Now Tacheles: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? The question is one of the classics in the interview. Nevertheless, it should be clear to everyone: No, really no HR manager expects an exact description of what you will actually do in five years’ time. The answer can only be guesswork, an expression of a quiet hope – or a larger career plan. So why do HR managers ask this question in the interview?
Why this question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Quite simply: HR managers ask the applicant question because they want to know something about your career goals – and whether the current position you are currently applying for fits into this professional master plan.
On the one hand, this question is about finding out whether the applicant and candidate have anything like a career plan. This is and should never be a manifestation of your own successful career carved in stone. It can’t either. Jobs and you change yourself too much over time. But applicants should know and verbalize at least one rough direction. It is more of a rough course, which, for example, is more aimed at a specialist career or a management career.
And yes, that’s interesting for HR staff. In particular how you view your professional development, whether you motivate and actively shape your career or rather hope that it will somehow result.
It’s also like this: Those who have a strategy and pursue long-term goals are overall much more motivated (intrinsic!) And do more because they want to achieve their own goal and not just that of the boss.
Accordingly, there are a few typical variations of the applicant question above :
- What are your long-term career goals?
- How do you define success?
- What is the most important thing in your career?
- What is the ideal job for you?
- Where do you want to be in XY years?
But they only sound different. Ultimately, it is always about your professional perspective.
Now you might think that’s a great question! I answer them quite easily and spontaneously, above all honestly …
Stop! It is not quite that simple. The application question, where you see yourself in 5 years, is tricky and sometimes a job killer. Even if that is unfair, many a candidate has shot himself out of the interview and the candidate list with an overly honest answer – and only because he or she chatted freely about their own vision.
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In the interview, talk about professional goals
So how do you ideally answer the applicant question?
First, consider the question from the perspective of the HR manager: He wants to hire someone who is competent and talented, but also really hot for this job. Someone who sees the advertised position as a real career step and an opportunity for themselves and hangs in accordingly. Five years from now.
Any answer that sounds suspiciously like an intermediate step, an intermediate solution or even a compromise will kick you out. Perhaps you have already explained why you want this job and what you find so interesting and challenging about it. But it has to be part of your long-term master plan, otherwise, the alleged motivation quickly turns into a march.
Hardly anyone hires someone who practically indirectly admits that they want to do another job at another company in five years. Another job might still go – you want to eventually develop. But the current one should play a central and above all different role than that of the stirrup holder.
And to be honest: it doesn’t help the HR manager’s career if he has to fill the same position every few years because he’s promising talent is constantly bailing out and leaving.
General answers: You should say that …
Answer in general.
That doesn’t mean you should lie in the interview. You should never do that. But your answer should remain so general and interpretable that you keep a few options and career paths open. Above all, the answer should be that you always appear to fit perfectly into this position and the organization in the long term.
Your interests and professional goals should be designed and sound so that you want to develop WITH and IN the company. The truth is, a lot can happen in the coming years, everything is possible – the company goes bankrupt, your department is outsourced, something like that. So you don’t really commit yourself to a company-oriented answer anyway, but you keep many doors open.
Show a bit of enthusiasm for the job offered when you ask the applicant – precisely because it takes you an important step further. Demonstrate your firm will to master the challenges ahead of you, precisely because they fit your master plan.
The ideal answer to the applicant question
For example, you could answer the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”:
My current goal is to find a company in which I can develop professionally but also personally. I want to face as many different challenges as possible. My goal is to take on more and more management tasks and personnel responsibility in the next few years and to pursue more strategic goals. I think that works especially well when I work for an organization that develops itself. And I see that as a given here.
As you can see, the answer is more directed towards a management career. But, as I said, that’s just an example. It is crucial that the answer sounds motivated, company- oriented, focused – but without being specifically committed.
A second, more professional career-oriented answer could be:
I actually always try to achieve perfect results. I want to work for a company that gives me the opportunity to constantly develop and improve my skills and expertise, implement interesting projects and work with colleagues from whom I can learn a lot. I know that some of the most brilliant minds in the industry work in your company – and I would be happy to be part of this team and to develop my career here.
Admittedly, where he wants to be in five years’ time, this candidate does not say strictly speaking – but he does say in which direction he wants to develop: technically and implicitly, rather as a specialist (with a tendency towards perfectionism). In most cases, this is enough as an answer.
Special case: career change
A special case arises if the position you are applying for does not match your previous career. For example, if you previously worked in a completely different industry or had a completely different career. In short: if it is not just a job change, but a professional career change.
In this case, you have to explain the reasons for this step very precisely and credibly. Cloudy expressions of motivation are no longer enough. In that case, you should speak honestly about your new master plan, the new career goals and why you are now passionately pursuing them.
In this situation it would be absolutely deadly if you start to stammer, motto: “Yes, um, that’s a good question … Well, where do I want to be in five years? Uh … “ In this situation, the answer has to be shot out of the gun and to the point. Because you have so BEFORE reoriented, newly focused and try not only talking.
Ultimately, this applies to all answers to this applicant question: prepare yourself thoroughly before the interview and formulate your answer as briefly as possible. It looks all the more convincing.