So where do you see yourself in five years? Why recruiters ask clichéd questions

Where do you see yourself in five years?

There is a moment in every interview situation that all interviewees dread, and it’s what feels like the inevitable cliché question. However, while they may seem to be standard rollout questions, they serve a very important purpose.

One of the things about clichés is they sometimes have a basis in a particular need and in the case of the interview questions they have come about because, well in honesty they are less cliché and more important information gathering.

Some common questions are:

  1. “If I asked someone who knows you from work what you are like – what would they say”?

This one is looking for ‘you’ to be able to self-evaluate your skills and how well you think you fit with a team. OK, maybe there is also a little opportunity to assess if you suffer from an over or under-inflated sense of self-esteem as well, but mostly it is about self-evaluation.

  1. “What do you think are your key improvement areas”?

Clearly, they are not expecting you to declare yourself perfection itself or admit you have nothing to offer, so why ask? Well, it’s about helping you achieve goals and not overextending your career options. You want the right job, and often that will require training. The recruiter is looking after your needs in terms of suitability and development here.

  1. “So, if I met you at a party what would you tell me about yourself”?

This one is basically asking ‘are you an egomaniac or can you communicate with me?’ It’s assessing if you are capable of holding a conversation, and how personable you are. You really should hope this one comes up. It’s a chance to produce a winning personality.

  1. “What are your strongest assets as an employee”?

This question is looking to gauge where you think you can demonstrate key and unique assets the recruiter can use to promote your application to an employer.

  1. “Where do you see yourself in five years”?

This is probably the one that people see as the most cliché question of all. Many people dread this question because they think who knows what will happen or where you will be in five years? Well, actually, that is not the question being asked. The question asks where you ‘see yourself’ it is not asking you to predict the future. This is all about where you want to be, and what you want your career to do for you. Your recruiter is looking to get you on the right track, and questions like this are all about finding your path.

So how should you answer these questions?

Well, they are there for a reason, so don’t try and come up with clever answers. For example, resist the temptation to answer something along the lines of ‘In your job’ for number 5 or ‘I tend to work too hard’ for number 2. You won’t fool anyone, and to be honest, they really are clichés. Similarly, this is not the place or time to show off your wacky sense of surrealist humour.

So how should you answer these questions? – Honestly.

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