“So… Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?”

By Amy @BubbleJobs

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs in our interview advice section, employers like to throw a few curve ball questions into their interviews to try and catch you off guard and to learn more about you… and unfortunately for a lot of people, it’s when these questions make an appearance that their well-polished facade starts to become a bit unstuck and things start to go downhill.

While questions like “why are you leaving your current job?”, “what’s your biggest weakness?” and “do you have any questions for us?” all come with their own problems, it’s the dreaded “where do you see yourself in five years from now?” question that really catches candidates off guard and leaves them stuttering around for an answer, any answer, regarding their future career aspirations.

While interviewing candidates at Bubble, we’ve had candidates who were doing great up until the point Adam fired this bad boy in their direction. Their reaction? A glazed expression followed by a lot of “errmmms” and “ahhhhs” before an “I’m not really sure”.

predictionNow, this one’s tricky for a few reasons. Firstly, life never goes as planned so a lot of people haven’t really given much thought to what they’ll be doing 12 months from now, let alone five years. Similarly, although we all have secret hopes and aspirations, saying them out loud can be scary – after all, what if you fall short?! – and we hate the idea of failing. Lastly, just like any other interview answer, there’s a fear that whatever you say will be ‘wrong’ and will take you out of the running for the job – just how do you strike the right balance between ambitious and realistic?!

Just like any other interview question, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question, however there are a few pieces of advice that apply to any candidate in this situation. The best piece of advice? Plan ahead! Even if this question doesn’t crop up in this interview, if you’ve applied for other jobs, there’s a pretty strong chance it’ll crop up in at least one of them!

Hmm, OK so you’re going to plan ahead… but you still don’t know where to start. Well, the first thing to clarify is what the employer actually means when they ask this question. They’re not asking because they want to know if you see yourself married with kids and living in a new house while living the high life five years from now. What they really want to know is how/if this current position fits in with your long-term plans for your career.

What’s that? You don’t actually have any long-term plans? Don’t worry – that just means it’s going to be easier to answer this question than if you did have your life mapped out! When trying to plan out an answer, look at the job spec, the values of the brand and their future plans – and think about how they relate to where you are now and where you might want to be in the future. Research typical career paths within your field, how long someone typically spends in each role and where this particular vacancy might fit in.

The next thing to consider is the different elements of the vacancy (and your previous jobs) and which parts you might enjoy more than others – this should help you to identify a couple of potential career paths. For instance, if you enjoy creating strategies, you might want to become a pure strategist in the future – or if you like training and managing people, you might want to go down that route. At the end of the day, it all comes down to you as an individual and your personal preferences.

My last piece of advice on the topic? Just be honest. It’s no good saying you want to be a Head of SEO, if you have no desire to work in such a senior position because, although your answers aren’t set in stone, that statement could end up influencing your time at that company and might mean you end up in a role you never wanted. Similarly, if there’s a few roles available, your answer could end up determining which one you end up with… so don’t just say something just because!

It’s OK to say “I’m not 100% sure” (I don’t think anyone is!)… but don’t just leave it at that. Outline a few potential career paths you could take and say that it depends on whether you get this vacancy and your time there – this shows you’re keen to get the role and you see this company as being influential in your future.

So there you go; a few points to consider before your next interview. Have any more advice or top tips? Remember… sharing is caring! 🙂

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