“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a question that a potential employer may ask you during a job interview. Their goal in asking you this question is usually to find out whether your career plans or ambitions fit well with the role you're applying for.
You may feel uncertain about where exactly you want to be in five years, but you can still come up with a good response.
What does an employer want to know from you?
A job interviewer who asks the question “Where do you see yourself in five years” is trying to learn about your motivations and career goals. In your response, indicate your enthusiasm for the role and that it aligns with your career goals.
Will the employer be able to satisfy your ambitions in the job?
Employers want to make sure that the people they hire are well-suited to the job and enjoy their work. For instance, if you're applying for a position as an administrative assistant at a large company and say that you want to be an Office Manager in five years, your interviewer will likely see you as a good fit for the role. Being promoted to a manager's position is realistic based on the experience you would gather in the role. On the other hand, if you apply for a job as a customer service representative and explain that you want to be a graphic designer within five years, the employer may be reluctant to hire you because they'll question whether you're making a serious commitment to the role.
Your interviewer may also be trying to find out if the role will satisfy you. For example, if you interview for an entry-level position but say you want to be an executive director in five years, they might suspect you're over-qualified or might leave if a better offer comes up.
Do you see a future with the company?
Employers invest considerable time and financial resources to bring new employees on board. As a result, they often want to know whether you see a future with the organization over the long term. This doesn't mean you need to make a firm commitment to work for the company five years from now. However, indicating that you believe you can grow and develop your career with the employer can be an effective way to show them why they should hire you.
Will you show drive and ambition in the role?
Some employers might not need to know what you'd like to be doing in five years. Rather, they might want to know that you are highly driven and ambitious, traits that often make a successful employee or colleague. Therefore, try to include points that illustrate how you aim to develop your professional skills in your answer. For example, talk about your desire to participate in on-the-job training to improve your professional qualifications or work towards additional certifications in your field.
Does the role really interest you?
Of course, not every interview in life will be for your dream job! But even if you don't see yourself taking over the company one day, you can still answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” effectively. Elaborate on the relevant soft skills you want to develop. For example, if you're interviewing for a customer service role, you could say that you hope to strengthen your communication skills. Alternatively, if you're interviewing for an administrative position, you could talk about your interest in developing your organizational and coordinating abilities.
How to answer “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
The best way to answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is to explain how you want to grow in your new role. To have an effective and direct answer ready, you may find it beneficial to plan what you'll say ahead of time. Sometimes, this may come easy to you. If you've landed your dream job as a graduate engineer, you could talk about how you want to build experience in various fields, manage your own projects, and apply for a senior engineering position.
Reviewing the job description for the role can be helpful if you're finding it a little harder to decide what you'll say. Look over the main responsibilities of the role and the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for. Then, try to come up with an answer that relates to them.
Here are some other best practices that may help you during your interview:
Consider what you'd like to have on your resume in five years
Imagine realistically what you hope your resume will include five years from now. Things to consider include:
- Can you grow into a more senior position from this role? For instance, an assistant manager may be able to become a manager.
- Could you develop soft skills or technical skills in the role? If you're interviewing for a health care job, you may want to gain a specific type of clinical experience.
- Could you obtain a professional qualification? For example, an accountant can work towards getting certified as a chartered professional accountant.
- Can you achieve certain goals in your job? For example, you may aim to become a team leader of your sales team or specialize in certain topics as a Journalist.
You don't necessarily need to go through all of these points in your answer. Instead, try picking out one or two areas to talk about that seem most relevant for your role and level of experience.
Think about how the role could help your interests develop
A new profession or job gives you the opportunity to grow as a person and develop your interests. Generally, you'll learn new things as you develop in your role that could change your career goals. A social media manager may start out with an interest in supporting marketing campaigns and engaging with customers. Over the course of their role, they may learn more about specific techniques and programs used to conduct campaigns, which may encourage them to learn more about marketing techniques. As a result, they may decide to move into the field of marketing management.
To apply this example to your own situation, think about the parts of the job that interest you and how your interests may evolve as you learn more. You don't need to map out a precise pathway for the next five years.
Example answers to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Unlike the detailed answers many employers want in response to other interview questions, this is one where you can respond more generally. Try to identify two or three main points about where you want to be five years from now.
Answering in more general terms can also be beneficial because it shows the employer that you respond well to change and are willing to learn. For example, you could say:
"In five years, I'd like to have become an expert in sales. I'd like to be leading a team of sales associates, who can turn to me for advice on our products and customers' needs. I've taken the lead and shown initiative in previous roles, and I think I can use these traits to support the company's growth targets."
Here, the candidate explains that they have a goal of moving up to a more senior position in the company. They also highlight how their skills could help them fulfil the responsibilities of a more senior role and how they want to develop their knowledge about the company's products and customers.
An alternative response could be something like this:
"My goals for the next few years include managing my own project from start to finish and providing supervisory support to the design team. My background as a product designer means I have the technical knowledge and understanding of the various processes involved. But I'm looking forward to learning more about how your company operates at the management level and engages with its clients."
In this answer, the candidate connects their previous experience to the opportunities for growth offered by the role they're interviewing for.
Thinking about your future career development may seem challenging at first. However, by carefully reviewing the job description and thinking about your own interests and skills, you'll find it much easier to craft an effective answer to the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”