“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
This is probably one of the trickiest yet common interview questions you’d be posed. Essentially, future employers want to know why you want to join their company, but for two specific reasons:
- How important this role is to you
- How serious you are about growth
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager.
Would you prefer a candidate who takes the job as a stepping stone towards something bigger for his/her career, or one who is still ‘exploring’?
Essentially, potential employers are trying to understand what your career aspirations are. Your future goals are at the heart of this.
Providing a timeframe to understand your long-term goals vis-a-vis the role would provide them with a tangible answer to assess your suitability. While you can dive into the job description to understand the path towards career growth in the company, you may want to be aware of how much you’re divulging.
In other words, you don’t want your response to backfire on you – this may impact the impression you make during the job interview.
Fret not, we’ll prepare you well. Read on for advice on answering this question and sample answers you can adopt and adapt.
Tips for Creating the Best Response for “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
1. Be generic.
Ask yourself: What are your long-term career goals?
Those who have a rough idea of their career goals may find this question easy. However, they often make the mistake of either being too specific or unrealistic.
Your best bet is to keep your response generic. But why?
Being too specific about your career aspirations may raise doubts in your interviewer about your job fit.
Perhaps you want to join another sector, but need more experience in the cross-industry functions that the current role you’re interviewing for would provide. The interviewer may want to know about your dedication to learning since you will eventually join a different industry.
While plenty of organisations are willing to provide the experience to such jobseekers, it is always better to position yourself as the ideal candidate for interviewers.
In this case, leave out the details of your master career plan and be more generic instead, while relating to the role and company.
Example of a generic response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”:
Presently, my career goal is to develop and hone my skills in this field, and down the line, be able to mentor aspiring practitioners. I feel this role will provide me with the necessary challenges to sharpen my craft towards that goal and I hope to start by giving back to a company like yours.
2. Be realistic
You may know the advancements you can expect in the company based on your research and identify a role you eventually want to qualify for.
However, refrain from explicitly mentioning the position name because this may change. Worse, you could appear overly ambitious.
Being realistic with your goals is key here — you do not want to promise with strong conviction, only not to live up to that standard.
Example of a realistic response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”:
I see myself advancing in my career with a firm where I can develop relevant skills over time and explore new opportunities. I want to join your company because of your strong interest in employee growth. Long-term commitment to a company goes both ways, and knowing that your organisation takes career development as seriously as its people makes me want to work even harder to reach my goals with you.
3. Be tactfully honest
What if I don’t know my career aspirations?
You may not know where you see yourself in five years, and there is no harm in that. You are still figuring out what will work for you, so you prefer exploring certain careers before settling on an appropriate one.
However, this may not appeal to the recruiter who is looking for someone who can show commitment to the role and organisation.
This means you need to answer with tact.
You should never lie to your interviewer, but you don’t necessarily have to reveal the uncertainties.
Let’s consider some examples of career aspirations here. You could be an intern interviewing for a role at a bank with no prior experience, or a mid-career professional exploring alternative careers through a traineeship programme or a full-time job where he/she can apply transferable skills. Perhaps, you’re a mid-level professional looking to climb the corporate ladder.
You will not know what the future holds, but giving an idea of where you think you could go is sufficient.
Example of a tactfully honest response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” as an entry-level position hire:
Having a strong interest in this sector, I see myself working alongside experienced colleagues in the team I hope to join, and gradually establishing a specialised career path in one of the main domain areas of the industry.
Example of a tactfully honest response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” as a career switcher:
Coming from a different professional track, I hope to lend my expertise in this sector and establish a more holistic career. Joining your company would give me the first-hand experience I need to understand this industry better and, at the same time, allow me to apply my past experience to the vocation. In doing so, I hope to contribute cross-industry practices that can lead the company towards greater success.
Example of a tactfully honest response to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” as a mid-level professional:
I’ve acquired a good amount of experience in this domain working on the ground, and I believe it’s time for me to step up and contribute more in a managerial role. With your company, and the growth potential available, I hope to eventually lead a talented team as an employee in a senior position and mentor fresh aspirants on a fulfilling career journey, just like my own.
Wrapping up our interview tips, here’s how you can get started. As a career aspiration question, it’s only sensible to begin from your larger career objectives to explain why you want to join the company. From these career goals, map out a top-level plan, one that is achievable and believable.
Refrain from thinking too much about the response – most of the time, potential employers are not looking for the best answer. They just want to understand whether you’re serious enough and whether you’re willing to work on the essential skills required to make that career progress.
In other instances, your communication skills can be put to the test – how well you articulate your plans can say a lot about your competency in delivering information in a concise and impactful manner.
Trust us, we know you’ll drop a fantastic response during the job interview, so long as you believe in yourself.