Here’s How to Answer the Interview Question “Where do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

Chris Kolmar
by Chris Kolmar
Get The Job, Guides - 1 year ago
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When asked this question, a lot of very specific thoughts might pop into your head and some of those are things that you definitely shouldn’t mention in an interview.

“Well, I see myself running this entire company.”

“I plan on owning my own business in Honolulu!”

“I’ve always dreamt of coaching a college basketball team.”

“In your seat.”

So, what kind of response are interviewers looking for here? Mostly to get a sense of how your career aspirations align with the company and position.

Keep these two questions in mind as you craft a response to the question:

  1. Where can the position realistically take me between now and the next 1,820 days?
  2. How does that picture align with your general career goals?

The goal of every interview answer is to show how you are the solution to the company’s problem. A proper answer would go along the lines of this:

In the past, I’ve had [an experience that’s relevant to the problem at hand]. I want to continue to build on that experience while solving additional challenges as they arise in this position.

I want to demonstrate that I am able to take on additional responsibility and can deliver results. In this particular case, I think I can [solve your problem doing the following].

Follow along as we take a dive into why you’re getting asked this question and more of the theory behind the response.

Why Are Interviewers Asking You About 5 Years In The Future?

This question is very similar to:

“What are your long term career goals?”

“What are you looking for in a career?”

What is most important to you in your career?”

Keep these other questions in mind to aid you in figuring out exactly how you’re going to respond to the “classic question.” But, what specific information are interviewers looking to glean from you when they ask the “classic question”? They want to:

  1. Know all about your career goals — Does the job you’re interviewing for aligning with those career goals? Can this job and company help you achieve those goals?
  2. Check to see how motivated, hardworking, and ambitious you are — Do you have the right characteristics for the job?
  3. And last, but definitely not least, to know if you are you going to stick around? — Is succeeding in this position important to your long-term career strategy, or are you going to jump ship as soon as another job offer comes along?

Employers expend a ton of energy and time interviewing potential candidates, they want to ensure they’re hiring someone with the honest intent of staying with the company for an extended period of time.

This is almost impossible to guarantee, but they are looking for that honest, serious intent.

How To Craft A Proper Response To The 5 Year Question

Here are some things to keep in mind when answering this question.

  • Iterate and reassure the employer that this is the job of your dreams. Show enthusiasm and excitement for the position
  • Make it known that you plan to stay with the company for a good while. This job is crucial to your career. Anything could happen, but let it be known that this is your company, and you want to be with them for a while.
  • Stay focused on just the company you’re applying to. If you have future plans taking place outside of the company, do not disclose or discuss those plans.
  • Keep your answer fairly general. You don’t want to babble on about all of your wild, future plans that you accidentally begin to talk about something that raises a red flag about whether or not you’re a good fit for the job. Keep it simple, sweet, and to the point.
  • Be realistic with your response. Don’t answer with a far-fetched dream. Your answer should be relevant to the job, and something that is actually foreseeable. The interviewer isn’t looking for anything mind blowing.

You don’t need to invent anything crazy here. Keep it realistic and about the company. Show that you’re motivated, excited, and that your aspirations involve the company for a long time.

Here are Some Example Responses to “Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?”

You just successfully answered the infamous “So, tell me about yourself” question in an interview. Your confidence is running high and you know what’s coming next.

The interviewer clears his throat, “Where do you see yourself in five years, Johnny Bravo?”

Little does he know that you’re ready to blow this question out of the water too. You have a few responses prepared.

Customer Service Representative at GrubHub

I’ve had experience dealing with customers and clients over the phone, and in person, during internships, and at several retail positions.

I see customer service representatives as the frontline brand ambassadors for the company — we are most people’s first point of contact with a human for the company. As such, we need to make a great first impression and help people solve their immediate problem – I’m really hungry and my food is late.

Long term, I’d to take what I learn in this role and apply it other parts of the company as I progress in my career. Being an advocate for the customer could help in marketing, product, and other areas of the company that I’d love to contribute to over time.

This kind of response acknowledges what needs to get done in the current position — answer people’s support problems — but shows how you have larger career aspirations to help the company.

Hiring managers realize that most entry level jobs are that — an entry to a career. Think of how you can excel at the current position in a way that sets you up to make larger contributions to the company five years down the line.

Entry Level Business Analyst at IBM

“Firstly, I want to be one of the best at what I do, and I won’t stop until I achieve that.

My first career goal is to find a workplace somewhere where I’ll have daily opportunities to develop my skills as a business analyst. I want the responsibility of taking on interesting IT projects and collaborating with people that can truly help me learn.

I know, based on some research, that several of the most innovative thinkers in the industry work for IBM and that’s one of the huge reason why I would love to build a career here.”

This is a good response because it:

  • Showed desirable characteristics. You’re willing to work hard to achieve success. You’ll do whatever it takes to help the company succeed as well.
  • Mentioned the company directly, and then plainly stated that a long term career there is something you desire.
  • Kept it simple and showed a lot of excitement about working for their company.

Looking back on five years later…

Having interviewed a bunch of people in my time, the most important aspect to these questions is just being prepared. And you’re already ahead of the game by reading this.

Just remember to ramble on — these questions aren’t the heart of the interview, just the introduction. Answer them sufficiently and succinctly and move on to the more fun parts of the interview.

You know, like turning the table and getting to ask the interviewer some questions.

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