70

Location: India Industry: Electronics

I was being interviewed for a multinational company of relevant field. The job location was outside of India (my home country). During discussion with HR he straight away asked me “How many years you will be working with us?” I was really surprised by this question and I answered 5-6 years. And that was all. I was not offered that job.

There is nothing to mention about technical knowledge or experience as they offered me the same type of job in their Indian branch. It means that they were impressed by the technical answers but I missed somewhat with “how many years?”

Everybody changes the job after 5-6 yeas there is not so big deal about that. Can you tell me what would be proper approach for answering such questions?

I don’t want to make fake promises such that I will work life long with them. :)

Edit:

Generally people ask questions about "where do you see yourself after X years?" But that question is to view the ambition and clarity about the carrier growth. They don't ask "will you be with us after X years?"

  • 11
    You've only asked about this one thing in the interview. Have you been told specifically that this was the thing that led them to not offer the job? My guess is that there would have been other points considered way above this one. Indeed, your interview may have been fine; you may just have been up against someone else who was better than you. It happens. I always try to get some feedback from an interviewer. People are usually willing to give feedback if you ask nicely, and it can be really helpful for next time. It can also stop you stressing out over points that weren't really an issue. – Simba Dec 21 '16 at 16:26
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Dec 23 '16 at 3:15
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    The best answer is "Until I retire or get a better offer. Boo-ya." The "boo-ya" isn't strictly necessary, but it often helps. – Omegacron Dec 23 '16 at 17:34
175

I'd say "I expect great things for working with you over the years in terms of career opportunities, exposure to company challenges and promotion to positions where I can be of high value to you. If these things happen as I have every reason to expect, I see no point in arbitrarily ending my relationship with you simply because I have worked for you x number of years"

The difference between my answer and yours is that you thought that the question was exclusively about you and you gave your answer without giving any thought to the company. The company, not unnaturally, gives plenty of thought to the company.

Your answer is defective in that you tossed out an arbitrary number and the company still has no idea as to why you'd stay and why you'd leave. Let's say that they interviewed a slew of candidates who said they'd leave within 5-6 years and in the experience of the company, they actually leave within two years. Well, your stock answer just gave you the same level of credibility as these candidates whether you like it or not. And you just disclosed that you are leaving the company no matter what.

Put yourself in that somebody's shoes before you answer the next time they ask you a question. If you never ask yourself why they'd ask the question and what they are trying to get at when they ask the question, there is a chance that you'll burn yourself answering it. Especially if they were looking for a red flag when they asked you the question.

  • 31
    I agree with this answer. Also, I'd never say the amount of years. I got this question as well in an interview, and responded with: "I'm looking for a long term job where I'm able to learn and work hard for the coming years." Don't commit yourself to a 'number', show motivation and commitment instead. – Luchadora Dec 21 '16 at 7:52
  • This is very well written IMHO and should be the answer. – Mister Positive Dec 21 '16 at 14:15
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    Good approach, though that suggestion is far too wordy for a verbal response. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 21 '16 at 14:59
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    Also, based on the OP's indication that they were offered a similar role at home instead, the real answer is that 5-6 years wasn't enough for the company to feel that covering relocation costs was worthwhile. I do agree it was a stupid question they should never have bothered asking. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 21 '16 at 15:00
  • I must say it comes off a bit arrogant to state that you "have every reason to expect" promotions and "high value". You don't even have the job and you're already expecting a promotion? – DepressedDaniel Mar 18 '17 at 4:04
51

If I were interviewing, I would ask this question simply to see if the candidate was capable of saying, "I don't know" to a question which they don't know the answer to. Having people who are able to say, "I don't know" is valuable to decision makers. It is so common for people to just make stuff up when put on the spot, take guesses and present them as fact, try to appear more knowledgable than they are, etc.

Clearly, it's great to qualify that with something like "I don't know, but I'd hope that things would work out well for us long term".

  • 1
    This seems more like it would ascertain whether they realize in the moment that you are deviating from typical interview questions that have actual answers. – Matthew Read Dec 21 '16 at 19:38
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    good answer only single line that can answer it..."I hope things would work out for long term". – k3y4r Dec 22 '16 at 4:16
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    Having people who are able to say, "I don't know" - very important and interesting point indeed. The question is not as stupid as many comments here imply. – Pavel Dec 22 '16 at 16:49
  • Usually "I don't know" is the last thing your manager wants to hear. They usually expect an educated estimate, if no concrete answer can be determined. – Juha Untinen Apr 3 at 9:42
13

Basically this points to them wanting to know two things:

  • they, like many companies, don't like turnover: how much are you invested in the job, what are the risks that you jump off quickly?

  • as really well said in Vietnhi Phuvan's answer: its also about knowing if you care about the company; alternative questions in the same mould are: what do you know about our company, or, why our company and so forth

As for the answer: don't give precise years - nobody knows; in further interviews, if confronted to the same question, express that you want your collaboration to be long term, all things considered. But that you are mostly interested in the "now", and you don't want to quantify in years precisely because that is not how life goes. Something around that at least.

4

I'd give a literal answer to the question: "I'll stay until either you decide or I decide that we should separate. I'll do my best to make you want me to stay, and I hope you do the same. "

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    Not sure why this got down-votes, as it is the most appropriate response to this kind of absurd hypothetical. – PoloHoleSet Sep 17 '18 at 16:57
3

I would have answered the question just based solely on my own personal career history (giving about the same answer). I would have explained that rationale to the interviewer.

If that answer doesn't tell them the information they are really looking for, they are welcome to ask a follow up question or a clearer question. "Mind reader" is not listed as a skill on my resume, so if they have an expectation that I am going to answer questions they didn't really ask, that's their problem and not mine.

If the interviewer doesn't like my answer, they are welcome to reject me. I go into most interviews assuming I will be rejected, because most (more than 51%) of the time in the past, I have been rejected; and the vast majority of the interviews I have conducted, I have rejected the candidate. When I am rejected I do think about what I could have done better, but I don't get hung up on any one answer or interaction because the truth is, you just have no way of knowing why you were rejected. Even if you ask and are told something, what you are told could be true (or not) but it's probably one reason among many. And there is a lot of randomness and arbitrariness in any interview process.

3

I think I would have answered "there are too many factors outside of my control for me to possibly answer that. However, as long as my work is challenging and rewarding, and the company has a bright future, I don't see any reason why I would look to leave after a set time span."

  • I would drop the "after a set time span" and leave it as "I don't see any reason why I would look to leave". – Stevko Dec 28 '16 at 20:32
  • @Stevko - I don't have a problem with that. I only included it because the question was asking for a specific time span that the potential employee looked to be around. – PoloHoleSet Dec 28 '16 at 21:50
-2

In situations like this, ask yourself, how would Johnny Rico answer? He would say:

I'll take it until I die or they find someone better.

  • No Starship Trooper fans on here then? – amelvin Apr 10 at 16:05

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