Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That’s a pretty common question during job interviews. The challenge is answering it in a way that wins you some points with the HR. You’ll also want to answer it honestly, but diplomatically. That can be tough if you don’t see yourself sticking around that company for five years.
So what do you do when someone pops this question? First, take a deep breath. Then, try to frame your reply using one of the following strategies.
1. Focus on Professional Development
Arguably the easiest way to nail this interview question is by focusing on how you plan to improve your skillset and grow professionally. Doing so demonstrates your commitment to becoming better at what you do without making it appear as if you’d want to leave the proposed role just too quickly. Here’s an example:
‘In the next two or three years, I’d like to strengthen my skills in the area of user experience design and writing. I’d also enjoy taking on projects that will allow me to put those skills to use. I noticed that you offer online employee leadership training as well. That’s something I would consider in the next few years.’
2. Connect the Future to the Present
The interviewer may have asked you about the future, but you can use this interview question to show enthusiasm for the position in front of you today. Explain how the current role aligns with your ultimate career goals. For instance:
‘I’ve been passionate about fashion for years, and I’m very interested in this position. I’d love to spend a year or two just focused on sales and merchandising. I think that’s the perfect way to learn the nuts and bolts of the industry. Eventually, I’d like to pursue a position as a buyer. However, my main focus is working for an organization that values high fashion.’
3. State Your Objectives, Then Ask a Question
Keep in mind that this is still an interview. You aren’t guaranteed the job yet. So, why not simply be honest about your goals as you answer this popular interview question? Then, you can pose a question back to the interviewer. This will give them an opportunity to tell you what your future will look like if you take the job. Here is a quick example of this technique:
‘After I gain some experience in corporate accounting, I would love to move into auditing. I plan to obtain my MBA in the next five years as well, to earn a leadership role. Can you tell me how my career path would look at your firm?’
4. Don’t Say Too Much
If you know the scope of the job is quite narrow, be careful about providing a detailed answer to this question. If you share too much, you may ‘spill out’ some career objectives that don’t fully fit in that position. For some companies, these ‘revelations’ will be a signal that
you are committed to moving up the ladder. Unfortunately in others, they may be seen as an indicator that you are probably going to outgrow the position quickly.
The following is an example of a quality response that might scare off a hiring manager:
‘I see myself managing construction projects for a large civil engineering firm. As my experience grows, I am confident that I will be able to take one highway and road construction initiatives, leading teams of five or more surveyors and engineers.’
These are certainly lofty objectives, but if that five-year plan doesn’t align with anything available at the company you are interviewing at. That’s a problem. Essentially, you’ve told the interviewer that your five-year objectives don’t involve them. Instead, it might be better to state it this way:
‘I’d like to move into a leadership position once my skills are fully developed. I like the idea of taking on more challenging projects in the future as well.’
5. Think About Your Future
You know there’s a good possibility this is one of many common interview questions that is going to come up. So, begin thinking of an answer ahead of time. As you do, consider what you want your resume to look like in five years. Which skills and experience would you like to gain? Then, work those into your answer:
“In 5 years, I’d like to hone my copywriting, editorial, and SEO skills, to move up the ranks to the position of Content Strategist and work with larger accounts at your agency.”
Of course, you should reveal every single goal you have in your answer. You certainly shouldn’t if you think it might work against you. It’s just that employers also ask this question so that they can begin to draw out a bit of a career roadmap for new hires. That’s why the best answer will involve sincere five-year plans that you have, edited to fit the particular position and company.
There’s no need to stress over this job interview question too much! Just keep in mind that the employer wants to know that you have some drive as it relates to your career, how you will fit into their organization, what are your career goals, and your interests. Take some time to come up with an answer that meshes your goals with their needs, and you should be just fine!