Welcome to the first in my series of articles, helping you to prepare for difficult questions in interviews.
I help lots of accountancy students get their first job in finance and one of the things that most candidates worry about is interviews, and in particular how to handle difficult questions. Every interview is different and you will have to think on your feet (and don’t be afraid to take few seconds to consider each question before giving your answer), there are however some questions that every interviewer has up there sleeve. In this series of articles I will go through these questions and explain how you should prepare for them so your interview stands out from the crowd.
Number 1 – Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I know a lot of people have a funny quip that they would use to respond to this question, such as “Having your job”, “owning the company”, “or retired on a beach”! While you feel these may show your ambition or raise a smile on the face of the interviewer, they will have heard these answers before and you have just missed a real opportunity to explain what drives you and whether this fits what your potential new employer is looking for.
Personally I love this question as I have always had a clear idea of what I want to achieve in the next 5-year window and I really wouldn’t want to work for a company that isn’t going to help me to develop. So if this question comes up I am really honest and explain what my goals are.
When I started my career in finance at 21 I had some very clear 5-year plans:
- Become a qualified Accountant
- To be managing a group of people
- Earn the same number of thousands of pounds as my age (£26,000 when I turned 26)
So when it came to job hunting I was only interested in a position that would help me to achieve these aims. In an interview I would explain what I wanted to achieve and then ask back “is this what you would expect for someone in this role?” If the answer is yes then brilliant, if it is no then the chances are the role is not the right fit so both of us know that the process will not need to go any further.
I recognise that not everyone has such a clear set of aims or goal so I would encourage you to think carefully about this, spending some time working out what you want to achieve in the next five years:
- Do you want progression in a career? (it is ok to say that you are looking for a steady job)
- Do you want to be a leader? (it is ok to say that you aren’t interested in management)
- Do you want to add to your skills?
- Would you want to work in a different location?
- Do you want your own business?
- What about fitness and lifestyle goals?
Spend some time over the coming weeks developing and refining these goals. What do you want your life to look like in 5 years’ time, is it achievable, how are you going to achieve it?
This will mean that when this question comes up you can be really honest and what most interviewers love to hear is an honest, heartfelt answer to a question.