, you can see how that interview answer relates to the job.)

The interview answer needs to be in context with a clear career path:

  • Show how your plans for the next five years relate to the job
  • Show a clear career context, a progression involving the job
  • Show how you intend to develop your career with the job

This is actually an extension of the job application process. Applicants are picked on the basis of their career objectives being good fits for the positions. Your interview answer should make clear the way you intend your career to go.

Example

The job is a junior accountancy position. The interview question is 'Where do you expect to be, in terms of your career, in five years?'

'I want to be at least at a supervisory level by then, and will have completed my CPA. Frankly, I'm hoping that this job will give me the range and depth of practical experience required to have a good all-round series of career opportunities.

I'm very conscious of the fact that I have to earn my way up in this career to have any realistic chance of achieving my long term goals. The next five years will be critical to establishing the fundamental skills and experience levels.'

Analysis

This is a highly demanding career path. The applicant is talking to interviewers who understand the needs of that career.

The interview answer demonstrates:

  • Clear career goals related to the position
  • An interim goal of supervisory level abilities
  • Realistic understanding of the career path
  • Ongoing studies related to the position
  • Clear commitment to a progression of career roles
  • Good comprehension of the need for experience

The interview question has been fully answered, and the importance of the job to the applicant clearly explained.