Where do you see yourself in 5 years? is one of the most daunting questions job seekers are faced with during interviews. Answering it “correctly” requires solid preparation and digging deeper into your personal career goals, into how you want to see your career develop in near and further future.
Think about what is truly meaningful to you, what you enjoy doing. If you’re not happy at your workplace, if you don’t feel like you’re making a difference, chances are you’ll start looking for another job before you get to celebrate this 5 year anniversary at the company. According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2016 the average employee tenure was only 4.2 years.
You should look at you answer to the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question as an opportunity to assure the interviewers in your commitment to the career and the position you’re applying for. This is particularly important when changing a career, as you don’t want them to think you see this job as temporary, only until something better comes up in the area you’re really interested in.
Why Do Interviewers Aask this Question?
The recruiter saw you as a great prospect and you got invited to an interview. But to be sure you’re the one who should be hired, they also need to know how much this position fits in with your professional plans. This question gives them a fairly clear perspective into your motivation, how ambitious you are, how long in the future do you look, and whether you want to commit the time to this particular company.
Employers want workers who are motivated about their job and will work persistently to provide quality work. Career focus shows them you know what you want, and you want to develop and grow further. If you can express this with your answer, you’ll significantly improve your chances of landing the job.
So how Do You Approach Answering “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years”?
Candidates’ responses to this question help hiring managers figure out the ones who truly want the job, and this job only, from those who see this opportunity simply as a stepping stone to get to higher levels. Craft your answer to speak to what the job offers, demonstrating your long-term commitment, and expressing how your employment will benefit the company and yourself as well.
Here’s what and how you should say:
Keep your answer somewhat general. You may not know exactly where you will end up in five years; or sometimes, the truth can be something you can’t honestly share with the interviewers, – like maybe you want to move up the ladder much faster, maybe you want their job, or maybe you want to start your own business. Mentioning any of these as part of your answer is probably not a good idea. Instead talk about what you’ll do, not who you’ll be in the next 5 years, and keep your answer broad enough to not raise any red flags.
Underline your interest in a long term career at this company. They will have to significantly invest in your hiring and training, in terms of people, time and money. You should at least show desire to stay long enough for that investment to pay off.
You can never know how the company and the situation there will develop in the following years, but you want to show the hiring managers that you’re ready for a long-term role, and that you want to contribute and grow in the company.
Be realistic. Set realistic expectations about what kind of progress you can achieve in your career in a period of five years. It’s not a very long time, so don’t expect too much.
In some industries you can expect to progress to a more senior position, a level or two higher, if you consistently deliver good results. In others, a good example for an answer would include getting to know the ins and outs of the business, mastering important skills related to your work, and simply giving your best every time to provide value and make the team and department as efficient as possible.
Shift focus to your career goals and how they prove helpful for the company to stay successful. Move the conversation to where you feel more comfortable. Talk about your motivation to further advance in this career in the company, and discuss their goals and how your valuable skills and commitment can contribute towards their realization. Support everything with examples from past experience when you’ve helped the company achieve set goals.
Express your enthusiasm, show your drive for the role. According to Jobvite’s 2017 Recruiter Nation Report, enthusiasm is one of the top three factors during the first in-person interview with candidates that positively influence recruiters, right after conversation skills, and knowledge of the industry.
So demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position you’re about to enroll in, show that you’re eager to take this next step on your career path, and express your motivation and focus at this role and this opportunity right now.
Here are few examples of good answers that you can adjust to your particular position and industry:
- “As I’m only a beginner at this position, fresh out of school, I’d like to focus on learning and gaining as much experience as I can at my job. I’m very happy I will be able to work by some of the best in the industry and at one of the leading (banks) in the country. My plan is to start as a (loan officer for small businesses), and then, as I prove myself in the role, possibly move on to a (credit analytic position for mid-size and larger companies for loans with higher amounts). I see this as only the beginning of a long term career working at this institution.”
- “My goal in the next five years is to grow professionally, and become a true expert at my position as (digital media planner), understanding how all works and what can be improved on. I’d like to learn as much as possible about the job, and be the go-to person for all questions about (digital media and marketing) in this company. I want to be seen as a valuable contributor to the success of my department and the whole company. As I gain my experience, I would like to progress up the existing career ladder.”
- “In the next 2 to 3 years, I would like to see myself taking on additional responsibilities and assignments as I grow within the organization, applying my previously acquired skills and experience, and continually growing in my understanding of (business finance). My hope is that in 5 years I will be an important partner and link to all other teams using the skills and knowledge I’ve gained at this role.”
What you don’t want to do:
Don’t take it too seriously. It’s not a question that has a correct answer. Use it to convince the interviewers that you’re worthy of their investment and support, and that you will work hard to prove their trust.
Don’t be all over the place. Hiring mangers won’t like it if you have too many different interests and thoughts about where do you want to be in your career; or if you have absolutely none. The truth is, many good candidates are considering more than one career option at the same time, or are still figuring it out. But you’re not at your priest, and you don’t need to disclose everything. The idea is to leave impression that you’re focused on this job and that you can see yourself doing it in your future.
Don’t be too ambitious. Although hiring managers want to see that you have a desire to progress within the company, you want to be clear that you’re not looking to immediately jump to another department or to a higher position, particularly if it’s theirs. Instead, show them that you want to first grow at the position you’re applying for.
Bottom line, by focusing on your career and personal goals and values, you can prepare an answer that will convince interviewers in your strengths and potential for success. The question’s where do you see yourself in 5 years best answer is to be honest (fake shows), have a goal rather than just general growth in mind, and to turn the conversation towards how you see your contribution is relevant to the progress of the company.