I spoke to career coach Paula Brand to find out how someone should prepare for this situation. She said it’s good to give it some thought and use your honest feelings to craft an answer, but be mindful not to accidentally eliminate yourself from the running for the role.
“In this gig economy, some candidates may have their own side business or plan to start one soon. However, generally speaking, no one can or should include this in their answer. Understandably, employers look at things from their perspective and most would see the personal business as a distraction and sometimes potential competition.”
On the flip side, Brand said if you’re interested in moving into management eventually, an easy and truthful answer could be something like: ‘My goal would be to master the key facets of this role, learn all I can about the business and hope to move into a supervisory role within the company.’
However, she also said you should be mindful of this response if it’s a very small company and there is only one management role – you might even be interviewed by that manager.
“Ultimately, the way you present your future goals will give some indication of how you plan your life and, depending on your answer, this could illustrate a fit with the job,” she said. For example, for a project manager job, they likely want to hear the broad layout of your five-year career goals to see if you treat your future with project management principles.
“On the other hand, if the job is very creative and requires a great deal of spontaneity, sharing your month-by-month plan for the next five years might not present you as the best candidate for that job,” said Brand.
In some ways, you could say this question is a test of your ability to navigate a challenging situation, ie how honest you can be while still telling them what they want to hear.