How Not To Answer The Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 or 10 years?

By Cori Swidorsky

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Most candidates I talk with really dislike the question of "where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?"  I understand it's a difficult question because truthfully, we don't even know what we are going to have for dinner that night, no less know where we see ourself in 5 years.  Unfortunately, it's a question that is asked often during an interview.  Sometimes it's asked indirectly such as "what are your short term or long term goals?"

You can search Google and find a mass of answers to that question, but I'm here to tell you how not to answer that question.  Not only are these responses a turn off to hiring managers, they don't impress recruiters or human resources either.

  1. I'm not really sure where I see myself in 5 years, I just know I'm looking for a company who can offer growth opportunities.  So this type of response is coming directly from a candidate I spoke to recently.  It shows they have no direction or focus and just hope the company will move them up the ranks.  I wasn't impressed and I'm not so sure I would want to represent them to one of my clients.
  2. I would like to retire in the next 5 to 10 years.  Seriously?  Sure, I guess honesty is the best policy, but to say you are looking to park somewhere for a few years until your time is up to retire, is not going to motivate an employer to want to hire you. 
  3. I see myself in your position.  Now, there's nothing wrong with shooting for the stars and wanting to be on top, but that's a little pushy and aggressive and could be seen as a threat to the person you are talking with. 
  4. Answering with specific titles or roles.  Without knowing what the career path is within the company, you could hurt your chances of getting hired by having a specific title or role you are looking for in the future.  The hiring manager could turn that into thinking you won't stay with the company if you aren't in that specific role within the next 5 to 10 years. 

Try to be as general as possible when answering that question.  There's nothing wrong with saying since you are not aware of the career growth within the company, you are unsure what the next step would be. You can say that any company you end up with, you hope to have the opportunity to learn everything you can about the position and continue to grow professionally within the organization.  Whether that's promotions, ongoing achievements and success or continued training.  Nothing is ever guaranteed, we don't even know if the company will be around in 5 to 10 years, but a company likes to hire someone who can see themselves sticking around long term and wanting to make a difference.

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