One of the common questions hiring managers may ask in a job interview is "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" Employers usually ask this question to gain insight into how well the job you're applying for fits with your overall career goals. In this article, we discuss what employers are looking for when they ask this interview question, learn how to answer this question effectively and explore a few example answers for inspiration.
What are employers looking for in your response?
When employers ask the "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" interview question, they are likely looking for a few pieces of information. These include the following:
Do your expectations match what the employer can provide?
Employers want to find out if your goals align with the position they are offering. For instance, if you are interviewing for an accountant position and eventually see yourself handling more complex accounting tasks, that shows the hiring manager you see yourself growing in this role in a way they can reasonably support you. However, if you are interviewing for a marketing position and you want to become a user-experience designer in five years, the hiring manager may not consider you a good fit for the job.
Employers may also use this question to evaluate whether you will be engaged and satisfied in the position over the next few years. If you are aiming for a more advanced position in five years than the company can accommodate, they may think you are overqualified or would immediately become bored in the job you are interviewing for.
Do you have a sense of drive or ambition?
Knowing or planning for what you'll be doing in five years may be difficult, but employers still look to hire applicants who have a sense of how they want to progress or grow in their career. Employers are particularly interested to determine what your goals are within this role. Although having big goals can certainly be a positive character trait, it may not be suitable to highlight all of them when responding to this question if they are not relevant to the job.
Do you see yourself at the company in five years?
The length of time an employee stays with the same company varies depending on industry and age. Companies often see hiring, onboarding and training new employees as an investment and turnover is costly. Thus, many hiring managers prefer candidates who plan on staying at the company for several years. They usually want to hear that you see yourself in this job at the company for a long period of time.
Are you truly interested in this position?
Finally, employers want to know if your interests align with the role they are offering. For example, this could be a great time to emphasise your plans to become an industry expert by taking online courses or gaining relevant certifications. Understanding your related interests and passions can help employers determine how you might contribute to the company in both the long and short term and it assures them that the position will give you a fulfilling experience.
How to answer "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
In short, answer the "Where do you see yourself in five years?" interview question by discussing how you could grow in the role you're applying for. While this might come naturally to you, answering this interview question can sometimes be difficult. There may be times when you do not see yourself in a position long term and that is acceptable, though it's unnecessary to disclose that to the hiring manager. In this case, envision how the position might help someone grow in this career path and try to apply it to your response.
Either way, it can be helpful to do some prep-work before you answer this interview question. When preparing your response, consider the following steps:
1. Think about how your goals align with the job advertisement
When creating your answer, review the job advertisement carefully. Consider which of the required traits and skills you already have and would like to enhance and also those you would like to gain more experience in. Look at the details of what the job requires and think about what it would mean to improve your expertise or knowledge in these areas over the next five years.
2. Envision the experiences related to this job
Imagine the experiences related to this job that you would like to have on your resume in five years. You can think about what an ideal resume might look like for someone in this position five years from now. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Are there incremental positions you could grow into? For instance, moving from a junior accountant to senior accountant.
- Are there certain soft or technical skills that people in this industry usually hone? A marketing manager may want to gain experience creating infographics or videos.
- Are there any well-known or relevant industry certificates or awards you could pursue? A sales associate may want to win a "salesperson of the year" award.
- Are there specific accomplishments you could map out? For example, becoming an industry expert and winning the opportunity to mentor new team members.
You don't have to include all the points above in your response during the interview. Nevertheless, thinking about what your resume might look like in the future can help you frame your answer.
3. Think about your interests and how they might grow in this position
In any career, there's room to grow and continue learning. You may have a particular area of interest you want to focus on in the position you' are interviewing for and it might reasonably take a few years for you to reach an expert level.
For instance, if you are a cosmetologist, you might be interested in strengthening relationships with clients and learning about the technology that other companies use to do that. As a result, you might try to deepen your understanding of marketing communications and customer relationship management software.
Thoughtfully reflecting on tasks and other relevant subject matters or skills that interest you can help you come up with ideas for where you see yourself in five years.
Example answers to "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" interview question
Here are a few example answers to the "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" interview question:
"In five years, I would like to become an industry expert that other professionals can come to for strategy, ideas and help. I have had great managers and mentors in my previous roles, so I would like to be able to provide the same guidance, potentially taking on a leadership position. Lastly, I would love to have taken the lead on a project I am passionate about. I am driven by connecting my initiatives to the larger goals of the company and I am excited by the possibility of gaining more experience in that."
In this example, the interviewee highlights their desire to take on new responsibilities, lead projects they are passionate about and deepen their industry knowledge in the next five years.
"Some of my future goals in the next five years include leading a team of design professionals in a formal or informal capacity. I am also excited about the possibility of collaborating with the event and product teams on creating streamlined processes—this is a good fit with my background in project management. I would also like to further enhance my skills in user experience to help in creating designs that are more user-focused all around."
In this example, the interviewee highlights their goals of working with other departments, practising leadership and developing skills that will enhance their expertise.
"Through my personal research and computer science degree, I have discovered a passion for testing and finding practical solutions to technical problems. I was therefore interested in this position of test analyst because of its focus on quality assurance and commitment to developing faultless applications and systems. Your internal mentoring and training scheme is something I'm interested in pursuing to strengthen my skills."
In this example, the candidate highlights why the role is of interest, and their reference to strengthening their skills within the role leads to a discussion of their long-term career goals.
"I am interested in research and development within the field of cybersecurity. I admire the company's significant role in building robust security systems to prevent cybercrime. In the next five years, I want to have made my own contributions to the development of cybersecurity solutions. I am therefore excited about the opportunity this role provides for strengthening my expertise."
In this example, the candidate has researched the company's role within its field of expertise, demonstrated how their long-term goals coincide and acknowledged the importance of the work the company does.