How To Answer “Where Will You Be in Five Years?”
Christina Macres | ArtBistro
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” — we all know the question. So why are we still stumped when someone asks this granddaddy of a ridiculous question in our creative interview? Here’s why – because most creative professionals believe it has no relevance. The reason? No company can (or ever will) guarantee an employee a job for five years.
But, quite frankly, this is the wrong way of looking at this question. And, in actuality, this question (although obscurely phrased) is actually one of the easiest interview questions to answer — if you know how to answer it properly. The secret? Most interviewers look for interviewees to answer by way of long-term professional goals. So instead of sweating, rolling your eyes (don’t do it!), or drawing a complete blank when asked your five-year goal, use it an opportunity to share your motivation for the job, your goals for building your expertise, and your eagerness to succeed. It really works — we swear!
Check out these five tips on how to best answer this doozy of an interview question:
Tip #1: Choose the best answer.
Only after you’ve gotten a good feel for the company, as well as for the potential position, will you actually be able to state your five-year plan suitably. Why? Because the hiring manager is using this knowledge as a basis for the “right answer” — don’t be fooled, there’s always a right answer! For example if you wish to be hired by an older graphic design firm looking for employees who want to develop their Photoshop expertise, not management skills, it’s probably not the best idea to talk at length about your managerial goals.
Heads up: Interviews work both ways. Always keep in mind that you are using this interview as a means to analyze the potential employer as well. If their needs don’t mesh with your creative goals and career outlook, it might be necessary to look elsewhere.
An answer for those who want to be experts: If your career goal is to be an expert in your field (this is more likely to be true of younger professionals, or those who are newer to their careers) you may want to say something like, “ In five years, I see myself as a successful graphic designer (or your creative field), and learning new skills that will benefit the company and help me achieve my career goals. I am eager to experience new challenges and excited to invest five years time specializing in a career I find extremely interesting and motivating."
An answer for those who wish to be management: If your career goal is to move up the ranks because you’ve become an expert in your field, you may want to say something like, “In five years I see myself in a management role. This would allow me to demonstrate my aptitude for managing others and having more responsibility. I am a dedicated employee and hope to better both my career and my company via my commitment and enthusiasm.”
Tip #2: Be realistic and motivated.
It doesn’t matter how well you answer the five-year question, if you don’t answer it realistically, you’ll loose the respect of your interviewer. For example, it’s probably not the best idea to announce that you’d like to be creative director in five years during your internship interview. Once you’ve presented yourself as unrealistic, good luck trying to get your interviewer to take the rest of your interview seriously.