Q: As an existing employee, how do you answer the question "what do you want to get from your company over the next 5 years?" Or do you even answer this question?
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.
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 think this knowledge and experience could also be add value 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 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 we were when I first joined the team. I improved our service levels in the two years that I worked in that group." I still remember that candidate.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.