That Horrible Question: "Where Do You Want To Be In 5 Years?"

Written by Ashley Broadley on Thursday, 6th October 2011 at 13:45

As a person in somewhat of a minor position of power within the company that I work for, one of the responsibilities I have been charged with is recruiting new developers. I recently hired a junior who, when meeting the CEO for the first time after a week of employment, was asked the question "Where do you want to be in 5 years?". I hate that question. I really don't think you can get a good idea of a candidates future prospects from any answer they could give. 

I remember being interviewed for my first position in my chosen industry, and I still remember the answer that I gave when asked the worlds most horrible interview question. My answer went a little something like this:

"I guess in 5 years time I'd like to be in a position where I'm leading a team and able to help lesser experienced developers become great."

It's not an in-depth answer, but I thought it addressed my (then) current state of mind really well.

I answered that question before I had ever been employed in my chosen industry. I'd been using PHP for 2, maybe 3, years in a non-commercial environment. I had no experience of OOP, or any design patterns. No server management experience, and I definitely had zero experience of managing people.

When my junior was asked that question I started to think about the answer I gave and where I've ended up almost 5 years after being asked that very question. It seems that I had very clear aspirations when I first started out. I hope I still do. 

I think if I'm ever asked that question again, my answer will be "In 5 years time I want to be sat off the coast of Monaco on my £100million yacht drinking expensive Champagne from a Diamond encrusted Champagne Flute while surrounded by a hundred attractive, scantily clad women."

What do you think of the question "Where do you want to be in 5 years?"?

Tags: #interview, #question, Comments: 3

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I hate that question too. It just smacks of "I haven't a f***ing clue what to ask next." And having said that, I really hope it wasn't me that asked it of you 5 years ago.

IIRC when I was asked it at *that place* I said something along the lines of "I don't make plans that far in the future. Life is too short for five-year-plans; you could be hit by a bus tomorrow."

I got the job ;-)



Heh. Sort out the html rendering in the comments there Ash!

Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray

I will second the hating of this question.

I think that really there is no answer to the question it is just a gauge (and a crappy one) of how well people can react under pressure.

Sadly we all know that it might be asked and most of us have some loosely thought out idea of what we might like to say, so the 'pressure' involved is negligible.

Sadly when I am at interview all too often I come out with "erm - i'm not sure.." more often than not any interview I go to would be with the leader of the team I am joining so generally I would just say 'Your job.' it gives a simple statement that you think you are good enough to easily do what they do - and in parallel gives them the opportunity to think about where they would be.

I would love to be more cocky about it when next asked, perhaps more like 'After this interview that we have had - what do you think that I could do?' but at the end of the day it is just a shitty question that deserves a shitty answer.