In this edition of the Frequently Asked Questions series we will examine a popular goal question…”Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

This question is generally asked later in the interview, after the usual work history and skills questions. Do not underestimate this open-ended question by letting your guard down when answering.

As we continue to review the most frequently asked questions in an interview, let’s explore tips for this question.


Why Is It Asked?

• Understand Your Goals – Some of the time, the Interviewer simply desires to know more about you and is using your goals to do this. This may be a precursor to asking some follow-up questions regarding your interests. The Interviewer also may be examining if you have goal-alignment with the position you are seeking.

• Determine Performance Focus – The Interviewer is listening for how you link your goals to the business. In your answer, there should be a direct link between your performance for the company and your goals.

• Evaluate Long-Term Fit – The Interviewer may want to determine if you project yourself with the organization for a length of time. Most of the time, an employer desires someone who they can project being with the organization for several years. This question may give the Interviewer a sense of your likelihood of staying.


How Should It Be Answered?

•  Be Concise – This is not the time to take 20 minutes, without a breath, talking about yourself. Instead, answer the request in less than a minute. Do not lose your focus or begin to ramble.

• Have an Example – Your Interviewer may ask a follow-up question inquiring about a previous goal that you have achieved. This example can provide a view on how serious you are about achieving your goals.

• Share Step Goals – If you have goals at different intervals on the way to 5 years, then share that information with your prospective employer. Share your clear vision for what you will do for the employer, and how that fits into your goals.

• Show Enthusiasm – If you can’t get excited about your goals, then what will you be passionate about? This question is not the time to go monotone.

• Stay Professional – The Interviewer is interested in your professional goals.
Do not go personal and discuss your goal for marriage, or children. All this will do is make the Interviewer uncomfortable while supplying him/her with information they do not want to know.

• Be Consistent – As you are preparing your answer, make sure you are consistent between your interview goals and the objective section of your Resume.


What Not To Do:

• Come Unprepared – You can be pretty confident that if the Interviewer has an interest in you, then at some point you will be asked a question about your goals. Don’t say, “I have not really thought about it”, or “I don’t have any”. Anticipate this question and prepare an answer ahead of the interview.

• Ramble On – Since this is truly an open-ended question with no obvious “right” answer, it is easy for a Job Seeker to fall into the trap of losing focus and providing an endless answer. This is why preparation is so important. State your answer and then be quiet, so you do not repeat yourself. The silence, even though seconds, may be excruciating but it will lead to the start of the rest of the interview in due time.

• Be Arrogant – Make sure your 5-year goal is reasonable. If you are interviewing for an entry-level position and your answer is a position that may take 20 years, then you will present yourself as either naïve, or even worse, arrogant.

• Frame a Career Change – Share goals that fit the organization you are interviewing with at the time. Do not share goals about working in a different industry, owning your own business, or changing your profession (especially if it would definitely mean leaving your prospective employer).


The opportunity to talk about yourself and your goals in an open-ended forum is a crucial period in your interview. You have the center stage and the attention of your Interviewer. Anticipate the question and prepare your answer ahead of the interview. Practice your response with friends and family so that you will have the confidence necessary in your answer. This is a great opportunity to present yourself and your goals in a positive manner!

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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