For many people, answering the interview question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” can be overwhelming. If this is you in a nutshell, worry not. Hiring managers aren’t really that concerned with the specifics of your answer anyway.
What they want to know is a glimpse into your ambition, goals, focus, and drive.
They want to know you’ve at least considered your future and what you’d like to accomplish.
Even if you don’t know exactly where you see yourself in five years, there’s still a right way to answer this question during an interview.
Why ask this?
Asking “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is more about getting insight into your hopes and aspirations. Interviewers are seeking objectives to give an inside look into how you operate and structure your thoughts.
Naturally, a potential employer wants to understand your career goals to assess how their position fits into your grand plan. Companies want trustworthy, detail-oriented, and dedicated team members who are willing to take a leap — not a noncommittal employee who is only sticking around until a better opportunity arises elsewhere.
The question itself can be phrased in a multitude of ways. All of the below examples aim to uncover similar information for hiring managers to review:
- What are your long-term career goals?
- Do you have an ideal job at this stage in your career?
- What are you looking for?
- How do you define success?
- What is most important to you in your career?
- Do you have goals planned for the next five years?
- Where will you be in five years?
Tips: Before the Interview
Life gets tricky and, ultimately, no one person knows completely where they will be in five years. Hiring managers are aware of this. Focus on what your dreams are, where you would like to take your career, and how you plan to do this.
Also, be sure to focus on how you plan to help the company. Show yourself as someone who will add value to the team and help advance the company.
While developing your answer, keep in mind what the interviewer wants to know when they ask you this question: your work-related goals, ambitions, desired training, and so on. What type of positions do you see yourself occupying? What type of training? Are you interested in leadership positions, or would you like to keep your focus on the technical aspects of your work? Provide direct and relatable answers.
If the answer doesn’t come to you at first, think about how you have grown over the last five years.
Consider the natural flow of progression in your career thus far and what aspects sparked joy and curiosity in your daily efforts. These aspects are a great benchmark for navigating the direction forward.
During the interview
Answering “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
When answering this question, be honest and be yourself. Sharing what you think the interviewer ‘wants to hear’ may seem like a good idea, but if it’s out of alignment with your truth, you can get in trouble down the road if you do get hired. Plus, it’s much easier to be yourself than to try to be someone you’re not.
Be specific and keep it work-related.
The interviewer doesn’t need to know that you plan on having two kids and a white picket fence in five years. Keep your answers to-the-point and about your work goals and visions.
An example response:
Let’s say you’re interviewing for an HR position at an organization and are asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” You might answer as follows:
“I’d like to expand my horizons by jumping in feet first and learning as much as I can, as quickly as I can, with the organization. From there, I’d seek out opportunities — at least one to two a year — to expand my knowledge through training and educational opportunities to support my job. I’d love to participate in at least one project geared toward leadership training if the opportunity arises. I also understand that the organization has a strong volunteer team, and I’d like to be an active participant in that team, as well. At some point, I’d also like to be considered for a supervisory or management level role.”
Keep it primarily work-related, show ambition, show that you’ve done your homework, and provide quantifiable goals. The key is to be confident, honest, clear, and succinct, and, of course, to answer the question.
What Not to Say.
Whatever you do, do not respond with, “I don’t know.”
To answer “I don’t know” shows that you haven’t given any thought to your future with the company or life in general. Again, one of the main reasons this question is asked is to find out if you have goals, ambition and a good work ethic and that you’ve considered how you might handle the position should you be hired.
So there you go. While the chances are good that you’ll be asked this question at some point during your career, the ball is in your hands to answer like a touchdown pass from inside the red zone.
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