What This Classic Interview Question Can Tell You

Dec 24, 2013

interview - FreedigitalWhere do you see yourself in five years?

Is this weathered old interview question still effective? In this dynamic age where entire industries can disappear in five years, is this question obsolete? Far from it, this question is like a classic movie – it sticks around forever. Where do you see yourself in five years reveals a great deal about a candidate’s personality and potential.

Take a look at these common answers to the question. Right or wrong, you form an impression very quickly based on the type of response. I know you have met more than your share of these candidates.

The Dodger: “Great question. There are so many options. Right now I am really focused on this position. I hope to be expanding my responsibilities and improving your client base.”

The Slacker: “I have not thought about that. I don’t know. I may want to be a manager. Also, I’ve always wanted to complete my master’s degree.”

The Overconfident: “Well, I will be sitting behind your desk.” Or,” I could be running my own firm by then.”

The Comedian: “Hey, five years ago who thought I’d be here – at an insurance company! But, seriously, I am very motivated to be a property and casualty guru. I hope to be leading the large loss claims unit within three to five years.”

The Contender: This answer varies based on the candidate’s goals. A strong individual contributor may say, “My goal is to build my skills in XYZ and tackle any challenges over the next couple of years. I hope to be considered an expert in XYZ within three to five years.” A strong management candidate may say, “I see myself leading XYZ department/division and tacking issues such as ABC.”

As a recruiter, you can spot the wrong candidates within minutes. The answer to this question only confirms your suspicions. However, sometimes you have a real contender who may need a bit of coaching on this standard question. The right answer has these elements:

  • Address the question head-on;
  • Focus on the hiring manager’s needs;
  • State realistic aspirations; Demonstrate commitment to sticking around for more than a year or two.

Ultimately, it does not benefit your client or the candidate if the candidate is not a match. A smart choice is to open the screening process with this type of classic question. Not only will you save valuable time, but you will also go a long way to preparing your candidate to deliver a compelling and confident answer come interview time.

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