When you’re interviewing for a job, you may be asked the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” What an intimidating question!
As you are sitting in an interview, your focus will be on getting the job that you applied for. The last thing on your mind is probably where you see yourself in the future or what your five year plan is.
However, being asked about your future is common in job interviews. It allows a hiring manager to gain a deeper insight into how the job that you applied for fits in with your long-term career goals.
To help you answer this question, we’re going to discuss what employers are looking for in your answer, and provide tips you can use to answer this question. We’ll also walk through a few example answers so you can prepare for this common interview question.
Why Do Employers Ask About Your Future?
There are a number of reasons why employers ask about your future in an interview.
First, employers ask about your future because it will help them better evaluate if they can provide you with what you are looking for in a job. When an employer hires someone, they don’t want that person to be short term: they want the employee to be there for a long time.
As a result, an employer will want to make sure they are interviewing people whose long-term goals meet the needs of an employer. Suppose you are applying for an entry level marketing role within the company but you aspire to be a web developer. Then that role may not be for you because you are more likely to leave when an opportunity related to web development comes your way.
Second, this question allows an employer to evaluate whether you have any ambition, and the extent to which you are ambitious. Employers like to hire people who are ambitious because they are more willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of a goal. While it’s difficult to know exactly what you are doing in the future, having any idea of how you want to advance in your career is a clear sign that you are ambitious and forward-thinking.
While questions about your future can be difficult to answer—nobody knows exactly where they will be in a few years time—they do provide a lot of value to employers. So, it’s important that you prepare for the eventuality that this question comes up in your interview.
How to Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
The best way to come up with an effective answer to this question is to prepare for it in advance—don’t try to come up with an answer on the spot! Here are a few tips you can use to figure out where you want to be five years from now.
Tip #1: Consider your career path
To effectively answer this question, you should spend some time thinking about what career path you want to pursue that is relevant to the position for which you are applying.
Suppose you want to become the head of sales at a company within five years. If this is the case, then you’ll want to think about how you can get there. What steps do you need to achieve your goals?
Once you know how you can reach your goal, you should ensure that you have a clear motivation for setting that goal. Do you want to become a head of sales because you enjoy management? Or are you just really passionate about sales and want to take on new responsibilities as you progress through your career?
The more time you spend researching a career path, the easier you will find it to come up with an effective response to questions about your long-term ambitions.
Some jobs may not have a clear path of progression. For instance, many jobs such as being an executive assistant or an accounts payable representative may not have a clear career path.
In this case, you should focus on the skills that you can develop in a particular job, and tell a company how, over the long-term, you would be interested in exploring how the skills you have acquired could qualify you for another job within the organization.
Tip #2: Read the job description
Before you go into your interview, remember to read over the job description. When you’re reading this document, make a note of any skills that are listed on the job description that you feel are important to you.
By knowing what the day-to-day responsibilities and expectations are for a job, you’ll find it easier to understand how the job can and will prepare you for your professional development. Does the job description list creative thinking as a key skill? If you aspire to be more creative, then this is something that you could mention in your interview.
Tip #3: Think about what interests you
One way in which you can focus your attention on where you may be in the future is to consider your current interests and where you think they will evolve in the future.
Suppose you are a junior back-end web developer. If you find full-stack web development interesting, you may want to mention that you are interested in how the job for which you have applied will help you learn the skills you need to become a full-stack web developer.
Or if you are a senior UX designer, you may talk about how you think a job could be a good springboard to a leadership position within a company’s design team over the long-term.
Tip #4: Don’t worry about having a complete answer
Employers are not looking for you to clearly explain exactly where you want to be in five years. On the contrary, they are looking for you to briefly discuss your long-term ambitions and where you think you could be.
You don’t need to worry about outlining specifics in your answer to this question. Instead, mention what interests you right now and discuss how those interests could develop in the future by gaining experience. Make sure that you anchor your answer to the job description and the company at which you want to work.
Example Answers to “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
As we discussed earlier, your answer to this question can be somewhat vague. In fact, you may find it helpful to be vague. This is to ensure that you don’t spend too much time thinking about a specific career path in depth before you are ready to do so.
Over time, your interests will change, and it is likely that where you want to be in five years will change, too. With that said, if you can give any indication into your future ambitions, an employer will evaluate your response to this question.
Here is a sample answer to this question:
“In five years, I would like to become an engineering lead or team manager. As a full-stack web developer with your business, I know I would be able to take on a number of wide-ranging responsibilities related to the company’s web efforts. This would help me refine my knowledge of all areas of the company’s stack, which could then be applied in a managerial role further down the line.”
This response is clear, concise, and simple. In their response, the candidate has mentioned how they want to increase their subject matter knowledge, and also take on a managerial or leadership role over the long term.
If you are unsure of what your career path could look like, then you can give an even more vague answer that is focused more on skills development. Here’s an example answer that a candidate may use:
“Within five years, I would like to have worked with five senior cohorts of history student classes at this school. I would like to help guide each student in those classes to succeed in their exams. I would also like to have developed my own learning resources that I can use in my classroom, and perhaps get more involved with the school’s broader history curriculum for juniors in the school.”
In this response, the candidate is clear that they want to continue teaching different history classes over the span of five years, and that they want to guide each student to success. The candidate also mentions their aspirations to get more involved with curriculum development for juniors later on in their career.
Knowing where you want to be in five years is difficult, but considering your future career plans is an essential part of being prepared for a job interview.
Taking some time to reflect on where you are right now and where you want to be in the future will help you more effectively answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
In addition, the time you spend reflecting will help you become more self-aware. You will develop a keener insight into how the position for which you applied will help you get to where you want to be in the future.
If you reflect on your interests, read the job description, and consider your career path, you should have no trouble coming up with an answer to this question that clearly conveys why you are a good fit for the job.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.