Whether you’re job searching or advancing in your career, you’re likely to encounter the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” While it may seem like a simple query, it can be challenging to answer – especially if you don’t have a clear career plan.
To best answer this question, it is vital to understand what hiring managers are looking for.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to answer this question that will impress your interviewer and show them that you have big plans for your future.
According to experts, here are the best ways to answer this common interview question.
Predictive Index Certified Practitioner | Director, People and Engagement & HR Consulting Services, Atrium Staffing
Be thoughtful in your response
Being thoughtful in your response, whether it is a personal or professional goal, will demonstrate your ability to plan for the future.
Your answer will give great insight into how your brain works. Did you answer with a personal or professional goal? Was it aligned with the job you are interviewing for or a general theme about your growth and development as a professional?
Neither is wrong, but if you are sure of your plans and thoughtful in your response, that will point out your ability to think ahead and plan for the future.
State how the organization and the role you are seeking are helpful in your plans
Tying the question back to the organization and role you are interviewing for will be key. What about this new role will bring you closer to reaching that goal?
"I want to continue to grow my HR skill set, and Compensation Planning is an area in which I don't have significant experience. The opportunity to work with the team in this space is extremely exciting for me!"
Ensure that you relate your personal goals to the position
Personal goals are acceptable as well; make sure to relate them to the position and organization. If it’s a personal goal and more general, can you tie the functions or responsibilities of the job to your goal and speak to them?
For example, your goal might be to own a home. You can translate that goal into:
"In the next five years, I plan to save a significant part of my paycheck to put toward a down payment on a home; this job will allow me to save in ways I haven't been able to in the past."
Even though this response isn’t directly tied to this job, it shows you are taking thoughtful steps to achieve your goals and how important this job is to you in achieving that goals. It also provides a sense of security to the employer as they are looking for stability in a candidate.
There is no “right answer,” but your answer will help the interviewer gain critical insight about you.
Overall there is no “right answer” to this question. The goal is to gain insight into how you think and plan and to gain a better understanding of what is most important to you.
Senior HR Business Partner, Zety
Identify your career goals
When an interviewer asks: “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” what they really want to find out is what are your career goals.
It doesn’t matter how the question will be stated, the chances of this topic coming up are very high, so it’s best to have this well-thought-out before the interview.
Bonus points if your personal goals align with the company’s long-term goals.
Use your knowledge of the company
Does your potential employer have learning programs, mentorship programs, or a personal development plan?
Great! Make sure you mention that to show that you have done your homework and found out everything there is to know about the company. That way, you not only showcase your passion and engagement but also your ownership and autodidactic skills.
After all, what can be better than a candidate who is excited about the organization and is an independent learner who can take his development into his own hands?
Don’t take it too far
It’s best to find a balance between coming across as ambitious but not necessarily an over-achiever. While it is great to dream big and exhibit a passion and drive for your work, nobody wants to have an overly competitive co-worker.
Long gone are the times of the corporate rat race. What employers are looking for now are strong collaborators and team workers who realize that their biggest contribution is working together with their teammates and other teams toward the greater good of the company and business.
Related: Building Strong Work Relationships
Here’s an example:
"My goal as Product Manager is to develop my skill set. In five years, I will be proficient in using Jira, Mixpanel, and all other software necessary to perform in my role.
Thanks to the employee training program that I will have completed, I will have a greater understanding of the business and the competencies to help my Team and other Product Managers achieve their goals."
Vice President of Recruiting, Planet Technology
This can be a tricky question. If you are too aggressive with your answer, it can scare the employer off.
If you’re too specific (“I want to be a senior partner”) and those opportunities aren’t a possibility at the time, the interviewer could assume you wouldn’t be happy with the job or would leave pretty soon.
And, if you downplay the query, you can be viewed as lacking goals. The best approach is a well-thought-out response with room for interpretation.
Look at your history and career path
Look at your history and career path and investigate the trajectory of the role you are interviewing for. Be realistic about what you are looking to achieve, and be sure the “plan” is attainable at your future employer.
Mention that you wish to succeed in the opportunity
Preface the response by mentioning you first wish to succeed in the opportunity being presented to you. Then discuss the areas in which you would like to grow.
Be somewhat specific — for instance, technology, skills, leadership, etc., but also be realistic with the timeframe and consider whether the 5-year plan you present is available from your future employer.
Mention that you are open to various paths
When you present the response, be sure to mention that you are open to various paths. Reinforce that your goals may not always be measured in terms of job titles or a position with the organization but rather on contributing to a company’s success and professional happiness.
HR Manager, ResumeLab
Find the balance between too vague and too detailed
Generally speaking, the more precise and detailed your answers, the better. However, in this case, it pays to be a little vague. Thus a more general and subtle response is the way to go.
Instead of explaining, “I want to be a VP of Marketing within four years,” expressing your goals in terms of skills, experiences, and impact is a better option in this case.
Therefore, you could say:
"I would like to expand my knowledge of various marketing channels, especially across SEM and social media advertising. Also, I want to get more involved in campaign planning and strategy."
Emphasize areas of growth
Use the question to highlight what you bring to the table and why you deserve the gig. Thus look to emphasize the competencies you hope to develop and master. In other words, focus on what you will learn and experience.
So, for example, you might say:
"In the next few years, I want to gain more expertise in designing, executing, and monitoring marketing campaigns. I anticipate increasing my knowledge and skills in that arena so that I can contribute more to my team."
Another response might sound like this:
"I've enjoyed being a manager and having a direct report in my current job. I anticipate further improving my leadership and management skills in the upcoming years, becoming a mentor, and positioning myself to lead a larger team."
Thus you’re specific about what you want without going too much into details that might seem arrogant or presumptuous.
Human Resources Analyst, LLC.services
When a recruiter asks you this, they are mainly asking because they want to know if you intend to retain the position if you get it and because they want to see if your long-term goals are in line with the company goals.
Let us say the interviewer wants to see your future goals and motivation. They want to know how you plan to add value to their organization. So, your answer should prove that your career goals align with this position.
Express your excitement for the position
You should express your excitement for the position and show how you intend to learn more and grow in the following years. Show how you plan to help the company and how you are purposeful with what you do.
Do it in a realistic way
When expressing your excitement and enthusiasm, do so in a realistic way. Show that, for now, you are content with the position.
For example, saying you will be the CEO in five years may seem farfetched and unrealistic.
Instead, you can say:
"In five years, I want to have helped the company reach point B from A. I also hope to have completed the internal training program your company offers and, with my hard work and dedication, have secured a promotion to project manager."
Connect your career goals to the job
Connect your career goals to the job and be honest through tactfulness. For example, if you are applying for a short-term job, you need to be tactful with the answer. Explain to the interviewer how you intend to have created value within these years.
You can say:
"In five years, I hope to manage several multi-channel marketing campaigns after becoming an expert in social media management."
HR Specialist, Ling App
Talk about how you fit into the company culture
The person in charge of hiring is genuinely trying to figure out that this position is going to satisfy your career goals so that you’ll remain with the company for a long time. Hiring managers want talented and motivated people.
More importantly, they understand more than anyone how expensive and time-consuming the hiring process is. If you aren’t planning on staying for five years, it’s going to cost the company valuable resources.
How not to answer this question: Never take this type of question lightly
The worst responses include:
- “I don’t know”
- “You tell me”
- “I’ll be sitting where you are now”
- Hmming and hawing
- Saying you’ll be running your own business
How to answer this question: Prepare yourself by honestly crafting your answer beforehand
Research and know the company well and what they have to offer you.
Things to speak about in your reply include:
- Discussing career paths within the company.
- Discussing training and professional development opportunities.
- Sharing project interests you would like to have.
- Talking about how you fit into the company culture.
Here’s a workable example of how to answer where you see yourself in five years:
“As a copywriter [insert your position here], having a position at company XYZ would greatly develop my current skill sets. At the moment, I write excellent and high-converting email content strategies.
Under your esteemed mentorship program, I’d like to see my skills grow in the arenas of social media and video marketing. Eventually, I can see myself as a project lead and benefit XYZ.”
Head of People, PhotoAiD
Include the company in your answer
By asking this question, the recruiter wants to know if you consider their company’s policy beneficial for your self-development. A good practice is to explain what’s important to you in the workplace and how it helps you achieve your goals.
"I see myself working in a place that I identify with and in which I believe in what I'm doing. I would love to work in a friendly environment with people motivated to do their jobs.
I find committed people very inspiring, so it would allow me to be more engaged in my work, be eager to challenge myself, and learn new things constantly."
Remember the job offer
Your answer should be connected to your potential job and duties. Of course, it should be more far-sighted than the job description and must be related to your interests.
For example (applying for a job as a Junior SEO Specialist):
"In five years, I would love to be an expert in the SEO field and make at least a few websites the first results for their keywords in a browser. Right now, I know the basics of website optimization, and I'm incredibly motivated to get more into the topic.
My goal for the next few years is to attend courses that will help me in my self-development and result in achieving much better results in SEO optimization."
Former Executive Recruiter | Founder, CareerSidekick
Employers don’t need to hear that the job you’ve applied for is your exact dream role. They simply want to confirm that the job fits your general interests and long-term direction.
For example, if you’ve applied for a customer support role, they don’t want to hear that your long-term goal is to move away from working with customers because you dislike this.
Give a general description of what type of role you hope to have
In terms of responsibilities, give a general description of what type of role you hope to have in 5 years. Don’t mention a job title; this makes it more difficult to answer.
Talk about what you enjoy doing for work, what type of role you hope to have, and how the job you’re interviewing for fits those long-term goals.
Imagine you’re interviewing for a Marketing Associate position, and they ask where you hope to be in 5 years.
You could say:
"In 5 years, I plan to advance my career in marketing. This could include leading teams, projects, and meetings in this space. I'll likely have an area of specialization, too, since marketing is a broad field.
However, as someone who just graduated with my degree this year, I'm eager first to gain broad experience in the marketing field and try many different areas of work. That's one reason I applied to this role.
By reading the job description, it seems that this role is involved in many areas of the company's marketing activities, which is exciting to me."
Resume Writer | Career Strategist | Founder, Monday I’m In Love
Ensure your response is genuine
Like any other interview question, ensure your response is coming from an authentic place and highlights your professional goals with ties to your work experience, your target role, and the company you’re applying for.
This will allow hiring managers and recruiters to make the connection between your career aspirations and the company’s short and long-term needs. You’ll want to illustrate your potential by demonstrating your commitment to continuous learning, growth, and development.
This doesn’t always mean climbing the corporate ladder — it can be expanding your breadth of knowledge in your field, specializing in a specific area, or acquiring new skills.
Don’t think of career goals specific to achieving a particular title or level. Instead, think about tasks, accountabilities, and projects you want to work on that will keep you happy and engaged professionally.
Share examples like these when asked this question:
- Do you want to lead a team eventually?
- Are you planning to take on larger accounts?
- Are you working toward a Director or VP role in the future?
Be sure to include how your prior experience, expertise, and skills can help get you there! You will, however, want to be mindful of your audience.
For example, if you respond to this question saying your goal is to head up a global team in the next five years, but the company is only based in one city, this could raise red flags with the interviewer and cause them to question your longevity with the company.
But, if the organization has international operations, this response would show your interest and ability to grow with the company.
Managing Partner & Principal Executive Coach, Close Cohen
Why interviewers ask this question: To understand your work style
Interviewers want to assess how the candidate’s motivation and career goals align with the position and organization. The question also helps employers evaluate if the candidate has a growth mindset aligned with the company’s values and culture.
Often employers leverage this question to understand your work style and how you will evolve with the role.
How to prepare for this question
Think through your career path
It’s essential to think through your career path and how this role and company will align with them. Research the position to ensure you understand the career paths for the role and potential projects the new hire will take on.
Additionally, research the company to identify shared values and the organization’s emphasis on training and development opportunities.
Start with your skill-based goals
Communicate what is important to you. For example, you take pride in your work, cherish collaboration with team members, want to expand your international experience, or want to focus on being a motivating leader. Focus on your current skills and how you can continue to develop them.
Connect with the job description
Connect your goals with the responsibilities of the position you’re interviewing for. Bridge what’s important to you with the need the company is looking to fill. Allow the interviewer to understand how your interests, skills, and motivation align with the job you’re applying for.
What to watch out for
Avoid being too generic or too specific
Avoid being too generic or too specific, and don’t imply that the position is intended to be a short stint in your career journey or an escape from your current job.
Be cautious not to ramble
Be cautious not to ramble, and be sure to prepare, so the question does not catch you off guard. You want the interviewer to know you’re thoughtful, strategic, ready to add value immediately, and enthusiastic to make a long-term impact on their organization.
Marketing Director, Softmany
Everyone anticipates that the most fundamental question will be posed toward the end of the interview, asking where they see themselves in five years.
Although it seems straightforward, the response to it will determine whether you will enter that organization. If not done carefully, answering this question can be challenging.
What to say when responding to this question:
Tell them how you wish to “grow”
The interviewer does not want to know about your long-term professional aspirations when they ask you this question.
They are interested in knowing if you can see yourself working for them and, if so, how. They want to know how you intend to succeed in the job they are offering you.
Concentrate on acquiring a skill set
Always remember to emphasize how you wish to gain new talents and step up your professional game, despite the necessity of personalization focused on boosting the interviews.
The focus is on the fact that you should constantly be on the lookout for chances to stretch yourself and pick up new skills.
Mention how you want to climb the corporate ladder
Mention your belief that, in five years, you will be advancing up the professional ladder. In order to grow in your job, emphasize your capability to take on managerial tasks.
"I want to thoroughly investigate and grasp the various components of digital marketing as a marketing expert. In the next five years, I want to hone my current abilities and seize as many possibilities as I can to broaden my perspective on the marketing sector.
I have a particular affinity for social media marketing, and I can see myself running this company's Facebook and LinkedIn marketing campaigns. I'm hoping that this organization will value my willingness to succeed and discover more about my area of expertise."
What not to say
Never imply that this position is merely a stepping stone for you
Always describe your five-year strategy in terms of your expanding function inside the organization you are interviewing for. Making it seem as though you consider this offer a stepping stone to schedule bigger goals will give the impression that you are expecting to secure a better offer in the future.
Never suggest that you envision yourself in a leadership position at a larger company since it will be assumed that you don’t think current work is worthwhile enough to continue for five years.
Don’t claim you’d be the boss
Instead of saying, “I see myself in your place in five years,” respond. Saying that you want to be the boss and hinting that you can outshine the individual who will essentially decide whether or not you join the workforce seems impolite and even offensive.
Example of what not to say:
"In the next five years, I see myself working as a marketing director for a large international corporation, personally handling high-profile clients because I have complete faith in myself. I've got a few companies on my list, and I think that with my background in your company, I can land senior-level positions there."
"I envision myself in your position in five years, managing a sizable staff on global projects."
Author, “Trading Love“
“I have no idea!”
In French, there is a book called Le Hasard et la Nécessité by Jacques Monod, which discusses how life is only the result of pure chance. If that is true, then why do we set goals for ourselves?
I mean, Covid-19 proved to us all that we have no control over our lives, let alone set long-term aspirations. So I guess we should have just sat around and done nothing until our life ended. It was proving to be useless anyway! No?
In 2016, I applied for a job as a private banker in a multinational private bank that was exceptionally unconventional in selecting clients.
During my last interview with the chairman of the bank, which was basically the make-or-break moment of landing the job, he asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I replied honestly and without hesitation, “I have no idea, Sir!”
He hired me.
The truth is no one can know where we are going to be in the next six months, let alone in the next five years, but I learned that the hard way.
It was only after losing my independent job as a financial trader that I had to look for employment basically. I didn’t last being an employee. However, that did not mean I wasn’t responsible for my job at hand.
The secret is that we all live for a purpose, and that purpose is not for ourselves.
What is seen as valuable is constantly changing due to an increase in the fragmentation of the global economy and because, for the first time ever, entire populations experienced the fear of the unemployed and the alarms of climate change.
Tactical flexibility is all we can control because change is never ending, and to sustain oneself for an extended period of time is to remain a linchpin to the world. This means being honest with who you are as a person at the start and not seeking validation from how other people depict you.
This also means that one should remain sensitive to the patrons while always searching and asking questions about what one is truly passionate about. Self-improvement is only accessible by self-investment, and that is a never-ending process.
Sometimes our purpose may come to us after a nasty break-up, a financial downturn, or even a pandemic! It may also come to us at an earlier stage in our life. The key is to be open to it because an internal need is thus created for us to set new goals for ourselves.
However, setting up a pragmatic plan is the silver lining between stagnation and progress in reaching these goals. Easier said than done, but this is the point about living a life that can end at any moment, that exhilarating bumpy ride that we set out for in order to reach our purpose.
Today is a better day to set out to reach our goals than tomorrow, but if we have a prior engagement with fate today, then it is more than ok if we set out to reach that goal tomorrow.
Be easy with yourself and enjoy your life
Be easy with yourself and enjoy your life. The surprises and opportunities are endless. It is only through dignified integrity that we can remain beneficial.
So when asked in an interview about “Where do you see yourself in five years?” you can always answer by saying, “I have no idea!”
Co-Founder & Tech Blogger, TechRT
Mention being in the company
Interviewers often ask this question to have assurance. Hiring and onboarding are time-consuming and resource-taxing, which is why hiring the right individuals that will stay long in the organization is ideal. Mentioning that you see yourself in the company and already have grown skills and experience is a plus.
State career and professional growth
Just as how much the organization wants you to still be in the company after five years, they also want to see you grow. In fact, we ask this question in order to see the candidate’s vision oneself in terms of career growth.
Point out being supportive and trusted
Building merits through achievements alone is not enough. It is also great to hear that the applicant wants to establish bonds and trust with their co-workers whom they can rely on and give and receive support.
"I see myself in five years as someone still working in your company on a higher or senior level by grabbing the knobs of doors of opportunities the company will give me.
In the span of five years, I will have gained more skills and experience through participating in numerous challenging team projects that can push my skills and wisdom to their limit to motivate me to seek a higher plane of qualifications.
I would also want to be seen as someone the organization can trust to deliver results on time and within the declared standards and be relied upon in training new employees and leading a team of great employees."
Your interviewer isn’t looking for you to have a crystal ball and predict your every move for the next five years. This question is often asked during the screening process to eliminate unqualified candidates.
When hiring new employees, businesses look for people who are ambitious, introspective, committed to their work, and have similar values and priorities.
With that said, I will share some tips on how to answer the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question in an interview:
Just be yourself and be honest
Providing an honest response is crucial, as prospective employers can easily spot a pretending one. Refrain from trying to guess what the interviewer wants to hear or fabricate a goal that goes against who you are as a person.
Achieving success requires a blend of high aspirations and realistic goals. To illustrate, if you are applying for a position as a customer service representative at an entry-level, it might not be the best idea to claim five years from now that you will be the company’s CEO.
Related: The Importance of Being Yourself
Fit your response to the requirements of the position
To succeed in this initiative, you must show that your long-term objectives are consistent with the company’s vision, values, and position requirements.
If you’re interviewing for a marketing manager position, discuss how you want to play a leadership role at the company and develop cutting-edge marketing strategies to expand sales.
Specify your skills and accomplishments
You should emphasize the skills and accomplishments that set you apart from other applicants and make you the best possible choice for the job.
To emphasize your skills and accomplishments relevant to the job you’re interviewing for, you should mention any honors you’ve received or credentials you’ve earned that are relevant to the role.
For instance, if you are applying for a position as a sales representative, you might mention scenarios in which you achieved or exceeded your sales quota.
Ricardo Luís Von Groll
Content Manager, Talentify
Be honest and try to outline a realistic plan for your future
At job interviews, there is one rule that is above all the others: be honest. There is no better way to be successful than to be honest during the process. That does not mean there aren’t ways to make your answers more likely to be accepted by the interviewer.
Whether you want to make a career and help the company, try to outline a realistic plan for your future and show that you are interested in a career rather than a job.
A general answer you can give is that you see yourself growing professionally and developing your skills and that you see yourself contributing to the company’s success.
Since your goal is to grow as a professional and also to contribute to the good of everyone by collaborating in the growth of the company, an excellent example of a response is:
"I am sure that as I develop my skills and abilities, my growth will occur naturally, along with the company's growth. I hope that the job and salary plan allows the evolution of all employees, too."
Marketing Manager, Zenzero
Link short-term objectives to long-term aspirations
Five to ten years from now, you plan to enter the field of venture capital full-time. But to get there, you needed to know how the most prosperous businesses functioned behind the scenes.
Here, it’s a good idea to study the departments that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, the possible career pathways, and the professional prospects that the role may lead to.
Keep an eye out for things that could pique your curiosity, and be prepared to discuss *why* they do so. Perhaps you are interviewing for a sales position and would like to gain experience selling to a variety of clients before deciding on a specific industry or niche.
Alternatively, you might be interested in learning more about marketing and how sales and marketing departments work together.
If you don’t know where your career is going, it’s still important to demonstrate in your answer that you understand the role you’re applying for and are enthusiastic about the prospects that the position will afford you.
Founder and CEO, Embroker
Consider items that would benefit both you and your potential employer
In answering the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” it is critical that your response is all-encompassing, meaning the interviewer can see the benefit to you and their business.
The mistake that people often make in relation to this question is that their answer solely serves themselves, in which they state the positions they would like to hold or the opportunities they wish to have down the road.
However, prior to the interview, if you consider items that would benefit both you and your potential employer, such as more certification, networking, outreach roles, or even being a mentor to new hires, this provides incentives for both parties.
In addition, speaking in mutually beneficial terms showcases a desire to be committed to that business long-term. By including goals in your five-year plan that are equally beneficial to the potential employer, you will impress the interviewer and be more likely to get the job.
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