How to love this tricky interview question

Last week my colleague and I were talking about tough interview questions. I told her that I wasn’t a fan of the infamous, ‘Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?’ conundrum, and I wasn’t surprised that she shared the same feelings.

First of all, can anyone be THAT organised? Well actually, I know there are some people are that clear on where they are headed, and hats off to them. This should be an easier question to answer.

As for me, I don’t even know what I’ll be having for dinner tonight, let alone have a master plan of what my next 5 years is going to look like.

So, I deconstructed the question to see what employers really want to get out of their applicants. At the end of the day, this question is what I’d call a cockroach. It is here to stay, and so therefore we need to be better at handling the beast whenever it decides to crawl up again.

1 // Employers want to know where you’re headed  

Let’s say you’re applying for a Marketing Assistant position. Explain in the interview why you like marketing and why you want to develop your skills in that area. You may even allude to the fact that you eventually want become a Marketing Manager or a Specialist in a type of Marketing (e-mail, digital, events), but for now you are still so new to things that you want to see where the next couple of years take you.

This can be a great base answer for two reasons:

> It aligns with the position you’re applying for.

> Shows that you are determined to keep developing your skills and experience.

Tip: Find ways to answer the question in a way that complements the role you’re applying for – but at the same time – you don’t need to be too specific. Whilst having a plan is awesome, it can also be a concern if things too planned out, because it may mean you ae not open to other opportunities that the employer is aware of.

2 // Employers want to know how flexible you are 

It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, the only thing we can really predict is the unpredictability of work. With new technologies, more competition and the rise of new jobs we haven’t heard of before, we need to be more flexible than ever.

With that in mind, a great answer in your interview might centre around your awareness of change happening in your industry – so to use our marking example again, a great answer may be “I love working with emerging technology, so whilst I’m not sure what that will mean in 5 years time, I do know I want to be in a role that lets me keep evolving with the market”

Tip: This is also where your soft skills are essential. Answer the question by stressing the importance of how your soft skills (i.e. how you network, communicate, brand yourself) are qualities that are extremely important in your five year plan. Because with these skills, you are able to realign your goals, be nimble and are able to tackle any challenges that come your way.

3 // Employers want insight on your goals and passion

It’s okay to not know you’re overall vision… but your goals? They are essential. Whether it’s a one, two or three year goal, it allows your potential employer to get insight on where your true passion and desire lies.

Tip: When you’re preparing for the interview, write down one to three goals you have for the year and why this position can help you achieve that. You also need to explain how these goals can help your employer. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic design role you can mention one of your goals as developing your video editing skills because it is becoming increasingly popular in the digital space. How can this be of value to your employer?

> Video and graphic design go hand in hand.

It becomes an extra skill you can provide, helping team members who specialise in that area. Nevertheless, you need to be honest about your goals and make them realistic. Employers can spot a fake from a mile away!

Overall, there are many different ways of answering this question, but as long as you angle your answer in a way that shows your focus, your flexibility and how passionate you are about achieving your goals, then you’ll be on your way to landing your dream job!