Where do you want to be in five years?

Possibly, the most, outdated question I have come across in job interviews today. Why do I think this as a lead engineer working in the technology space? Don't get me wrong; every individual should have aspirations and goals in life. For some, it would not be worth living without them. However, there are many reasons for why I feel this should not be in your next interview:

Company Structure and Management Team

One of the reasons I think the above question is outdated is because actually, what an individual wishes to do in a finite amount of time within a company is entirely defined by the companies structure and management team.

Yes, the individual has to be driven to pursue their goals, but if the company is not well managed, then there is simply no room for them to grow. Turnover of employees in the tech world is very high, one of the main reasons for moving onto new pastures is down to an individual feeling they are no longer growing as a person.

Technology within the Tech Space

We are in a space where technology is forever changing around the roles we play in a company. Just look at how Javascript has changed in a small period for developers. We have gone from it being used mainly for user interactions to whole ecosystems written solely in Javascript.

Let's flip that to another job role, an SEO consultant, thanks to search engines forever evolving and trying to improve their function for users, the technology and algorithms behind making your content get seen by your customers are changing all the time.

The above will hopefully show that defining your goals and aspirations for X amount of time is very hard. Technology can not only change what you are interested in participating with as part of your job role, but it can also make certain jobs obsolete. Not only that but if you do not stay up to date with the here and now of what is happening, you will become unemployable as your techniques and knowledge are simply outdated.

Life events

Your life circumstances can change drastically in any period which in turn will completely affect what you want from your job and social life. You may get married, have children, lose a family member, all of these will certainly change the way you think about what you want in X amount of years which makes it unrealistic to predict your future. My 23-year-old self has completely different views on what my future held compared to what I am doing now. When I was 23, I thought I would be a music producer for the rest of my life. Now as a 31-year-old man I am a senior engineer who has worked at several of the biggest brands in the world in an entirely different industry to that I thought I would have.

What should I do if I am asked this?

Personally, I think this question should be flipped on its head. You should be asking the company you are interviewing:

  • Where do you see me in your business within x amount of time?
  • What will you do to help me achieve X?
  • What support will I have in X situation?
  • Is there the opportunity for promotion to X role?
  • How do you feel about employees moving into different areas of the business?

Remember that interviews are not only a fit for you in the firm and whether your skill set matches what they require. It is also a question of whether the company provide for your future and what you want from a place you plan on working at, so don't forget to ask questions that relate to this. As someone who has interviewed many people in the past few years, this is something that makes a candidate stand out, not just someone who only answers what is asked.