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Interview question: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’


‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’  used to be a favorite interview question for recruiters and HR managers. I am using ‘used to’ because I don’t know how many of us in the HR profession still ask this question which jobseekers often provide rehearsed answers to.

I stopped asking candidates where they want to be in whatever period a long time ago since I realized that the question does not help me to know them better. Some would give me ridiculous answers. You have a fresh graduate who wants to be a CEO in five years time. I’ve had skilled professionals tell me that they are looking to open their own business in 2 years time (Nothing wrong with this, except for the fact that it makes you look like the job is to help you get enough capital).

And the majority (and most sincere) are those who give you a blank stare. Funny enough, they give you a blank stare because they have no goals to speak of.

I’d rather ask a candidate why they are interested with the job as opposed to their nonexistent future plans.

How many of us can clearly state the goals we want to accomplish in the next 12 months leave alone five years. Since I don’t want to be lied to, I’d rather ask a question that will help me understand you better.

If you Google for an answer to where do you see yourself in 5 years you’ll get advice ranging from you mentioning going back to school for an MBA or for additional qualifications, looking for a promotion or something close to that. You can give those answers in an interview but you’ll be an average candidate.

But if it wasn’t an interview, realistically, where do you see yourself in five years?

Do you see yourself earning the same income, working for your current employer, in the same industry? How do you expect things to change?  And the most important question, what are you doing about it?

What I have come to appreciate is that time moves on whether we have a plan or not. It does not matter whether you have goals for your career and life, the sun will rise and set tomorrow. What matters is what you do with the 24 hours. And to a large extent what you decide to do within the 24 hours will largely depend on your goals. So before Googling the answer to this question, take some time and draw up plans and set goals for yourself. Only then can you confidently answer the question.

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The quality of your life largely depends on the goals you set for yourself.

Perminus Wainaina is a Recruitment Consultant at Corporate Staffing Services. He delights in seeing professionals take control of their own careers and make choices that work better for them. Email

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