The Finance Interview: What is Your 5 Year Plan?


If your idea of a plan is a vague notion that you’ll be eating breakfast tomorrow, interview questions such as, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years” can be stressful. Even if you’re the type of person who plans your career meticulously, you may be wondering what the interviewer is looking for with a question like this. Here’s some insight into how to effectively communicate your long-term career goals and be the candidate who crosses the finish line first.

Why Interviewers Ask This Question
Firstly, keep in mind that the question can appear in a variety of forms. Interviewers may ask, “What is your ideal job at this stage of your career” or “What are your long-term career goals?” They may even ask, “How do you define success?” Regardless, they are likely trying to ascertain the same 4 things:

  • Are you making a purposeful career choice?
  • What are your professional drivers – core values?
  • Are you a fit for the natural working style of the team?
  • If they invest in you, will you stay for the long term?

Stress Long-Term Timeline
Start by communicating that you want to grow with an organization. This lets the interviewer know that you’ll be sticking around if there are opportunities for you to build your skill set and develop your expertise. This is a general statement about your career drivers.

“Overall, I want to land with an organization that invests in its people. I am particularly interested in acquiring additional knowledge about _________________. Ultimately, I’d like to continue to build on my leadership experience (or whatever experience you insert here) so that I can eventually step into a ____________________ role. (Finish with the end goal and be specific if you want – Finance Manager or Director of Finance, or more general – a management role).”

The Next Step
What is it that you hope to learn from this job or organization? Connect your goals to what the role offers and explain why you’re excited about the opportunity. This frames your decision as a purposeful career choice.

“This organization clearly develops its people. I’m particularly excited about ____________ (opportunity to work with a specific person or on an initiative). I really want to develop my knowledge in a, b or c and I know that your company emphasizes lifelong learning. That’s important to me.”

Core Value Connection
Show that you’ve researched the organization and its culture by demonstrating alignment with its core values. Again, this explains why you’re excited about the opportunity and shows the interviewer that you can mesh with the company’s culture.

“I am driven and motivated. I also value giving back. I want to work for an organization where I can learn, but that is also socially responsible. This is where I see my long-term interests flourishing and it’s part of my career goals. The organization’s mandate to ____________________ (mention something socially responsible) and the fact that the team is described as driven and high-performing interests me.”

In Review

  1. General Statement about career drivers
  2. Drill down into what the role offers and how that aligns with your goals – use the job posting as a reference, and remember to research the company on LinkedIn and by using websites such as
  3. Draw connections between the company’s core values and culture and your own preferred working style and beliefs

Keep In Mind
If you’re making a career change or a lateral move (or even a step down) the reason for applying to the role may not be obvious. This makes your answer even more important. Nobody wants to hire someone who is going to exit stage left when the next opportunity comes along.

Pro Tip: If you’re overqualified, or are re-entering the accounting and finance industry after a period of time off, you’ll need to be specific about why this role make senses at this juncture.

Read: “How to Rejoin the Finance or Accounting Industry After a Long Break” for insight into how to successfully re-enter the accounting and finance space after time away.

Key Takeaways
Fundamentally, your interviewer wants to know that you’re making a purposeful career choice. They need to see that there is alignment between your career goals and what the company can offer you. Show that the organization’s core values resonate with you. Explain why you think you can grow with the organization and why it makes sense for you to work there. At the end of the day, your interviewer wants to hire someone who is motivated, proactive and a good investment of time and energy.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.

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