How To Answer "Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?"


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The interview process is intimidating itself. Although the conversation lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour, the interviewer makes an impression about you within only 7 seconds. And, since out of 250 candidates on average only 4 to 6 get shortlisted, it's not surprising that you want to do everything perfectly. "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" is one of the most popular - and the most irritating - interview questions. Interviewers want to know if your professional aspirations match the company demands to avoid bad hires. They are also eager to find someone who fits into the organizational culture well.

On the flip side, candidates often get discouraged by this question, and can give a weak answer just because they are confused or unprepared. To avoid such situation, read our detailed guide on how to answer this question best, with examples.

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Why do recruiters ask about career goals?

When speaking to a hiring manager, you are very likely to hear this interview question. But why are they so curious about your plans?

They wish to evaluate your planning skills.

Are you a strategic thinker, or do you live by one day? Do you prefer predictng risks and have a "plan B" at hand, or are you more comfortable with solving problems as they emerge? Are your professional plans rigid or flexible? For example, a person who creates detailed plans for the next few years and considers risks, will perfectly match the position which require long-term strategic planning. People who adjust their plans depending on the environment and circumstances will make a good fit for a young startup with little stability.

They wish to understand your vision for the future.

Do you know where you're headed in your career and why? All hiring managers know that the fact you have a specific career path in mind already makes a positive impression. Moreover, having a clear career trajectory increases your chance to build a successful career, as you are less likely to get stuck in the position that don't bring you closer to that major goal.

They wish to see if your plans (and your self-evaluation) are realistic.

For example, you'd like to become a chief accountant, but have worked as a junior accounant for 3 years, haven't attended any training and didn't inform the supervisor about your ambitions. Or, you dream of moving to London but haven't figured out the ways to make your dream a reality. Such situations might be the sign you're not ready to make a serious effort.

They wish to check your stress resistance.

Hiring managers know that job-seekers hate answering this question about career goals for the next five years. Quite often, they use it to test how you respond to stress. Will you get anxious, start thinking on the go, flare up because the question is inappropriate, or joke saying something like "I want to be a supermodel". Or maybe, you'll concentrate in a moment and give a detailed, informative answer about your long-term career goals?

They wish to evaluate your culture fit.

Most HR managers will tell you that culture fit matters more than extensive work experience. An interviewer wants to find someone who is really excited about the role and is a good culture fit for the company. Employees who share mission, values, and style of work in the company will stick around longer and display better productivity.

To sum things up, when asking "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" a recruiter expect to understand what drives you, what you expect from the company, and if the company can meet those expectations. For example, you say you'd like to become a chief accountant when applying for a job of a virtual assistant. Such a discrepancy may raise eyebrows unless you connect the dots for them!

How to answer to "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

The truth is, you can never know in advance. You can never know exactly what answers will resonate with this specific company. Yet, in any case, your answer about future plans should somehow be connnected with the possibilities and peculiarities of the company.

If you apply for the role which doesn't assume vertical growth, do not stress the importance of rapid career growth for you personally. And vice versa, if the organization wants a person who will grow and build new competencies, don't say that doing your job well and leaving the office at 5PM is your main priority.

So, what is the key principle when you are about to answer the question about where you see yourself in five years? Tell the truth. It's easy to stumble upon your ideas and thoughts on a job interview and get even more nervous.

4 Strategies for giving an effective response (+Examples)

Think over the answer in advance

Think through your five-year plan in advance. What do you really want? What professional heights would you like to achieve? And what are the intermediate stages on your way to the top? Plan the career path so that it's crystal clear to you.

If your ambition is to become a sales director, your path starts with a sales associate position, and then you will need to gain experience, learn to manage other sales professionals, and get training in sales techniques, strategies and best practices, or maybe even a degree in Business Administration or Communications. If your career interests balance from project management to marketing and sales, consider talking to a career coach.

Also, make sure your resume reflects your career progression in the past as well as goals for the future. If you want to receive a personalized professional opinion about your resume, send it to us for a free review.

Show the right amount of ambitions

In most cases, not showing any ambitions will turn off the interviewer. Tell the hiring manager where exactly you'd like to develop in your work and what to improve. Maybe, there's an area of ​​knowledge in which your knowledge is not sufficient, you'd like to take on more responsibility, manage a department or broaden your expertise. As you answer this interview question, you may ask the recruiter where is the person who held the position before you.

Display your interest in learning

The best candidates always show their desire to learn and grow in a particular field. When discussing your long-term goals, be sure to express willingness to improve your knowledge, gain new experience, study for an advanced degree or take some training. Note the interviewers want to hear about job-related training, not the online courses you take for fun. When a candidate admits the importance of ongoing learning, this will always be a plus.

Explain how your goals align with the company's

Show up for the interview prepared. Look up for information about the company. It is good if the company has an up-to-date website where you can find the purpose and mission of the organization. This is the key information for the applicant, as you understand whether your goals align with the employers. If you want to work for an eco-friendly brand, tell about your personal efforts for saving the planet and how working for a sustainable company aligns with your values.

Pick a few points from the company's mission statement that resonate with your goals and note how you plan to achieve them while working in the company in the coming years.

Examples of good answers

•‌ If you expect vertical growth to a leadership position: "In five years I would like to become a team leader of a software development department. I'm interested in building management and leadership skills, this is why I consider jobs that offer opportunities for career growth"

•‌​ If you want horizontal development: "In three years I see myself in the same marketing position, but with broader knowledge and skills. I would be really excited to take on large-scale, complex projects from Fortune 500 companies. My ultimate goal is to become an expert in my field".

What not to say

As there isn't the right answer to "Where do you see yourself in five years" question, there isn't a totally wrong one. Yet, the hiring manager will be dissatisfied if you:

•‌​ Declare that you don't have any specific plans, say that you live by one day or aren't sure yet;

•‌​ Talk a lot about your personal plans and say nothing about job plans and professional development;

•‌​ Express your desire to start a business. No company would want to invest into a professional who expects to quit soon to start their own business;

•‌​ Share too much detail. Keep your answer concise - interview time is limited, and no recruiter wants to listen to an essay.

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