Should You Hire Someone Without a 5-Year Plan?

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” This, along with its various iterations referring to a candidate’s long-term goals, is a classic interview question — and for most employers, it’s an essential one. You’re looking to hire someone who’s going to stick around, who’s interested in having a career at your company. And you’d prefer to avoid hiring a candidate who will jump ship at the next shiny benefits package that’s dangled in front of them.


How important is this question, really? If you’re interviewing a candidate who appears great in all respects, but seems to have low ambition, or too much ambition, or they offer a vague answer to the five-year question that leaves you wondering what their goals are, should the interview be an automatic “no”?

Not necessarily. And here are a few reasons why:

Good candidates are prepared for your questions

No one enjoys job interviews — not the employer, and not the interviewees. But since the business world hasn’t found a better way to fill open positions, the interview lives on. However, the Internet has given savvy job candidates on advantage in that there are plenty of resources about questions you’re most likely to be asked in an interview, and the best answers to give.

The five-year goal question is tough for a candidate. For most people, it’s just about impossible to say where they’re going to be in five years — and even highly qualified candidates might not have thought that far ahead. But if they offer a vague, nondescript answer that sounds plausible, it means they’ve done their homework. Which means they do, in fact, want the job they’re interviewing for.

Most companies have more than one path to the top

You’d be hard pressed to find two individuals who define success in the same way. Where one person might not consider success as anything less than achieving CEO in single-digit years, another might be truly happy remaining in one position at one company for a long time, and continually refining their skills at that particular position.

A candidate’s five-year plan might define their own idea of success, which won’t necessarily match yours as an employer, or even the company as a whole. However, consider the candidate’s stated goals on their own rights, and decide whether there is room for this individual’s brand of success within your organizational culture.

Rely on more than words

If a job candidate’s response to the question of a five-year plan leaves you wondering whether the person is really interested in a career, use other sources to gauge that candidate’s work patterns and ethics. Review their resume and look at time spans for previous positions — do they have a tendency to stay with one company for years, or do they list six different jobs in as many months?

You can also look up candidates’ social media profiles and online presence for a better view of their job concerns and career goals. If possible, bring up the issue with professional references and get their take on things.

Don’t overlook an otherwise qualified candidate due to an insufficient five-year plan. No one is able to accurately predict the future, and you could be missing out on a current opportunity to hire a high-performing and loyal employee. To learn more about how we can help you find top behavioral health talent, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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