Where do you see yourself in 5 years time

How to Answer, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” During an Interview?

Mar 28, 2024

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time is one of the most common interview questions that you may be asked.

In short, your answer should be focused on being better. Not taking over but being better at your job and with it advancing your personal career goals. There is way more to it than that and I’m going to go through the most important points so that you’ll really know how to tailor your answer.

However, if there is one takeaway right now it’s this:

Focus on becoming a better version of yourself.

Why Do Employers Ask Where You Will Be in 5 Years?

Simply put, the reason they ask you this question is because they want to know what your career aspirations really are. By you providing a time frame for what you want to happen career-wise over the next five years enables them to assess your suitability for the role you are applying for.

Whilst one of the most common questions you are likely to be asked, it’s also one of the hardest. They want to know how serious you are about your own personal goals and professional growth within the company and how important this role is to you.

If you are still exploring the role and are thinking about your whole life ahead of you. If you don’t want to be pigeon holed into doing something that you are really sure you want to be doing for the next who knows how many years, it’s really important to know how to answer this question.

Giving too much away can backfire on you and obviously you don’t want that to happen.

Do you really want to be in the company in five years’ time? You must know this answer before taking the interview or you are setting yourself up for failure. So, in a nutshell, the reasons are the following:

  • To see if your expectations align with the role you are applying for.
  • To find out if you are really going to be in the company in five years’ time.
  • To check whether you are ambitious and really want to grow.
  • As a check to see if you really want the role that you are applying for.
  • They want to know if it’s worthwhile investing training in someone who may not stick around.

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How to Answer, ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’

What HRs really like to hear is that candidates are looking for something more than a job.

Look at pretty much any hiring video you see. They are so focused on the “extras,” it’s almost as if no one ever works there. From the gourmet coffee machines, days out in the country, free gym membership etc., they want to know more than just about the job.

I’m not saying that you should answer and say that in five years I want to be chilling out with my colleagues on the beach. Really. Don’t. Say. That.

However, the office dynamic must be one that suits you.

Here are some pointers to think about before answering this question:

Show That You Really Want This Job

Do you really want this job or is it a stop gap? Even if it is a stop gap kind of job, you still need to show that you want something out of it that benefits the company.

Employers want skilled workers that can grow within a role. Even a shelf stacker or a barman has skills that many do not. The quicker they can work, the more customers they can serve and saving time is saving money. So whatever job you are applying for, think of it as an opportunity to grow and get better at something.

Keep Things General

For this question you should keep it general. Talk about the skills you hope to get, the experiences you hope to have, your professional and personal goals and the impact you want to make in those five years. You should show your general direction of where you want to get to but not get bogged down in any details.

Be Authentic

No one, especially HRs, like to hear generic answers. They have been and seen it all before. You have to answer in a way that reflects you (without showing too much of yourself). If you don’t believe it, then don’t say it.

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Connect Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

If you say head of the company (when you are applying to be a shelf stacker) you will simply not get the job. You must be realistic about it. What they are looking for here is what new skills you do you want to pick up over the next five years. With those in mind, what kind of position do you think you can achieve with those skills on your CV.

Think of it as crossing a river. You have 5 years to get there but you don’t know how you are going to achieve it. Maybe you can take a boat, maybe you can build a bridge, or maybe there will be a draught and you can just walk across. The destination is the same but the way to get there is different.

There are a few different questions that you can be asked that mean the same thing. Here are some examples of the question, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • Do you have a five-year plan?
  • How do you want your CV to look in 5 years’ time?
  • What skills would you like to have in 5 years’ time?
  • What are your short-term and long-term professional goals?

Pay attention to the variations because it’s easy to be caught out in an interview. That’s why we are here to help. By taking practice interviews and getting expert feedback you will be able to understand what you are doing well and what you need to improve on.

Tips for Answering ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’

Below is a short list of tips for answering the interview question where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time. The goal of this list is to simply get you thinking about what you want to say when you come to answer the question.

Tailor Your Answer to the Job Description

You should already have the skills that are required to get the position that you have applied for. However, there is a further step that you should think about.

You should always be aiming up.

Therefore, if you are applying for a junior position, see what skills you need to get to be able to apply for a more senior position. These are the skills you should be saying that you want to get.

Connect Your Application to Your Career Goals

Whatever position you are applying to, you need to have a career goal. This gives you drive and focus. It may be that you don’t want to be a hiring manager yourself. However, you want to be able to have the skills to do so.

Your own career development goals should always be skills based. Getting better for yourself doesn’t mean being a manager. It might be, but it doesn’t have to be. Therefore, when you focus on what you really want, an improvement of your skills, you will be in a good place.

Be Authentic and Honest

HRs are trained to look out for hogwash. They will know if you are telling the truth or not. And you do too. So, whatever you say, and perhaps whatever you choose not to say, just don’t lie. It won’t work and almost always backfires. (Even if you are an amazing poker player.)

You Don’t Need a Perfect Answer

What I mean here is that you don’t need to have everything thought out yet. If you have a spouse and perhaps planning to start a family, you simply don’t know what the future holds. However, you should have a goal in mind. It’s about getting to the other side of the river. You may not know how you are going to get there yet, but you do plan on getting there.

Setting Realistic Goals

It is important to really answer this question with a dose of realism. If you are applying for a junior position in 5 years’ time you may be at the level to manage a small team and train new hires. You won’t be one of the Cs though.

So that’s what you need to focus on. Not being the big fish but being the best person you can be. It may be your goal to manage the entire company. However, that normally takes at least 15 years to get into such a leadership position.

Answer This Question for Yourself First

It’s important to take time to really think about what you want in life. What is the end of the story of me. Where do I want to end up? What sort of skill set do I need to achieve this? Take some time and brainstorm what you think you want your personal life now to look like. Be realistic about it and you will be able to really get a good understanding of how to answer this question.

Talk About Your Skills and Achievements

Do some research and compare the skills that you need to succeed in the position with the skills that you have. If they line up, then be sure to include them in your answer.

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

Here are some sample answers that you can use to help you formulate your answer in the field that you are applying for:

Example Answer #1

Over the next 5 years, I plan to really improve and hone my skills in project management. I would like to be able to help in collaboration with more complex projects and learn with leaders of their field. I also plan to gain a certification in Agile methodologies to streamline processes and deliver higher quality results.

By increasing my own skill level I hope to increase profits within the company by being able to get more accomplished within a shorter period.

Ultimately, my goal is to have developed my skills to a point where people as well as myself can consider me to be an expert in the field.

Example Answer #2

In the first two years I would like to get my CPA. After this, I am planning on enrolling in auditing coursework and some other study programs. This is in order to become completely proficient with internal auditing procedures. After this time, I would like to get working on my CIA certification.

In my third and fourth year, I would love to start helping people and teaching auditing classes here since I love teaching. This will aid junior auditors thus helping them get their CPA’s.

Example Answer #3

Over the next five years I would like to split up the time here. During the first couple of years, I plan to be open-minded to absorb as much knowledge as I can from my peers, managers, and clients. I am planning on immersing myself completely in this position so I can understand what we do well and what are the areas that can be improved upon. If there are such areas, I would like to bring them up with my peers and managers to see what can be done to streamline the processes.

After this sort of bedding in time, I plan to be a respected member of the team and be recognized as someone who has vast knowledge of the product. I want to be the person that the whole company’s vision can rely upon to really ensure that things get done in the best possible way.

As my knowledge grows, I hope that I will be able to leverage this to increase the client base. I also am looking forward to taking on more responsibility and even leading projects if the opportunity presents itself.

Example Answer #4

Over the next five years, I hope to build a solid foundation in my career as a retail assistant. I would love to grow my skills and knowledge in all aspects of retail such as customer service, inventory management, visual merchandising, and sales techniques.

In the long run, I want to grow and advance my career with the retail industry. Personally, I think this means staying at this level for a few years for a while in order to gain knowledge about every aspect of the business. I’m excited about the possibility of working for a company that really cares about its employees and provides opportunities for professional development.

Example Answer #5

Although no one can really predict the next industry trends, especially after the Corona virus, I definitely see myself creating a strong foundation in my career over the next five years.

In general strokes though, if I were to get this job, I would want to gain all the necessary skills such as x, x, and x, in order to move up in my own career path over time.

Perhaps one day be a senior member of the group with management responsibilities and an understanding of the strategic side of the business. This would be a huge help in my career progress.

Example Answer #6 (Management Level)

In five years, I envision myself holding a senior IT management position within a cutting-edge, progressive company.

This role will allow me to leverage my accumulated expertise in leadership roles and deep understanding of the IT sector to steer the company’s strategic direction and provide key insights for managing IT systems and resources effectively.

My goal is to lead a talented team of IT professionals, overseeing all facets of IT operations to ensure the deployment of reliable and secure technology solutions.

I aim to take charge of formulating, executing, and refining IT policies, procedures, and infrastructures, while also staying at the forefront of technology by researching and adopting innovative technologies.

Beyond managing IT operations, I plan to contribute significantly to the organization’s broader business strategies, playing a crucial leadership role, in driving business growth, enhancing market share, and boosting profitability.

Furthermore, I am committed to ensuring that my involvement extends to initiatives that have a positive impact on the community, aligning with a company’s mission that values making a meaningful difference in the world.

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Things You Should Never Say When Asked ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’

Things to Never Say in an Interview

There are a number of key answers that you should never ever tell in an interview, and we’ll go through them below:

  • In your job. It’s just plain rude to say this to them. Even if that’s where your ambition is.
  • Let me tell you a joke. Interviews are serious and you have to treat them as such. Whilst you can show your humorous side if the chance represents itself, don’t even lose sight of the fact that you really want this job.
  • Being too general. Focus on the skills that you want to get. Don’t say anything wishy washy. It just tells the interviewer that you aren’t properly prepared for the job interview, and don’t really want the job.
  • Saying I don’t know. Saying I don’t know in an interview is a big red flag for the company. They don’t want to hire people without any ambition and drive. Even if you don’t really know, you have to think of something that will help them understand that.
  • Implying that this is the first chance you’ve had. They want to be loved and wanted just as much as everyone else.  Whilst this may sound a little trite, it’s really true. You have to demonstrate that there is a reason why you applied for this job and want to shine there.

In Closing

We’ve gone through a lot of different tactics and ideas as well as some sample answers so that you’ll know how to answer, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If there was one takeaway, I would say that you must know that you need to focus on growth and skills that you want to gain and not anything that is wishy washy.

Good luck with your interview!