I understand the struggle with answering this question. And I know our minds can bounce in every direction when deciding the approach; How am I supposed to answer this? Is this a trick question? Can I be honest and tell them that this job is a stepping stone to land a role elsewhere? A lot can change between now and then, what kind of question is this?
I don’t know what I want for dinner, let alone tell them my future….So many thoughts! Am I right?Regardless if you agree with the question or not, the likelihood of a version of this question to be asked is high.
Let me help you by offering an approach to answering this question before you even think of responding with, “I don’t know”.
Let’s start with this ➡️ As an interviewer, why do I (Jenna) ask this question?
Interviews are designed to learn about whether or not the candidate has the skill and ability to do the job and as someone who interviews many people, I also want to learn a little about what makes you, you. My intention as an interviewer when I’ve asked this question in the past is about getting to the know the person as well.
Have you thought about your career growth/the future? In your eyes, does this role support your career journey? What’s important to you? And truthfully, I also want to know, are you here for a good time, not a long time?
Don’t get stuck on sharing a specific job title. If you have an idea great, if you don’t- no biggie. Tailor your response to the role and weave in what’s important to you. Show the interviewer that your thinking about the future, and most importantly be honest.
Another consideration is for you to alternatively share that you’re not sure what the next 3-5 years hold, but here’s what you see for yourself in the next 2-3 instead. I want to highlight that the second component of Own The Interview’s method for interview preparation is RESEARCH.
It’s important that you take the time to learn about the role, the organization, the people interviewing you, the department/organization goals etc. so that you’re making the best career choice for what’s important to you and your future. And, that you’re respecting your next potential employer’s time too.
Are you still wondering, “how honest is too honest?”? My advice to you is to use your best judgement with the information you have.
The Answer Framework
Here are 3 different ways to support you in answering this question.
- In 3-5 years from now I would like to be able to say…
- Here’s what I see as my career path over the next 3-5 years…
- I’m really passionate about (blank) so in the 3-5 years I’ll be in a position that…
And, here’s an example of what this can sound like:
“I’ve spent time researching the company’s initiatives and I learned that one of the goals is to expand into other markets. In 3-5 years from now, while I’m not quite sure what my title will be in the marketing department, my goal is to be leading a team of up to 20 people in a global initiative to raise the organization’s brand recognition. One of my strengths is in enrolling cross-functional partners to come together and complete projects on time and on budget. An example of this is when I (insert example here). I see myself continuing to lean into this strength while also teaching my team how to develop this skill themselves.”