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How to Answer "Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?" in an Interview

May 12, 2021

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" is a question often asked in interviews. Employers want to know what you hope to do in the future and how the job you're interviewing for aligns with that. This can help them to decide whether they should employ you or not. In this article, we explain how to answer "where do you see yourself in five years?", what employers want to hear and what to avoid in your answer.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Preparing to answer "where do you see yourself in five years?"

A great way to prepare for this question is to write down what you hope to achieve in your career over the next five years. By writing down your goals, the things you hope to achieve will be fresh in your mind and as a result, you will find it much easier to answer this question. Think about the skills, knowledge and qualifications you currently have and how you would like to progress from here.

Also, think about the way in which your current skill set can help the company. It's also a good idea to have a look at the company's goals as you can craft an answer that they will value. For example, if you're interviewing for an environmental analyst role and the company goal is focused on environmental issues, your answer could acknowledge your interest in progressing to a senior environmental management role.

Examples of career objectives

Below are some examples of career objectives that you can mention when answering "where do you see yourself in five years?":

  • Progressing to a higher position such as becoming a Director or Manager.
  • Hoping to become a thought leader within the industry.
  • Wanting to develop key skills such as leadership, communication or problem-solving.
  • Continuing your learning by doing a level 8 or level 9 degree in a particular area.

How to answer "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

Below are some tips for answering the question effectively in a job interview.

1. Don't be too specific

When answering this question, it's important to not be too specific, especially if you do not have a clear idea of where you hope to be in 5 years. Be vague but also be honest about where you would like to work in the future and your other career goals. By not being too specific with your answer, you leave less room for the interviewer to feel you are not a suitable fit for the role.

2. Reiterate that if you get the job, you hope to work there for a long period of time

It's a good idea when answering this question to highlight your enthusiasm for the role and to mention that if you get the job, you hope to work there for a long period of time. Mentioning that you would like to work in this role for a long time is a very good idea for those who have a lot of short-term roles listed on their CVs.

3. Highlight your interest in the position

When answering this question, it's important to come back to the role in which you are interviewing for. You should mention your enthusiasm for the work and responsibilities involved, and draw on your skills such as that you are self-motivated, enjoy working with teams and have excellent communication skills. The point here is to emphasise your excitement for the opportunity.

4. Align your professional objectives with the job description

If you want to give a good answer, you should try to align your professional objectives with the job description, mentioning how you have the required skills and attributes, and how the role would help you enhance your abilities and gain further knowledge. Pay attention to what the role entails and emphasise just how much it will help you to progress in your career.

What hiring managers want to hear in an answer

There are a number of things that hiring managers want to hear when they ask you "where do you see yourself in five years?":

Does the job align with your career objectives?

The interviewer wants to discover how well the job on offer aligns with your personal career objectives. If the role you are interviewing for is a junior journalist and you hope to become a senior journalist in the future, the interviewer will see how they can help you to grow into this position. They may also analyse your answer to see if you are interested in the long term. If you want to reach a higher position that they cannot accommodate, they will likely think that you'll be planning your next career move.

Can you picture yourself working there for five years?

The interview wants to know whether you, as a candidate, can picture yourself working in their company for five years. Realistically, they aren't expecting you to stay for five years. However, hiring and training a new employee is expensive for businesses, so they want to ensure they're getting value out of their investment. If you leave after six months, it's not a good investment for the company.

Are you driven and ambitious?

Not everyone knows where they want to be in their career in five years. Regardless, interviewers still ask this question because they want to take on people who have a clear idea of how they will progress in their careers. They want to know your career ambitions and how exactly they connect to the role that you're interviewing for. Try to mention the goals that are relevant to the role rather than listing off everything you want to achieve within your professional life.

Do you have a genuine interest in the position?

Hiring managers want to know if your own personal interests line up with the role on offer. When answering, you should mention any upskilling or further training you have planned. For example, if you are applying for a marketing company, you could mention that you are doing a course in the coming weeks on SEO marketing.

This will show them that you are always trying to improve at what you do and that you have a genuine interest in the industry. They can also see from this how you will be an asset to their team and having an interest in the role means your experience will be more enjoyable and worthwhile.

Related: Interview Question: 'What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?'

Things to avoid when answering "where do you see yourself in five years?"

It's fairly straightforward to express your career goals in an answer to the question "where do you see yourself in five years?" However, some of your goals may be detrimental to your chances of getting the job. Here are some of the things that you should avoid when answering the question "where do you see yourself in five years?"

You don't plan on staying with the business

As mentioned previously, the hiring process is not just lengthy but also an investment for businesses. Therefore, when they ask this question, they want to hear that you can see yourself staying with the company for the long term. If you mention that you only see this role as a short-term position, they may not take you on as it could result in them having to start the hiring process again in just a few months.

You don't know what you want to do in the future

You should prepare your answer in advance, having a good idea of what you hope to achieve in your professional career. Even if the picture is not crystal clear to you, it doesn't matter, the employer is just trying to gauge how they can help you to reach that next level of your career within their organisation. Therefore, you should align your career objectives with the role and how it will help you progress.

Stray from expressing interest in the role

It's important that you keep your answer on the topic, rather than staying to unrelated career-related goals. Keep your answer focused on the job at hand so that the interviewers believe you to be committed to the role.

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