With so many other options—literally an entire language’s worth—of questions to use, why do you as an employer continue to use the old, worn-out inquiry: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Even with the possibility of synonymous phrasing, it doesn’t present an effective question. There’s a wide variety of reasons that it fails in its purpose, but here are a few of the most prominent.
Yes, you are the employer. Yes, you have power over whether or not this person gets hired. Yes, you want to make sure that you hire a good employee that will help the company. But what you see as a question designed to test the long-term durability of this investment is really very intrusive. You may not even be considering offering a five-year term of employment to this person, and so asking “Where do you see yourself in five years?” not only gives the wrong impression, but it also forces its way into the hopes and dreams of the person you’re interviewing. There are other, more effective ways of gauging the level of interest in a potential employee.
By asking where the potential employee sees themselves in five years, you’re focusing only on what their goals are regarding this job. Why not ask what hobbies or interests they have? Why not ask how they plan on helping a team get through a project, or what experiences they’ve had that will help them support the company? Why not ask about why they chose this field, or what their passions are? If you’re really trying to see how valuable of an asset this person will make, then why not find out about their qualifications instead of how long they plan on sticking around? Other questions will give a much more effective idea of who this person is, and how they can help your company.
An old cliché states that the only constant in the universe is change. This is very true, even more so with the evolution of technology and business. Back in the old days, employment was a fixed thing, one where an employee would do well to stick around for five years or more. But this is not so today. With the advent of the internet and its near-limitless possibilities, any employee or employer can find opportunity quite literally anywhere. Fixed, long-term plans are a thing of the past. Though a plan of this sort was an asset in the past, the fluctuating nature of the present job market makes it a liability. Whereas before you could distinguish the good applicants from the bad with the question of “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, the line is blurred. Often, many of today’s best applicants are those who simply have a goal, and are willing to be flexible in how to get there.As an employer, you must have the best interests of your company at heart. And with today’s constant change, the best way to do that is to unbind your thinking patterns. So when interviewing, eliminate the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?”.