“I wish I knew.”
“On a trip around the world.”
“Independently wealthy and living in a mansion.”
These are the answers we may say in our head, but usually a different answer comes out in an actual interview situation. As often as this question sneaks into an interviews; it is one of those questions that actually catches a lot of people off guard. It’s really not a trick question with hidden meaning, but just the employer trying to figure out if you are a match for the company and if you plan to stick around for a bit.
How do you approach this question? Do you give an honest answer or do you give an answer you think the employer wants to hear? What if you honestly have no idea? What if you know the answer, but when put to the test you end up saying something completely different? These are all possibilities.
Personally, I like to have an idea of how I plan to answer this question, which is usually a mix of reality and a perfect world. When thinking about your answer, here are a few tips to consider:
- Have a basic plan – For example, “I want to have achieved a high level of success in this position and be ready for new challenges.” Add in specifics as you have them figured out.
- Be flexible – While you are excited about the role at hand, offer up how you can adapt and are always ready for what happens next.
- Show ambition – Focus on how you plan to be successful in this role and build your career path.
- Match company/job expectations – Share how you will bring value to the company. Tell the employer how you see yourself as the ultimate match and what you will do to ensure success.
- Be creative but realistic –Give a robust answer, but be realistic. 5 years is not really that long, so it’s probably not a good idea to include thoughts of taking over the company or retiring to an island in the Caribbean (unless you truly are).
- Convey passion about the path ahead of you. Above all, show enthusiasm and a desire to do the job at hand better than anyone else could.
Many people dread this question, but it’s really not that bad. In fact, it’s probably a good thing to reflect on at least once per year, regardless if you are looking for a job or not.