This open-ended question, and others like; “Where do you see yourself in five years?” throw most candidates off balance. The object of the question is to check for your self-awareness and communication skills.
Dan Harrison is the staffing manager for Wesco Corporation and is about to interview three candidates for a project manager position. He is looking for someone with planning and long-range vision skills.
Phil Holmes describes his goal – “To be a Marketing Manager within five years, and have a hand picked team reporting to him.”
This is a very specific and narrow goal, which may not be an option at this company. The “hand picked” team demonstrates a lack of flexibility. Best to stay away from too specific a goal.
Shawna Green answers – “I have been so busy with my responsibilities and achieving company goals, that I have not focused on personal long-term goals.
While a strong work ethic is certainly desirable, this answer does not demonstrate vision or planning.
Marsha Severson states- “I plan to return to school to earn my MBA, and have my own consulting business one day.
While it pays to be honest, this answer could turn the interview in the wrong direction very quickly. The employer is looking for someone to stick around for the long run, not to stop over on the way to a new career.
Focus – Exercise
If you are the type of person who prefers an organized way of life, you may find this question a “piece of cake”. But, if you are among the majority of persons who let life happen as it comes along, you will probably not have a smooth answer without some forethought.
* What are your goals? – The best answers will come from you thinking about what you want. Most successful business people will tell you that a key success factor is the ability to set and achieve goals.
Begin by setting short-term goals. Right now your goal may be “to get a job”. But, what kind of job? And, where do you go from there?
* Be employer-centered – The employer is looking for someone to come in and solve problems. Since planning is a key factor in this job, think of examples where your planning has made a difference in results.
After giving some thought to where you want to go and how you can help the employer achieve results, try scripting your answer to focus.
I have learned that long-term goals are best achieved when I break them into shorter goals. My short-term goal is to find a position that will place me in a forward-moving company with solid performance and future projections. As part of a team, I want to add value and continue to grow the company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. My plan is to move into a position of responsibility where I can lead a team.
No one can tell you exactly how to answer this question – it will come from what is important to you. However, the more and focused and employer centered you can be about your goal, the better your chances will be of steering the interview in the right direction.