Answering the 'five-year plan' question

over 5 years ago by Claire Smith

Getting an interview is great news for any candidate; it means the employer believes you may well be the right person for the job. What matters now is that you can show this to be the case.

You may have a great CV and be able to talk positively about your achievements and experience at your current and past jobs, but the chances are that your interviewer will have some very awkward questions lined up.

It is vital to be prepared for these, as they are designed to test your fortitude and capacity to think, as well as examine how well you have prepared yourself. In other words, your capacity to handle such awkward moments may demonstrate how well you can handle similarly difficult situations in the job, such as when under fire from an unhappy client.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Here we have one of the most tricky questions, as there is a danger of looking arrogant and having unrealistic expectations, so it makes sense to think this through beforehand as a genuine question. Where could you be in that company in five years? Will you be a manager? Or maybe look for a sideways move? Or at the forefront of a new initiative? Consider how you might get there and maybe spark a discussion about these, by turning it round to ask pertinent questions about career development.

What is your greatest weakness?

This is perhaps the most dreaded question of all, and for good reason. Nobody likes to talk about their weak points and the fear is that an honest answer may put the potential employer off.

However, everyone has weaknesses, so don't pretend you don't have any - that will prove you do! Instead, be honest but use this as an opportunity to explain how you deal with it. This will help demonstrate both self-awareness and initiative.

What was your greatest failure?

This is similar to the previous question, as it is asking you how you deal with vulnerability. Again, it is important to remember nobody is successful all the time. The key is how you bounce back and demonstrate resilience, initiative and the determination to never give up.

Why should we hire you?

This can be a tricky question if you are feeling a slight lack of confidence, but this really is a golden opportunity for a big sales pitch, so don't hold back. Really go for it. Don't tell them you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but do list the skills and experience you can bring to the job. After all, these are the reasons you applied for it in the first place.

Being well prepared

All these questions are examples of why good interview preparation is needed. Sometimes it may seem like a game to catch you out and make it easier for employers to whittle down the list of people who will be back for a second interview, but it is not. It is a chance to demonstrate initiative, intelligence and that you have really thought about both your career to date and how you want to develop.

Finally, just remember it is not just you who will have to deal with these awkward questions. But if you are well prepared for them, it will immediately give you an advantage over those who are not.