The ‘question in question’ has been asked so many times, in so many interviews, in so many places around the world that it has become the most dreaded interview question ever. Panic buttons go off, alarm bells start ringing, the proverbial ‘AXE’ starts dangling over necks as soon as the interviewee hears this seemingly innocent question – ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’

Why are employers so keen on asking this question? Is it because they want to throw the candidate off balance? Is it to see whether the interviewee has charted out a definite career path or is it to understand whether the person is ready for the long haul?

Whatever their intention may be, most employers unanimously include this question. That being the case, it makes complete sense to tackle this first and get us out of harm’s way before moving on to focus on other aspects of the interview.

There are no hard and fast rules to answer this question. Actually, there is no right answer to this question as career expectations differ from person to person, depending on what each of us is working towards in life.

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Here are 5 ways that we could best answer this question:

  1. Every company wants ambitious employees on their payroll. So, go ahead and demonstrate appropriate levels of ambition. This means that you have to be realistic when you share your plans for the future. Show that you are too ambitious, and it could go against you. Again, if you don’t seem career-driven enough, it can send the wrong signals.Look at it like this: suppose you join the company and do a great job, then where will you be 5 years down the line? Talk about that. You could say that you see yourself in a senior position, managing a fairly large team, having made some substantial contribution to the company.
  2. This is the safest way to tackle this question. Give the interviewer what he is possibly looking to hear – that you plan to stick around here for a good number of years. Subtly imply that you are here for the long haul. Say that you see yourself developing your skill sets first, and then helping others in your team to develop theirs before leading them to achieve the long-term goals of the company.
  3. Employers want to know that you are aggressive about your career. No employer will want an employee who is laid back. Show passion for your work. Show confidence in your skill sets and in the reputation of the company. Tell them specific initiatives you’d take to go up the corporate ladder.
  4. Another way could be to show them that you are excited to be here as the company has a reputation for being flexible with star performers – giving them the opportunity to try new avenues for growth, in the future.
  5. Finally, you could say that you appreciate the company’s vision and that it matches with your own career goals. Say that where the company plans to be in the next few years is exactly how you see your career progressing. Demonstrate that the best jobs are those where the company’s goals and the employee’s career goals align well so that both can have a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

These 5 answers could be presented differently while sticking to the base meaning. Go ahead and face your interviewer with confidence! All the best for your interview mate!