Common interview questions: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Last updated: June 25, 2024
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Kai Dickerson
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Common interview questions: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
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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 hiring managers ask this question, along with what you should (and shouldn’t) say in response.

Why do employers ask this question?

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. Your answer could have an impact on the final hiring decision.

The recruiter wants to know 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 for the long haul.

When you’re preparing for your next job interview, remember to pause and ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in five years?” If you’re prepared, you won’t get caught off guard.

How to answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Now you know why employers ask this question, but how should you answer it? Your response should be clear, thoughtful, and relevant.

There are nine simple rules you can follow to get your answer right.

1. Avoid using humor

This is a serious question, so answer it thoughtfully. 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.

You should always treat the employer like a prospective boss and not a friend. And remember, not everyone has the same sense of humor. What one person finds funny might be offensive to another.

2. Focus on your career aspirations

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. They say nothing about what your future at this company could look like. Instead, focus on your career and education aspirations.

For example, you can talk about your goals for professional growth. Are you interested in a potential leadership role? Or does the company offer training and development opportunities?

Show the employer that you’re motivated and prepared to work hard to be successful. If they know you’re serious about career progression, they may even keep you in mind for a future promotion.

3. Align your goals with those of the company

If you really want to shine in the job interview, do some research on the company.

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. You can also search for recent news or publications to see what they’ve been up to.

A willingness to work hard and an interest in growing in the same direction as the company will make you a more attractive candidate.

In your answer, you can expand on your aligned goals and share what you’re passionate about. You can also do this in your cover letter.

4. Show that you’re an employee worth investing in

Having to replace an employee can be costly, and the onboarding process is time-consuming.

Positions often need to be advertised. And busy managers have to take time out to interview candidates. New team members need training, and learning a company’s policies and procedures can take time.

Despite a low unemployment rate of 3.5% right now, job-seeking can be competitive. The recruiter wants to be sure that saying “yes” to you is a good investment and that you can commit to the new job. They also want to be sure you aren’t going to walk away in a couple of weeks if you find another opportunity.

If you tell them you’re planning to switch industries or move overseas within the next five years, they might think twice about offering you the job.

5. Give a genuine answer

If you don’t know enough about the company, you may not pass the first interview. You can give yourself the best chance of getting a job by showing up as a genuine candidate, a candidate who’s done their research.

Answer the question truthfully and carefully.

Match your skill set to the job description. If there are any “desirable” qualities listed that you don’t currently have, include them in your five-year plan.

For example, let’s say your leadership skills aren’t well-developed yet. If the job listing specifies that leadership skills are an asset, you can mention that you want to improve your leadership skills over the next five years.

Let them know you’re in for the long term, not just until a better opportunity comes along.

6. Show confidence and certainty

Convey confidence and certainty in your answers to the interview questions. Practice delivering your responses to a friend or family member until you feel comfortable and in control.

Without confidence and certainty, you risk giving vague answers filled with hesitations, “ums,” and “ahs.” This type of communication doesn’t exude confidence. And as a result, the hiring manager might not feel confident about hiring you.

If you’re uncertain about the career path you want to take, consider the role you’re applying for. What are some logical career paths this role could lead you on? Be sure to research this information before your interview.

7. Remain grounded

The interviewer wants to see that you have ambition and drive. But they also want to feel confident that they can meet your ambitions.

As a result, you should remain grounded with your answer to the five-year question. For example, if you say that you dream of launching your own business or becoming a digital nomad, the hiring manager might believe you only want this role as a bridge to your next opportunity.

And yes, your goal might be to remain in this role for only a short period. But be open to what the role could mean for you, and show up to your interview excited about those opportunities.

Keep your wildest dreams to yourself, and focus on what the company can realistically offer you.

Being grounded in your answers won’t convey that you lack ambition. Don’t be afraid to share your realistic work goals. For example, if you say you crave a management role in the same industry, this will reassure your hiring manager that you plan to stick around.

8. Consider your future in the organization

Each answer to the five-year question should be tailored to the specific interview opportunity. This means you should have a different answer for each interview you attend.

Do some research on how the organization is structured. This can help you find where you’d best fit in.

The more you understand how the company operates, the more you can come up with a realistic five-year plan that’s grounded yet ambitious for your current skill level and experience.

Let’s say you’re interviewing for an entry-level role. Would it be realistic to say you want to become VP of Operations in five years? Probably not.

However, you could eventually gain enough skills and experience at the company to take on some leadership responsibilities. For example, you could say that in five years, you can see yourself mentoring entry-level staff.

Keep in mind that what’s considered a “senior” will vary depending on the organization and the industry. It’s usually much faster to become a senior in a startup environment than in a more mature organization due to the former’s often faster growth.

9. Consider your body language

Even if you say all the right things, your body language can let you down. These subtle cues can impact the outcome of the job interview.

For example, crossing your arms or slouching can give the impression that you lack confidence. Avoiding eye contact can make you look dishonest, and staring can make the interviewer uncomfortable.

The hiring manager is looking at the whole picture. They won’t have long to make a decision about your suitability and long-term commitment, so your demeanor is an important piece of the puzzle.

You can start working on your body language before your job interview. Think about how you stand, how you speak to people, and what you do with your arms while communicating. Are there any habits you need to break? Could you improve your posture or eye contact?

Sample answers for “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

If you’re not sure how to put your thoughts into words, consider the job you are applying for. Your answers for short-term positions and internships may be different from your answers for 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.

Sample answers for a long-term career

Here are examples of a right and wrong answer to “Where do you see yourself in five years?” that you can use to help you interview for a long-term career.

(RIGHT answer) for a long-term career

“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 will you have the skills they’ll need in the future? This answer shows your career plans include upskilling in the areas the company values the most.

It’s OK to share your goals as long as they are beneficial to the company. Remember, when you mention upskilling in areas they consider desirable, it’ll show you’re an asset worth investing in.

(WRONG answer) for a long-term career

“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. You can display your ambition without making threats.

Sample answers for a medium-term career

What about a job position you see yourself keeping for less than seven years? How should you answer for a medium-term career?

Here are examples to help you during your interview.

(RIGHT answer) for a medium-term career

“I want to continue working in the construction industry. The experience I gain as a laborer will help me secure a position as an electrical apprentice.”

Why is this right? Even though you don’t plan to be a construction laborer forever, you still want to stay in the industry. It takes a wide range of tradespeople to complete a project, and even if you become an electrician, you may still be useful to the hiring manager.

(WRONG answer) for a medium-term career

“I want to work my way up the ladder and become a construction manager. My ultimate goal is to learn everything about you and the industry and then start a competing business.”

Why is this wrong? While it’s good to have professional goals, the end game conflicts with the best interests of the company. It may also feel like a personal threat to someone in a management position.

Sample answers for a short-term (temp) position or internship

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:

(RIGHT answer) for a short-term or entry-level position

“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.

(WRONG answer) for a short-term position or entry-level position

“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. It’s also not grounded or realistic. You should always keep your answers focused on work.

Sample interview answers for general use

If you aren’t sure what to say when asked where you see yourself in five years, give a general response. Even if the position you’re interviewing for isn’t your dream job, you can still make a good impression.

Here are several examples of right and wrong answers for those without a clear career path.

(RIGHT answer) for general use

“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.

(WRONG answer) for general use

“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. It also shows that you’re not invested in the interview process and that you haven’t done your research on the company.

(RIGHT answer) for general use

“I have strong computer skills and am confident using Microsoft Excel. However, I’d like to improve my knowledge of Xero.”

Why is this right? You’re using this as an opportunity to talk about your strengths. For example, you have computer skills, which are essential to most jobs. Plus, you’re willing to learn new things.

This example is best suited to an administrative role that requires data entry.

(WRONG answer) for general use

“What do you mean? I want to be exactly where I am now. I’m perfect just the way I am.”

Why is this wrong? Even though potential employers want you to stay with the company, they also want team members who have career aspirations. If you don’t have any short- or long-term goals, you might come across as unmotivated.

Variations of the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

This is a common question, but hiring managers might not always ask it using this exact phrasing. There are a few variants to look out for, and your answer may need to be changed for each.

Some of these include the following:

  • 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?

Don’t come up with a strict “script” for your answer. Instead, prepare a few “bullet points” in your mind so that you can adapt your answer based on the question.

What follow-up questions might an employer ask after “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Once you’ve prepared an answer to “Where do you see yourself in five years?” be ready for the next challenge. There’ll be more challenging questions next.

Here are six common interview questions you should be ready for. We’ve included sample answers to help you plan your response.

If you got this job, would you plan on staying here long term?

Try this sample answer:

“I’m definitely open to a long-term career with your company. As long as our goals continue to align and there are opportunities for career growth, I’d be happy to continue my employment.”

Why is this good? It’s an honest, thoughtful answer without a lock-in commitment. You’re not making promises, and you want your workplace to be the right fit both now and in the future.

Now that we know your long-term goals, can you describe your short-term goals?

Try this sample answer:

“While I have a long-term vision, there are a few goals I’d like to achieve in the short term. For example, I’d like to take advantage of workplace training to boost my technical skills. I’d also like to gain more experience in the field.”

Why is this good? It shows that you want to excel in the job and are prepared to put in the extra effort to do so.

Remember to customize this answer to the specific job you’re interviewing for.

What is your biggest weakness?

Try this sample answer:

“I don’t have experience in cash handling, but I’m a fast learner.”

Why is this good? Even though you don’t have experience in a desirable area, you’re willing to learn. The key is to find something that’s not a deal breaker — a skill you can improve on easily.

What are you looking for in your next job?

Try this sample answer:

“In my next job role, I’d like to work in a positive team environment. I enjoy collaborating with others to achieve company goals.”

Why is this good? Most companies strive to have a positive culture, and recruiting managers appreciate employees who can work well in a team.

Stuck coming up with ideas? You can think about your current role and look for areas in which you can improve. Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t speak negatively about your current or former boss.

Why do you want to work for us?

Try this sample answer:

“I have read about (Company Name), and I like that it’s an eco-friendly brand. I want to be part of an innovative company and contribute to a greener future.”

Why is this good? This answer shows that you’ve researched the company to find out what makes them unique.

Every brand has its own qualities, so make those your focus. For example, the company may make meaningful contributions to charities or pride themselves on being tech-savvy.

Why should we hire you for this position?

Try this sample answer:

“I have over five years of experience in food service. I enjoy working in this industry and always look forward to new challenges. I’ve researched this company and believe I’d be a good culture fit.”

Why is this good? The ideal candidate will have industry experience. You can also mention your skills and match your answer to the job posting. For example, if the company is looking for excellent communication skills, make sure you share examples of how you’ve demonstrated these during the interview.

The question is, where do YOU see yourself in 5 years?

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. If you need help, you can join the Jobcase community and chat with like-minded workers who have been through similar experiences.

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James Hatchell
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i see myself either in College working part time or in a career,I am working on it.

3y
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MOUSSA ABDELKERIM OUCHAR
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N'Djamena Refinery Co.LTD Po.Box : 6550, Street of Marseille, N'Djamena-Chad

“Honestly, I don't 100% know what the next ten or five years of my career have in store for me, and I can't tell you with complete certainty what I'll look like then. But I do know two things very well: first is that my daily tasks require me to continue to perform (Petrochemical,polymer process) every day of my work. The second is that I will most likely continue to work (oil and energy)

3y
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Laurie Bernhardt
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I'm going to be dead in 5 years thank you very much.

3y
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William Goliday
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I see myself being a successful young man working A good paying and sustainable job !

3y
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Sheryl Armstrong
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5yr.goals, would included the abilities to offer quality in the interactions, with other staff individuals plus the public. Gain skills to uplift the company, evaluate and minimize any errors, or miscommunication issues. Refine education abilities to not just current employment responsibilities also future areas. Most of all to be living after 5 years.

3y
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Andrew Lonewolf
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Dump Truck Driver at Cumberland Valley Contracting

I can only be honest with an employer, Where I see myself in 5 years is being retired.

3y
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Richard Norris
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At 68, and having been self-employed for a while, I am looking for my last employer, one who can use the skills I bring now and who would like for me to mentor a few younger people to better enable them to step up and learn my skill set, so that the company can continue to offer those services after I semi-retire.

I would be available to step in temporarily when needed, say when one of those I mentored went on vacation or when they are still busy on a few projects and the company lands a new project requiring my skills. In other words, I would like to transition from a full-time employee/mentor into the back-up and fill in person when the company needs it.

Or, I would semi-retire and focus more narrowly on an area where the employees developing their skills don't have my level of skill yet and continue to mentor them, as they become stronger.

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John Dilatush
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The response to a question about what is your worst attribute is harder. I have tried to say it’s that I’m a smart ass but that has to be phrased correctly or can backfire big time.

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Deborah Wolfe
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Hr Manager at Textron

What should a 63yo worker say when they plan to retire in 3.5 years?

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Elke Roy
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So answer me this question. In answering these five where do you see yourself in five years or 10. But you are in your 50s, but no way look it, Act or seems slow minded. Actually you're closer to 58 that you feel you have such great value and helping others reach their goals and learning new skills and how to relate to a younger generation of workers. These people being the younger ones don't have quite the same work ethic I've seen in people my age group and older. I feel that all of these places that advertise for employees may take a look at a date of high school graduation birthday of course and simply put you aside. I haven't work outside of the home in the past 10 years I feel like I've kind of aged myself out of the workforce. Is this at all truth? Is it a downfall to a future employer? Can they see the possibilities of that maturity and ethic being put to use and also helping the new employee that is older learn and take that wisdom further. I'm not intimidated by the younger employee. I'm more intimidated at the fact that they may not be" team driven". Have not work in this situation but I've seen it in other businesses that I patronize. For example two people maybe you're getting off and everybody could be getting off at the same time because I'm the last Patron in there and if everyone chipped in and help the person that did come in later finish up a job but everyone could leave at the same time to me that seems that saves the company money and shows each other employee how to support each other and not like I said punch a time clock.

3y
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