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

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published On: 10 Apr 2020

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No one really knows where they will be in 5 years and it’s hard to come up with an idea, especially if you are just starting out in your career. However, this question is not about answering with a specific 5-year plan, the interviewer may just want to understand more about your goals and aspirations. They want to hear what you want from your career, even if it’s not specific. We have some tips on how to begin thinking about this question and help you formulate an answer, ready for your interview.

What does the interviewer want to know?

Overall, the interviewer wants to know if you are going to be in this job long-term. They don’t want to hire someone that is going to be in the role for 2 months and then leave the second something better comes along. They don’t need to know your exact 5-year plan because you might not have one. However, having some idea of career direction and understanding what you might want at this point in time, is important. They want to see your ambition and show that you are generally interested and excited by the job at hand. They are trying to find out where the job fits in to your career plans, ultimately the job at hand is the most important thing to the interviewer.


How to answer the question

Don’t overthink it – It can be useful for some job seekers to have thought about their answer beforehand and maybe even planned what you are going to say. However, planning an over complicated answer will be difficult to remember and may leave you over-thinking during the interview. The whole point in planning questions and answers is to make sure that you have given it some thought before the interview. The interviewer is not looking for a completely staged answer, your preparation is there as a guide and not as a script. You also want your answer to be as honest as possible, they’re not expecting you to have everything planned out, but they want to know that this job is going to be a steppingstone for you and that you are genuinely interested in the role.

Don’t raise red flags – You always want to be as honest as possible during job interviews. However, if you have ambitions of going back into education or changing careers in your future, it’s probably best to keep these goals to yourself. The interviewer is going to be keeping the interest of their company at the top of their priority list. If they think that you aren’t going to be a long-term employee or if they think they can find someone with ambition linking directly to their company, it’s not likely that they will hire you. Make sure that you are explaining why this job is good for you and why you want to do this job well. If your ambitions are different to the role you are interviewing for, are you sure you even want the job?

Stress your interest in the job – It can be important to stress the importance this job will have on your 5-year plan. Do your research on the company and find out what they have to offer you. They want to see where the job fits in to your future, so of course don’t say that you are looking for something that is not relevant. They want to know that you are going to stay in the job and not quit for something better in 3-4 months’ time. Be motivated and share your aspirations but take time to think about how you can not only make yourself look like a driven employee but show that you are genuinely excited about the job that is on offer. They’re trying to find something that is going to set you apart from other candidates.

Example answer

“My goals include finding a position, like the one you have vacant, to be able to show case my skills. I want to be able to find a role that allows me to build on the skills I already have and take on new challenges in time. I want to be able to grow in a company, be able to find what I am looking for and develop as a professional within that business. I am looking for somewhere that I can build a career and they will support me in doing so.”

 OR

“I am someone that is driven to be the best at what I do. I want to find a company that will be happy to allow me to learn and grow as an individual. I strive to start with this position and move on to higher roles as my career develops. I want to take on opportunities and projects that allow me to work with like-minded people and share their success. This company is where I want to start. I’m not sure where this will take me, but I know that this is the right place to start. Hopefully, in 5 years I will see myself in a more senior position, working for a company that allows me to grow within it.”