“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a question about your future plans or goals that you may be asked in an interview. Employers ask these types of questions for many different reasons, but in general, they are looking for insight into how this job fits into your overall career aspirations.
You may or may not have an exact picture of where you want to be in five years. Either way, there are a few guidelines you can follow to help you answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” in a way that communicates your enthusiasm for the job.
What are employers looking for in your answer?
When employers ask about where you want to be in five years, they’re likely looking for a few key pieces of information:
Do your expectations align with what the employer can provide?
Employers want to know that your goals fit with the job they’re offering. For example, if you’re interviewing for an accounting associate role and eventually see yourself in a management position, they may be able to share more information about professional growth at the company. Alternatively, if you’re interviewing for a marketing role and you want to be a UX designer in five years, you might not be considered a good fit for the position
Employers may also use this question to gauge whether you are over or under qualified for the position. If you want to reach a more advanced job title in five years than is available at this company, the employer may determine that you are overqualified. Alternatively, if you seek to be at a lesser level than employers might expect from you in five years, you might seem underqualified.
Do you see yourself at the company in five years?
The length of time people with the same company varies based on age and industry. On average, 48% of employees in Australia have been with their employer for less than two years. Most employers will be seeking candidates who plan on being at the company long-term since turnover is costly. They will listen closely for clues that you could potentially see yourself at the company for several years.
Do you have a sense of ambition or drive?
Employers will also be listening for your sense of ambition during your answer. While it can be difficult to know or even plan for what you will be doing in five years, employers want to hire candidates who have a clear sense of how they want to grow and progress.
What are your interests?
Finally, employers might simply be curious about your interests. This could include nearly anything, from seeking to be an industry expert in a certain topic, taking on leadership and management roles or incorporating some other areas of interest into your role. Understanding your passions and interests can be helpful for employers to see where you might fit in the team both short and long term.
How to answer “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
It can be helpful to do some prep-work before answering this question in an interview. When preparing your answer, consider the following best practices:
1. Think about how your goals fit with the job description.
When crafting your answer, remember to carefully review the job posting. Consider which of the required skills and traits you already have and would like to gain more experience in. It can be helpful to look at the specifics of what the job entails and think about what it would mean to advance your knowledge and expertise in these areas over the next five years.
2. Envision the experiences you’d like to have on your resume in five years.
It can also be a helpful practice to think about what your ideal resume might look like five years from now. Think about the following categories and how they might look in the future:
- Would you like to attain a specific job title?
- Do you want to be able to display certain skills (technical or soft)?
- Will you have received specific awards or certificates?
- What do you want to have achieved in your career?
Remember, you don’t necessarily need to include these specifics in your answer during the interview. However, thinking about what your future resume might look like can help you shape your response.
3. Reflect on your interests and how they might evolve.
In any profession, there is room to grow and continue learning. There might be a particular area of interest you want to focus on in the role you’re interviewing for, and it might reasonably take several years for you to reach expert level. For example, a cosmetologist might be interested in nurturing client relationships and learning about the technology that other businesses use to do that. As a result, they might start learning more about customer relationship management software and marketing communications. Thoughtfully reflecting on tasks, subject matter and industries you have an interest in, can help form ideas about where you see yourself in five years.
Example answers to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
While not being specific can seem harmful in answering other interview questions, it is acceptable (and possibly helpful) to keep your answer to this question more general. Outlining a few key areas that you feel are interesting, achievable and relevant to the role can provide sufficient information for the employer while also making your future seem flexible. Because goals, interests and dreams can change, it is reasonable to present categories instead of specific details. For example, your answer might sound like this:
“In five years, I would love to be an industry expert that others can go to for ideas, help and strategy. I’ve had amazing mentors and managers in my past positions, so I’d like to be able to provide similar guidance, potentially taking on a leadership role. Finally, I’d like to have taken the lead on projects I’m passionate about. I’m motivated by connecting my initiatives to the company’s larger goals, and I’m excited by the prospect of getting more experience doing that."
In this example, the candidate notes her desire to (1) increase her industry knowledge, (2) take on leadership roles, and (3) head-up projects they’re passionate about in the next five years. Here’s another example:
“My future goals for the next few years include leading a design team in some capacity. I’m excited about the prospect of working with the product and events teams on developing streamlined processes—this is a natural fit with my project management background. I’d also like to develop my skills in user experience to aid in creating more user-focused designs all around.”
In this example, the candidate includes (1) creating their own team, (2) more experience working with other departments and (3) developing skills that will strengthen their expertise.
Thinking of your plans for the future and how to communicate them in an interview can seem intimidating. Taking time to consider where you want to be in five years’ time based on the job description, your interests and your goals can help you devise an answer that communicates why you’re the best person for the job.