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The Interview Decoder - "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Job interviews are intimidating. More often than not, you spend hours preparing yourself, ensuring you have all the answers to any question they could possibly ask - then, they ask you something you somehow don’t have the answer to.

In this series, you’ll get insight into the true meaning behind some of the toughest interview questions out there, as well as a few different options for how you can best answer them.

This question may seem daunting - you want to sound impressive yet realistic, and you want your goals to show your capabilities as a good leader. The most important thing to remember here is that you can only succeed as a leader when your company is succeeding. Great leaders do well when their company does well. You want a mutually beneficial relationship between yourself and the people you lead.

Your initial thoughts about your five-year plan probably look something like this:

  • Increase revenue and profits by X%

  • Grow the team and staff by X%

  • Maximizing overall efficiency and output

  • Leverage cutting-edge technology

These are all great places to start, and you should definitely mention them in your interview, but if you want to set yourself apart from the competition, you need to dive deeper. You want to be thinking far ahead of everyone else.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a leadership role at a technology company, and your ultimate goal is to become a CEO, your career plan should center around getting you to that step. If you’re looking for that to happen in the next five years, you’ll be stepping out of the role you’re currently interviewing for in order to step into the CEO’s seat. Who is going to take your spot when that happens? If you haven’t thought about that yet, you should.

“My goal is to train and mentor my current and future staff so that they can eventually replace me in my current role.”

Not only does this show a personal investment in the career aspirations of your team (a great look for a leader), but it shows that you have the future of the company at the forefront of your mind, and you’re already thinking about ways to save them time and money by erasing the need to hire and train someone new. Plus, promoting from within is a great tactic for increasing team motivation, aspirations, and the ease with which you’re all able to collaborate.

You should also be considering your own professional values. Think about the things that you value in a company and a work environment:

  • Overall diversity

  • Building trust between clients and the company

  • Opening an honest dialogue between employees and management

  • Mental health awareness

  • Increasing internal promotions

  • Investing in current employees through trainings, tuition reimbursement, etc.

  • Overall team structure and collaboration

Happy employees are productive employees. As much as you want to be the next superhero of the company you’re interviewing for, part of being an effective, valued, and respected leader is striving to improve things for the people that you’re leading. Think about which of these things is most important to you, and bring them up as initiatives you’d like to undertake during your tenure as a new leader at this company.

“Increasing diversity across the company is something I feel really passionate about, and this is how I’d like to work on this as an initiative: …”

This is the perfect chance to let your passions shine through! Let your interviewers know that you want to make this company the one that everyone is dying to work for. In today’s market, that’s even more important.

You’ll also want to address the market today and the subsequent future outlook. Consider how rapidly the workforce is changing; from what’s been called “The Great Resignation,” where an unprecedented number of people are currently quitting their jobs, to many companies choosing remote and hybrid workforces long-term, technology has never seen anything like this. There are more roles open than people to fill them, and companies are grappling with how to adapt. You as a leader should view this as a challenge.

“Ever since remote work became the new normal, our industry has been turned upside down, and we’re all trying to figure out the next best way to move forward. I can’t wait to see where the market is in the next five years, and I’m excited to be a part of that change, especially as a leader of XYZ Company.”

Make sure your answer is truthful, concise, and well-organized. You want your interviewers to be excited at the prospect of working alongside you, and you want to show that you will be the best person to bring their company into the future of technology. There are three things you always want to remember -

  • Have a great Attitude

  • Be Charismatic

  • Bring Enthusiasm to each and every interview

Remember these three things and bring your best ideas, and you’ll be sure to ACE your interview.

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