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From The Archive

40. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is one of the Top Ten Stupid Interview Questions you're likely to be asked in an interview. I advise employers not to ask it because:

  • there are so many "canned" answers floating around that it's meaningless and few people answer it candidly any more; and,
  • changes in technology and business render almost any career goal ephemeral.

Of course, the point of the question is to find out what your interests and ambitions are. So, forget about clever answers and be honest with the employer. If you don't know where you see yourself in five years, tell the employer where you see yourself in six months or a year: "Contributing to the profitability of this company by doing x, y and z for you." Then explain what x, y and z are in sufficient detail to demonstrate your expertise. Focus your discussion on the work to be done, and you'll impress the manager.

(If you've had your fill of this question and want to turn the tables on the employer, try this: "Gee, do you keep your average employee for five years?" If they don't boot you out of the interview, you may have found an employer who really "gets" it.)

A tip for employers: A better question to ask is, "Tell me what you'll do in this job to benefit my business, then explain to me how that will help you accomplish your career goals."

A tip for job candidates: Many companies won't exist in their current form in five years. Most start-ups won't survive at all past two. Don't forget to ask the interviewer, "Where do you see this company in 5 years?"

Before you get an offer, start Peeling The Offer. How Zen!


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