I usually responded, “At the end of five years I want to be working for you here at Utopia, Inc. I anticipate that over five years I will have mastered my tasks and responsibilities and perhaps have been promoted to a position with greater responsibility.”
In a more realistic way I would rather have said, “Well, assuming that I have performed with excellence and Utopia has not been purchased by the French and I have not been right-sized, I would hope to see myself in a long-term situation. On the other hand, if I had an opportunity to go to France, I might take it.” That would have been too cynical or too cheeky, however realistic, for “realistic” business people.
Would you have hired me? Probably not. “This guy’s just out for himself and thinks that in five years France would be more alluring than a future in Keokuk. He might up and go to France in two years. Besides, he may be a closet socialist. We don’t need a socialist. He’s probably looking over there right now.” Remember, in a seller’s market, the seller is looking for a reason not to hire a given applicant — especially since there are 199 waiting in the hallway. Also, would it be smart or stupid in relation to this question to say, “If I am satisfied with my choice and opportunities in five years and things have gone well for both of us I would like to count on a long-term relationship.” Question is, do employers really want to have employees thinking long-term. Employees get expensive over time and employers like the employees also like to keep options open.
I always chose to answer the question in a way that would exhibit diligence, dedication and a desire to find a good situation. I always wanted, after I had been asked the question to ask my own, e.g. “Where would Utopia like to see me in five years?” But I never did. I wanted to tell them what I thought they wanted to hear, so I answered the question and waited for the next. Would a rejoinder have impressed the interviewer(s) with an ability to take control of the interview? Who knows?
Both sides are hoping something. The potential employer whose brain is full of names and faces hopes “this one” will be the last one and will so blow away the competition that he/she hasn’t a doubt in the world about her choice. Yeah, right.
You see, hope is the problem. It was given to us by the gods. Prometheus stole it and gave it to man because even he didn’t want to give lowly creatures the god-like power of foresight.
Steadfast and cautious,