Job interviews can be nerve-racking experiences, particularly if you have been searching for a new job for a long time. And it might come as a surprise when a potential employer asks you how long you plan on working for them.
This is a tricky question to answer. You don't want to sound as if you're planning to hop from one job to the next, but you also don't want to seem as if you're not planning for your future career. Thinking about how you would respond to this question before your interview will ensure that you are prepared with a strategic answer.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
An interviewer may pose the question in one of several ways:
- How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?
- How long do you think you will be in this role?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Don't be caught off guard. Sometimes, candidates will blurt out that they are only looking for a short-term stint as they are looking to move across the country or go back to school. While upfront, those responses are not likely to impress an interviewer, and they can swiftly get you removed from the candidate list.
Hiring and training new employees is an expensive process. By bringing you on, the company is investing a significant amount of time and money into you.
The employer wants to know that their investment will pay off, not that their money will be wasted if you plan to quit in six months.
How to Answer “How Long Do You Plan on Working Here?”
If the interviewer asks, “How long do you expect to be employed with this company?” don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. Before your interview, give this question some thought. If you want the job, don’t say that this is just a short-term gig for you.
That said, there is no need to lie or give the wrong impression if you do not plan to be with the company long-term. Instead of misrepresenting your intentions, focus your response on saying something positive about the employer, your level of engagement, and your enthusiasm for the position.
Let the employer know why working for them is very attractive to you. Note specific aspects of the job that appeal to you and would encourage you to stay on for a long time.
If you know you are going to be relocating to another city in two years and you work, for example, in retail, you should say so (although you might also add that you hope, if you do excellent work for their store, that the retail chain might ultimately find a position for you in the city you are relocating to).
Plans change, but you want to make sure that you are honest about what can be expected of you. On the other hand, if you plan on it being a long-term position, say so.
If you are asked, “How long do you think you will be in this role?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” you can mention that you hope there will be opportunities for career advancement for you within the company.
Examples of the Best Answers
Try out these responses to the question, "How long do you expect to work at our company?" These answers are a safe way to respond to the question. They do not give a specific timeline, but do demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and the company.
I'm excited about the research and innovations your company has delivered in the past few years. I've been looking for a position with a dynamic company engaged in the community and your organization certainly fits that description. I think this role is a great match for my skills and experience and that it would offer me a chance to grow professionally. I expect to be here for as long as I can make contributions.
Why It Works: This answer works because the applicant ties a forward-looking organization’s research and development to the skill set the applicant possesses to let the interviewer know that they plan to remain with the company as long as it is a good fit.
Because my spouse is in the military, we will likely be moving in two years, but I would like to work here steadily until then.
Why It Works: This answer works because you are being honest with the interviewer about your situation, but you are also expressing your desire to work.
I would prefer to stay long-term, if possible. I like the flexible hours you offer, which would work well with my other commitments, such as my studies (or children, family, etc.).
Why it Works: This is a good answer because it reflects the applicant’s good fit with the company culture.
I don't have any immediate plans to move on. I'd like a job where I can have continuity and be part of a team.
Why It Works: This expresses commitment to the company and the team that you’ll be working with. It also shows the interviewer that you plan to stay with the company.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
Focus on the Positive. Say something positive about the company, that you are excited to interview for the position, and that you would be happy working there.
Talk about the aspects of the job that appeal to you and would encourage you to stay.
Mention Company Culture. Mention that the company culture seems to be a good fit for your skill set.
Discuss Recent Developments. Talk about a recent industry or company development and how that fits in with your goals.
Consider References. If you are applying for a retail or service position, be as honest as possible when you answer. You don't want to mislead a potential supervisor, as you may need to use him or her for a reference at some time in the future.
What Not to Say
Don’t Misrepresent Your Intentions. Above all, don’t lie. If you know you will only be at the company for two years, say so. In some industries and occupations, you wouldn't even be expected to stay longer than that. We can’t say anything with certainty because anything can happen. All you can do is be as honest as possible.
Don’t Volunteer Too Much Information. While being honest, make your answer short. There is no need to give a lengthy explanation of your plans for the future. Keep your response focused on the job at hand and what you would contribute to the company if hired.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Where do you see yourself in five years? - Best Answers
- What do you hope to accomplish here? - Best Answers
- What are your career aspirations? - Best Answers
- Be Ready With an Answer: Before your job interview, prepare for the interviewer to ask how long you plan to work for them.
- Know Your Career Goals: Your interviewer may ask you about your long-term career aspirations.
- Be Flexible and Honest: Be honest when answering this interview question while realizing that plans can change and that unexpected things happen.
- Keep it Positive: Focus on the positives about the company and what would encourage you to stay when you frame your answer.