Where do you see yourself in 5- 10 years’ time?

Laurent Pinna
“What the Head Hunter has in mind…”

I love asking this question to understand my candidates better. I want to make sure that the role that I am proposing will help them reach their career and life targets.

Managing your career is like playing chess. The path to success is not always a straight line. You may have to compromise along the way to reach your ultimate goal. As an example: If you are currently a VP Sales in Singapore and want to become a Regional CEO, you may have to leave Singapore for a few years to manage an ASEAN Country P&L, which will train you on the “in-market” operations (supply chain, finance, local marketing) and will qualify you for a regional MD/CEO role in Singapore or Bangkok. 

That is why, by asking this 5-to-10-year question, I want to make sure that your motivations are really aligned with the role. This is your interest, and this is my client’s interest to ascertain that you may be there for the long term. 

As another example, if your family plan is to relocate within 5 years in Europe or in your home country in the region, my client may not give you this option, and I could open other more relevant doors for you with other clients. 

Other insights: I really don’t mind when young candidates don’t know what they want to do. They are just starting their career, and need to have more life experiences and exposure. For senior professionals, we usually expect them to be mature enough to answer this question. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s acceptable and understandable to just say “I like my job, I don’t want to climb the ladder, my priority is to stay in similar roles working with a great team”. 

I understand also that some candidates don’t like this question “How can I know…. Now the world is changing fast…”. But when shareholders ask you the same question…I guess you give them your best answer, you are paid to anticipate changes in an uncertain world. 

This question is not about reading into a crystal ball, this is about sharing your life aspirations. Give a chance to the recruiter to know you better, and please prepare this question… 

Compass ABC's Tips

I have no clue what I want to do in 5-year time?

“Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? With this question, the interviewer’s main aim is to get an insight into your true interests and motivations currently as well as what will make you fulfilled in the future. It covers a broad range of areas both career aspirations as well as purpose, location, work life balance etc. As the candidate responds to this question, the company will be able to match some of these expectations in order to retain you for as long as possible. Below are our ABC’s on how to tackle this question successfully. 

A – Anticipate and Align some of your career aspirations to the opportunity that has presented itself. Before going in for the interview with the hiring company, we would recommend that you reflect on this question. How can this role satisfy you and bring you to the subsequent step in your career over the next 3/5/10 year time horizon? If you are struggling to answer this question…then this might not be the right opportunity for you. 
Here is a summary of how to help you identify what’s important to you:

B - Be Prepared. Once you have established what you want, prepare your answer. We suggest using an Elevator speech model to get you to be succinct and clear. Key rules for this speech. Needs to be 90 seconds or less, covers the main points and is compelling enough to get your audience asking for more. An example of this: 

My 5-10 years goal is to manage a P&L. In my current role as Finance Manager, I still need to get more exposure to strategy, and therefore I am applying to this CFO role to get broader exposure to a company’s strategy, and to manage a bigger team”

“Over the next five years’ I would really like to be recognized as a business builder in the tech industry in ASEAN. I would like to help your organization to expand in Indonesia faster in the next 2 years, to strengthen your brand and to dramatically improve the bottom line” 

C – Confident. Lastly keep your tone and body language confident. Don’t hesitate when asked the question, lean into the discussion and maintain eye contact. If you find yourself in that position where you are not sure you can commit to a 5-year plan, be honest and just talk about your future aspirations for the next 2 years. Practice with your friends or family and get them to give you feedback. 
A final tip if you are a seasoned professional, use this opportunity to ask a question which could be related to where they think the organization will be in the next 3- 5 years.  An example of this could be: “Over the last few years, the only constant is change and so I find that I generally look at my future in 2-year bite sizes and adapt accordingly. In my last organization we would revise our strategic plans as such. I would be very curious to understand how your business works on this and in particular for this role?" 

By keeping to these ABC’s, we are certain that the next time you are asked this question, you will be ready to respond with comfort and ease.


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