How are you supposed to know where you’ll be in five years when you’re stuck panicking at one little job interview question? We’ve all been there, so don’t sweat it! You don’t have to have your life planned out prior to one interview, and there is no magical default answer that’ll impress every hiring manager you meet. There are, however, three things you should keep in mind when answering this question.
1. Don’t Get Too Specific
This is the one question in your job interview where you should answer as generally as possible. You may have a very specific career goal you want to accomplish, but don’t say it! Hiring managers will see you as someone they won’t be able to accommodate if you box yourself in. They’ll expect that you’ll jump ship and move onto the next job if you don’t get promoted to a very specific role fast enough.
So, show some flexibility in your answer. Don’t map out your five year plan for the hiring committee, just tell them what accomplishments and skills you’d like to have under your belt within the next five years. Describe some successes you’d like to see for yourself instead of just offering a job title. A hiring manager will be impressed that you have goals you’re striving to accomplish, and will be more likely to try and help you learn than to hand over your ideal job title.
2. Focus On Skill Development
A big part of your answer should be tailored around skills you’d like to develop within the next five years. If you’re struggling to come up with an answer to this, consider two things:
• Your dream job: once again, don’t bring it up, but ask yourself what skills this dream job entails. Let’s say you want to be a social media manager, and you’re applying for a relevant role. Let them know you’d like to have many successful influencer campaigns under your belt by then or that you’d like to become an expert in SEO strategy.
• The job you’re interviewing for: consider what skills you’re lacking in that this job can provide you. Let’s say you can write copy and create graphics, but you’ve never run a social media campaign entirely by yourself before. State that in five years, you plan to be a pro at social media campaigns and offer some specific results you’d like to see yourself achieve. This kind of answer mends the gap between skills you have and skills you don’t have. Then, the hiring manager will know you’re at least determined to gain what you lack.
3. Tie It Into the Role
Finally, ensure that whatever your answer is, it involves the role you’re applying for. Some jobs you interview for are meant to just hold you over until one you actually want comes along, but you are not going to be paying the bills as a communications consultant if you flub every interview by admitting that you plan to pivot to fashion design.
This doesn’t mean you should lie, though—just focus on what you’d like to learn in that position. If you want to own your own boutique someday but you’re beginning as an associate at a chain store, then say you hope to spend the next few years learning about visual merchandising, trend forecasting, and customer service—whatever it is about retail that speaks to you.
That’s all there is to it! Try to brainstorm answers to this question before you head into any interview, and you’ll be sure to impress the hiring committee with your ambition and willingness to learn. Specifics aside, those two things are exactly what every company wants from their team!
Are there other interview questions that always trip you up? Book a Style Nine to Five Interview Prep Session!
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock