If you’ve had multiple job interviews, you may have noticed they usually follow a similar format.
There are a series of common questions recruiters ask, and one of them is,
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Why do hiring managers ask this? And how important is your answer?
The truth is, your response does matter. Let's take a look at why job seekers get asked this interview question, along with what you should (and shouldn't) say.
When a hiring manager asks, “where do you see yourself in five years?” they aren’t being polite. They aren’t interested in your personal life, and they aren’t looking for a clever comeback.
This is a common job interview question, and your answer could have an impact on the final hiring decision.
What the recruiter wants to know is whether you’d be a good fit for their company. They want to learn about your short-term and long-term career goals.
Employing a new team member will cost the company both money and time. The hiring manager is on the lookout for any red flags that might suggest your heart isn't in it.
When you're preparing for your next job interview, remember to take the time to ask yourself, "where do I see myself in five years?"
Now you know why they might ask this question, so how should you answer it? Your response should be clear, thoughtful, and relevant.
There are five simple rules you can follow to get your answer right:
This is a serious question, and the interviewer wants a response that shows your personal goals are a good fit for the company. Even if the tone of the interview feels relaxed and conversational, leave the jokes for another time.
For example, you shouldn't tell them that your future plans include rising to the top and replacing all current employees with robots.
When an employer asks, “where do you see yourself in five years?” they are referring to your career goals.
While your crystal ball might include traveling the world, getting married, or buying a puppy, these things won’t determine your employability. Instead, focus on your career and education aspirations.
If you really want to shine in the job interview, do your research.
Learn about any opportunities that are available within the company, such as educational programs, internal training, and career or management pathways.
Information may be available on their website or social media profiles.
A willingness to work hard and an interest in growing in the same direction as the company will make you a more attractive candidate.
You can expand on this and share what you’re passionate about in your cover letter.
Having to replace an employee can be costly, and the onboarding process is time-consuming. Your hiring manager wants to know that you aren’t going to walk away tomorrow.
With the current unemployment rate sitting at 6.2%, job seeking is competitive. The recruiter wants to be sure that saying “yes” to you’ll be a good investment, and that you’re committed to the new job.
47% of people don’t pass the first interview because they don’t know enough about the company. You can give yourself the best chance of getting a job by being a genuine candidate.
Answer the question truthfully and carefully.
Match your skillset to the job description. If there are any “desirable” qualities listed that you don’t currently have, include them in your five-year plan.
Let them know you’re in for the long term, not just until a better opportunity comes along.
If you’re not sure how to put your thoughts into words, consider the job you are applying for. Your answer for short-term positions and internships may be different than your answers to companies with opportunities for career progression.
Even if you get stuck, try to avoid saying “I don’t know” and give a general answer instead.
To help you construct the perfect response, we’ve created these examples of right and wrong answers.
In five years, I’d love to have completed your optional company management training. This is a unique opportunity that would help me improve my project management skills.
Why is this right? You may already have the skills the company needs right now, but what about in the future? This answer shows your career plans include upskilling in the areas the company values the most.
It’s okay to share your goals as long as they are beneficial to the company. Remember, when you mention upskilling in areas they consider desirable, it will show you’re an asset worth investing in.
I want your job. I want to be sitting in your seat interviewing candidates. I’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Watch out.
Why is this wrong? A workplace is a team environment, and the recruiter wants to know you’ll be supportive of your colleagues - not looking to replace them. This answer could be serious or humorous, but either way, threats are a big no-no.
If it’s obvious the position won’t be permanent, you can answer this question differently. For example, you might be looking for a job to support you through college.
Here’s an example of a right-and-wrong answer for this scenario:
I'm currently studying to be a nurse. In five years' time, I want to have completed college and have a job in a hospital setting.
Why is this right? This answer shows you are on track, motivated, and prepared to work hard. It’s career-focused and goal-oriented.
In five years, I want to be married with three kids. I want to own a two-story house with an ensuite and swimming pool. Oh, and I also want to own a boat that I sail every Saturday.
Why is this wrong? This answer is too specific and personal. You should always keep it about work.
If you aren’t sure what to say, be general. Even if this isn't your dream job, you can still make a good impression.
Here’s an example of a right-and-wrong answer for those without a clear career path.
I’d love to be working for a company where I can continue to learn and embrace new opportunities. My goal is to become a leader and work with an enthusiastic team of people. I’m looking for a long-term career.
Why is this right? It’s general and career-focused. Because it isn’t too specific, it’s a genuine, honest response.
Hard question. I don’t know. Haven’t thought about it. Can I pass this one?
Why is this wrong? This answer is vague and unsure. It tells the hiring manager that you're not committed or enthusiastic. Answering hesitantly shows you haven’t prepared for the interview.
This is a common question, but they might not always ask it the same way. There are a few variants to look out for, and your answer may need to change for each.
Some of these include:
What are your long-term career goals?
What are your career goals?
What does your future look like?
If we were to hire you, where would you be in five years?
What’s your 10-year plan?
Once you've prepared an answer to “where do you see yourself in five years,” be ready for the next challenge. There may be other questions still to come.
Here are six common interview questions that might come next:
If you got this job, would you plan on staying here long term?
We know your long-term goals; what are your short-term goals?
What is your biggest weakness?
What are you looking for in your next job?
Why do you want to work for us?
Why should we hire you for this position?
Answering interview questions isn’t always easy. Fortunately, most interviews follow a similar format, and you can rehearse the questions and answers at home.
Your answer to where you see yourself in five years will depend on whether it’s a short or long-term position, but there are a few strategies you can follow.
Don’t be funny or too personal. Make sure you stick to your career goals. Align your goals with the company, and be a genuine candidate. Most importantly, show the employer that you’re someone worth investing in.
We wish you all the best in your job search. Don’t forget to bring your resume to your interview.