Expectations in five years

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Q: As an existing employee, how do you answer, or do you, what do you want to get from your company over the next 5 years?

A: This is a great question – either from an internal applicant (a current employee looking to move into another role within the same company) or an external applicant (a candidate hoping to land a position with a new employer).  Your question sounds like a variation of the question “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

First, you want to make sure that your response doesn’t limit you in any way.  If you respond with “My one and only goal is to land a role in auditing.  I know I could do an amazing job and I think I have the attention to detail often required in that type of role.”  However, what if your company is looking to outsource auditing?  Or if you reply, “I need to be making $75,000 in five years.”  This makes it sounds like money is the most important criteria and you don’t really care about the role or how you will add value to the company.  Compensation is important to many candidates, but it should not be the first request that comes out of a candidate’s mouth.

Second, this is an opportunity to show your passion, enthusiasm and value to the company.  Think about:  “I really have enjoyed my two years working directly with our customers on the retail side of the company.  I think I have done a very good job of describing the features and benefits of our products as well as handling difficult customer complaints in an effective manner.  I have a 97% satisfaction rating from our customers.  I think this knowledge and experience could also be helpful to a number of other areas.  I think I could be successful in training, auditing, quality or finance.  I am passionate about our products and I think my passion shows in the quality of my work and my level of commitment to this company.”

Third, you may be able to gain some information on what functions are expected to grow (or shrink) in both the long-term and the short-term.  This knowledge can only help you target areas in which there is planned growth that may translate into opportunities.

Lastly, make yourself memorable when asked this question (in a good way).  Leave an image that can be visualized.  I once had a candidate say to me “I like to leave a footprint where ever I have worked… in a good way.  I left it better, improved, ahead of where they were.  I improved our service levels in the two years that I worked in that group.”   I still remember that candidate.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.