From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

July 2007
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Interviewing Question: Where you wish to be in 3-5 years
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 7:09 am

What is it that interviewers seek when they ask
the question, ” Where do you see yourself in
three to five years?”  A variation of this question
might also be, “What do you want to have as your
epitaph on your tombstone?”

In a sense the interview is checking to see if you
plan, prioritize and have goals.  It is also a chance
to see if you have been listening and learning in
the job search/interview process.  It explores a
bit what motivates you to work hard in spite of
problems, challenges and demands.

The response to this type of question could be
different for different people and different positions.

In general, the working world has not changed much–
we work with people to accomplish joint objectives
to achieve business results and satisfaction (by
learning, contributing, being creative, competing,
or satisfying customers).

One may respond in a general way if the position
and subsequent career path is not well revealed
when the question is asked.  One might offer,
‘It is not easy to predict what will happen to the
company (first), this position in the business and
myself (note–last).  I wish to learn the operations
and business well.  I want to work hard to make
positive contributions where ever I am placed
to see the company make higher profits and
succeed.  As opportunities arise, and my skills
match to positions, I hope to grow within the
company to increase my contributions.’ 

In specific technical or project roles that we
might see in the chemically related fields,
one might study and observe different career
paths of people who you meet.  You could
speak about some next career step.

So, one might be able to ask what have
successful people who have held this
position gone on to do?  Then, indicate
the ones that are of interest to you.

Over 20 years ago, in interviews I was
asked (at different times) where (1) I
would like to be and what (2) I would
like on my tombstone.  I responded
fine to the first and not so good to the
second, although it was honest.
   (1) I learned that people who
previously had held the position
went on to form a new research
group expanding his skill set and
develop new methods to understand
what the customer wants.  Two
other position holders had moved into
technical management management
roles with increasing levels of
responsibility.  My response
indicated that I was intrigued
by the
chance like the first person.  I was
invited to take the position.

(2) My response about my tombstone
was that I was ‘a good father.’ 
My response should have been
related in some way to the business.
I was not awarded the position.

My preference is not to answer a
question with a question like where
do you see this position going in the

Please consider not indicating that you
are not interested in the position, or
that the position is a stepping stone and
you will just take up space, collect a check,
complain and leave in two years.

Finally, keep it professional and related
to company related objectives.  For
this is where you want to point out that
yousee yourself succeeding in the company.

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