Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There are very few chances that you can circumvent this question in your interview. This is one of the most celebrated interview questions of all time. Even though this question sounds familiar and easy, we must understand the implications and importance of this question. It is wise to assume that explaining better where you see yourself in 5 years can get you great rewards and higher returns during the interview. In short, a well-crafted answer to this question can establish yourself on a different pedestal altogether in comparison to other candidates who have applied for the same job position. Your preparation for the same has to be rooted in conviction, research, and confidence. There is a multitude of factors that you need to consider before preparing an answer to this question. Before getting into answering this question, there is a crucial component that is to be understood.
Subtle variations of the same question
It may happen quite often that the hiring manager or the employer rephrases this question and seek the same answer from you. The last thing you want to happen during your interview is to go blank and clueless. Subtle varieties of the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question is concisely explored here.
There are two aspects to the situation. On the one hand, the interviewer may be asking you for the same content but through a different question. On the other hand, they may be asking a similar question but not the same. Hence, you must have a good grasp of the situation and presence of mind during the interview to identify the objective of the question and answer accordingly. The best solution here is to invest time and research all such possible variations.
● Will you explain your long-term career goals?
● Where do you hope to locate yourself in 5 years?
● Do you plan to fulfill your long-term career goals if you have one?
● How do you think that this job will contribute to helping achieve your long-term career goals?
All the above-mentioned variations can be answered the same way as you will answer the question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. On the flip side, there are questions that demand a slightly varied response from your end. It is listed as follows.
● How do you aim to accomplish your long-term professional goals?
You must understand what the interviewer is seeking from your side. The focus here is on the how aspect. In most cases, this will be asked as a supplementary question to the main question we are discussing. An answer to this question should ideally include your previous achievements and all relevant skill sets and training you possess. It is better that you see this question as a platform to flex your positives to the hiring manager.
● How do you define success from your perspective?
Unlike the main question we are discussing, this question invariably opens the door for a discussion that is about both your short-term and long-term goals. This question pressurizes you to share with them your long-term goals. Hence, the best way out is to give specific examples which may help you to substantiate your point.
● What are your expectations from this job?
In all probability, the hiring manager is trying to measure your commitment and synchronization with the values and work ethics of the company. You may craft your answer in such a way that focuses less on your long-term career goals and by focusing more on how you can contribute to the growth and dreams of the company.
Why do employers ask this question?
Needless to say, you must do a bit of research to see the intention behind your prospective employer to ask this question. Understanding this will help you to tackle this question in a better fashion.
The interviewer may be interested to understand how your career goals fit into the grand narrative of the company’s goals. No hiring manager wishes to invest their time, energy, and resources further on a candidate who is clearly on a different path altogether as compared to the company’s prospects. Your prospective employer wishes to see if you are motivated enough, proactive enough, and will be committed to the goals of the company. The intentions of the interviewer can be clubbed into two groups.
1. To measure the duration of commitment from your side.
The information the interviewer gets through this question is very valuable from the perspective of the company. For example, it is well possible that the company is not interested in investing more time and resources in conducting the selection process very frequently. It is also possible that the particular job position you have applied for demands a certain year’s commitment. Keeping these factors in mind, the hiring manager is trying to explore if you will stay around with the company for at least the next few years if selected.
2. To measure the level of synchronization between your career goals with what the employer has to offer.
The information that turns out from this question is helpful for both us, a candidate, and the company. In many cases, the candidates may be interested and aim for promotions within the company. The hiring manager can help you with this by telling you if there is a possibility for the same. In other situations, you may want to enter the company in this particular job position but wish to move into other departments in due course of time. Here, the interviewer can share valuable information regarding the prospects of the same.
In other words, both these aspects will help determine the employer if you are the right candidate and the perfect fit for the job position you have applied for. This conversation will also help you to see if this company is the right fit considering your professional and career goals in both the short-term and long term.
It is beyond doubt that background preparation is necessary for such situations where you expect a question in the interview. Given the track record of the question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” it is vital that you invest some time to develop an impactful answer.
The major positive concerning the background preparation is that the answer you provided during the interview will be a well-thought-out one leaving no room for confusion. This also comes with an additional perk of you being able to successfully convey the idea you want to convey to the hiring manager. By ensuring these two things, your job is half done. The following aspects are to be considered while you do the background preparation.
- Clarity of thought regarding your short-term and long-term career goals
This is the top crucial component of your background preparation. There should not be room for confusion regarding what you wish to achieve in the next few years. It is always important that you prepare a wish list for yourself, keeping in mind all things you wish to see in your resume after five years. There may be a multitude of options available for you in the industry. For example, you may wish to gain new skills to involve yourself better in the industry, or you may wish to work on a few specific projects, or you may even be targeting your promotion to managerial positions. Having clarity in this respect regarding the aspirations you have, I will certainly help you to craft a better answer for this classic question. The level of brainstorming you do here will determine the impact of your answer.
- Find associations and links between your professional goals and the job requirements.
This aspect of the background preparation is directly linked with your increased chances of getting through the selection process. In this part, you are trying to find what exactly the hiring manager looks for. You may have a variety of skill sets learned throughout your career or from college. But it is certainly rewarding that you highlight what is essentially needed for the job position you have applied for. An in-depth understanding of the job advertisement released by the company will help you in this regard. You may put some effort into identifying those skills which you think will give you an edge during the interview process. By successfully highlighting the same in your answer, you help yourself to position yourself on a pedestal above other candidates with similar qualifications.
- To ensure that the company can contribute positively to your growth and ambitions.
This aspect of the background operation is the most decisive one. As a candidate with great career hopes, you have to be brutally honest in this. Good background research on if this company can contribute to your growth and ambitions has to be carried out. If the results come negatively, you may reconsider your application and let the hiring manager know it very frankly. In some situations, the hiring manager may be able to provide you with some alternatives within the company, which may turn out to be great opportunities.
Tips to remember / How to prepare the perfect answer?
Many factors are to be given importance while you prepare the perfect answer to this question. Those steps are described in detail below.
- The reasons why you are are grateful for this position (other than professional reasons).
You should find and explore those reasons for which you are grateful. There may be fewer professional reasons which may help you to strike a better balance in your life if you get through this job. It is not necessary in the case of an interview for you to be completely professional while giving reasons and answers.
You can explicitly and confidently mention if you make a better work-life balance through this job position. Alongside, you can mention factors that may make your commutation easier. Regarding the type of work that the company undertakes, it may give an environment which you have never experienced before. Such an environment may increase your productivity and help you to focus on your skills and polish your strengths in due course of time. Here, you may explicitly mention this while you craft an answer to this question. It is also important that you mention the learning opportunities that may come along with this job position if you value it.
By prioritizing your feelings and strengths, you are better preparing yourself to present an answer which will give you an edge over other candidates. Invariably, this will increase the positive impression that the employer has on you.
- Micro plans and daily plans
Understanding your daily duties at the new job is equally important as planning your daily routine. If you hold a grip over the specific actions you will be performing at the office; you can craft your answer in such a way that it leaves a great impact on the potential employer. Additionally, this will help you to understand your career goals from all dimensions. Understanding your preferred positions and comfort zones
- Aspirations and goals based on this job position.
It may not be possible to perfectly imagine how you find yourself after five years. But at the same time, it is possible that you can explore the personal and professional development that you look forward to in five years. You can easily find those aspirations which you wish to inculcate in your life to see yourself as a better person.
Well, thought out professional and non-professional goals will help you to draft a better answer by including the small yet important aspects of the job. There are high chances that this will leave a good impression about you with the hiring manager as you have thought in multiple dimensions.
- Background research on the company, its work ethics, and the interviewer
Background research is essential for you to familiarise yourself with the job position they have opened for the selection process. Making mistakes in the job title, company policies, and other technical details is the last thing you want. In case you wish to talk about the promotional opportunities that you dream of, you must have a good grip over job titles provided by the company.
- What draws you closer to this opportunity?
You must have a clear understanding of those factors which pull you closer to this job position. One common reason for the candidates to be interested in a particular job position is the passion for the sector concerned. It is always advisable that you explicitly mention the same so that you can clear the air of confusion regarding the actual interest you have.
There is nothing wrong with expressing your interest regarding the opportunities for advancement or promotion within the company hierarchy. If presented nicely, this section gives additional revenue for you to flex your qualifications and skills. Additionally, you can talk about the specific responsibilities that the job requires. For example, if they require somebody with in-depth knowledge of particular software and if you are good at it, the best way out is to explicitly say it convincingly.
- Qualities you present
In the worst-case scenario, you may not have a well-carved career goal. In this situation, you may try to channel the discussion in the direction in which you can successfully emphasize the dedication and self-motivation you have. You can find innovative ways to express your self-confidence and how driven you are. You can plan your answer in a progressive framework and at the same time not mention technical details of a progression. Always keep in mind this requires enormous preparation. By mentioning a career path that is not specific, you increase the chances of supplementary questions and a better conversation.
On top of this, you have to ensure that you sound very enthusiastic but very realistic too. Even if you sound passionate, you must give the impression that your thought process is believable. The bottom line is whenever you share your aspirations and long-term career goals with the interviewer, you should always try to find a pathway through which you can achieve the same. And in all situations where supplementary questions pop up, it should bring the best out of you.
Common mistakes to avoid
Avoiding mistakes while answering this question is equally important. In this section of the article, we explore some of those common mistakes that are to be avoided necessarily.
- A humorous answer demands no respect.
Even though there is less chance that some hiring managers entertain humorous answers, most of them do not. Hence, the most rational way to address the situation is to avoid any humorous answers altogether. There is a high risk associated with humorous answers. Humorous answers can land you on a different plane than you do not expect to be. It may sound insincere for many recruiters. Also, there are high chances that it gives an impression that you are avoiding the question altogether.
“I will be the head of this organization in five years.”
- Being brutally honest is not advisable
This interview question does not attempt to evaluate your accuracy in answer. They just want to measure the level of commitment and sincerity you possess. If you try to be honest by explicitly saying that you do not intend to stay around for so long, they may not have a conviction to spend resources in hiring you. This can result in an outright rejection of your job application.
“I do not think that I will be working in the content writing field then or even interested in it. I am planning to go ahead with my master’s degree at University.”
- Too specific cancer may land you in trouble.
There needs to be a balance struck between being too specific and too vague. If you commit a technical mistake while expressing your answer, it will certainly leave a bad mark on your prospects of getting the job. Answering the question is crucial here. The question that the interviewer asks in no way attempts to measure your technical knowledge on the hierarchy ladder of the company. The best way out in this situation is to keep your answers fairly general and always try to connect your skills and the requirements of the job you have applied for.
- Pipedreams invite a bad impression.
Inexact opposite to being too specific in the interview, a very generalistic answer can also land you in trouble. Such an answer is equally good as avoiding the question.
“In 5 years, I will probably be traveling around the world or writing my first book. I am not sure.”
- No space for personal explanations
There are high chances that the interview candidates tend to draft an answer which is highly emotional and personal. The basic assumption here is that the hiring official is not seriously interested in your life stories or your philosophy.
- Avoiding answering the question
Being confused about this question is not a great sign of your interest and sincerity in this job. All hiring managers are aware of the fact that interview candidates expect this question during the interview. Lack of engagement or thought process is least expected from any candidate. Forget about the positive impression you are trying to make; you will not stand a chance considering well thought out answers for the same question by your competitive colleagues.
- You should not overthink while answering.
The last thing you should be doing is to overthink. You do not have to take the pressure to be accurate in your answers, to be highly specific in your thought process, or to present a flawless answer. Because they are looking for your commitment and interests in the job position you have applied for, you should not overthink and make your case bad.
Answering different/ unexpected scenarios
You may have to customize or personalize your answers depending on the situation you are in. Depending on the circumstances, you have to be well prepared to adapt quickly and turn the tables in your favor. The best way to tackle the situation is to foresee such situations and be prepared with the best answers.
● The situation when you do not enjoy information about the company
If it is the case that the company does not provide enough information on the hierarchical promotional pathway for the freshers, the best way possible is to stick to your positives. You can frame your answer in such a way that you express your commitment to developing a particular skill set that is mutually beneficial for both you and the company. How you make use of the learning opportunities, and the collaborative opportunities that the company provides can be a great positive in this regard. It is also advisable that you mention other ways of achieving the skills you have talked about. This can include certificate courses and professional training during your free time. But it is risky in a way that it should not give an impression to the hiring manager that you are interested in doing other stuff than the job.
● The situation when you are using this opportunity just as a stepping stone
In this situation where you envisage the company’s opportunity as temporary, you can express your ideas about your future not necessarily linked to the company as such. You can also attempt to link these two aspects subtly yet powerfully.
There are risk elements in this regard also. Your answer should not give the impression that your genuine interest lies somewhere else. Rather, a well-crafted answer in this situation explains how this particular job position essentially facilitates achieving your larger long-term goal. Alongside, you mustn’t give a clue regarding your decision that you may quit before five years.
● The situation when you are switching your career
Switching your career is a tough decision. When you are giving your job interview during this time, there are both positives and negatives. Going with the negative first, you may not have clarity regarding where you position yourself in 5 years. This will make it difficult for you to present a convincing and believable answer to the hiring manager. On the flip side, keeping your brutal honesty in the backseat, you can explicitly say that you wish to situate yourself in the job position you have applied for.
This is highly advantageous because the hiring manager will be preparing a candidate who has made up their mind to work with the same company for the long term. After mentioning the long-term career goals which forced you to switch careers, you can convincingly explain why you prefer the job you have applied for.
● The situation when you don’t see yourself in the same company
If it is the case that you have made up your mind that you will not be working with the same company in 5 years, it is a negative to tell them in person. This situation does not leave you with many options. You have to present yourself as someone who is driven and motivated. There should not be a double thought when you say that you are interested in this job and he is dedicated to equipping the company to achieve their goals too because these impressions you give them about yourself indicate that you may collaborate with the organization for quite some time without necessitating a lie.
● The situation when this job is just temporary stoppage
If this is a situation you are facing, the best way out is to talk more about those aspects which are not directly related to the company. You can place yourself in a generalistic platform where you talk in-depth about soft skills and other technical skills and prioritize them over your specific career at this company.
Sample answers to this question are listed below. You may customize this according to your situation and reframe it.
“I am very excited about this opportunity at (insert company name here) in (insert field here, for example, accounting). In five years, I hope to be identified as an expert in accounting. I am confident that this job I have applied for will give me ample opportunities to achieve my goal. Since I have completed my graduation in commerce, I am overwhelmed to take this entry-level accounting job with confidence. I am sure that if I am successful at achieving the goals set for me by the company, it will give me enough opportunities to be a forerunner in accounting. My major driving force for my hopes and goals for the next five years depends on the extracurricular and academic activities that gave me good experience in the field. In 5 years, I wish to set realistic goals for both the company I am working for and me. Above all, I will strive to put all my efforts into what the company expects from me.”
“During my internships in my college career, I have set a few goals for me to achieve. The confidence that came along with the successful accomplishment of those realistic goals resulted in making me sit in front of you today. I wish to continue challenging myself and set more realistic goals for me in the next five years. Coming more out of my comfort zone, I asked to take up more responsibilities bestowed upon me by the company and test myself in the next five years. My solitary aim for the next five years is to find a path to achieve my goals in such a way that it is mutually progressive for both the organization I am working for and me. In short, I look forward to a fruitful five years to test myself with the skills and expertise.”
“Collaborating with a successful (insert company name here) organization through career linkage like this, I see myself coming out as a better individual in both personal and professional levels in the next five years. I wish to see a more productive and rewarding five years. I believe and hope to inculcate the values provided by this organization into my work ethic. I wish to see the next five years as a guide to me which constantly helps me to achieve my target given the wonderful work environment I aspire to be at this company. Being realistic, I hope to be an expert in the advertising field in the next five years.”
“Discussing in-depth about my professional goals and wishes for the next few years, I wish to place it on a pedestal which corrects those professional mistakes I have made in my past like not making enough use of my networking opportunities. Professionally speaking, I hope to be having all relevant skill sets which aid the success of both the company I am working for and me. Even though I decide to be on a realistic side, I wish to set some bigger challenging targets for me so that I can constantly work to bring the best out of myself. In all circumstances, one target will be to adhere me to all small and large targets given to me by the company.”
“When I was asked this question as a freshman in college, I didn’t have decisive answers. Correcting my mistakes from the past, I have put some effort into identifying small and large goals for me in the next five years. The primary objective which I look forward to catching is job satisfaction. To achieve the same, I have decided to choose a career where my passion lies. I am confident that this organization will provide me with enough opportunities and learning collaborations to achieve my goal. I look forward to relating myself completely to the work ethics that this company celebrates. In short, I hope to be a completely satisfied content writer in the next five years in this organization.”
“I have always put effort into setting priorities in my professional life. The top priority I have now is to achieve those goals which I have set for myself in the next five years. I wish to have a constant and consistently positive attitude in my work with a real interest in learning new things. I wish to attain the status and recognition of an expert in the field within the framework and opportunities provided to me by this company. I look forward to collaboration within the company so that I can realize my full potential in producing the best out of me. I genuinely hope that the next five years in my career will be beneficial for both the company I am working for and me.”
“I understand the importance of my next five years as a fresher. My solitary aim is to collaborate with my full potential with this company in whatever capacities I can. I am sure that I will be able to sharpen my technical skills in this work environment which prioritizes learning new things. I hope to solidify the give and take relationship with this company so that I can return my expertise to achieve the goals of the company. Last but not least, I plan to put efforts in accomplishing expertise in new skills that may bring recognition to my career in future.”
“I wish to spend my resources in the next five years to correct those mistakes I have made in the past, professionally. My top priority in this regard is to pull off calculated decisions in my professional life. I seek to earn reliability and recognition in the field primarily through achieving the goals within the environment of this company. I believe that recognition brings along responsibilities. This will, in turn, help me to grow exponentially concerning my experience and skillsets. I wish to add a positive attitude and enthusiasm along with this and achieve maximum professional success in five years. Most importantly, I do not dream of a career group keeping the organization of the company distinct from me.”
“I aspire genuinely to feed my curiosity and quest to learn more. I do not intend to stop the learning process even while I am working. I firmly believe that all actions are completed positively, and the target achieved is part of a learning process. I have decided to invest more time in this mutually beneficial learning process which will bring the best out of me and at the same time help the organization achieve its short-term and long-term goals successfully. I hope to contribute decisively to the company’s performance with the knowledge and learnings I undertake. In five years, I wish to find my motivation in this learning process, and I hope that the company will give me enough opportunities to fulfill my dreams in terms of more realistic responsibilities.”
“In the years following, I wish to continue to thrive on the enthusiasm I have for this company and the job position. Without any doubt, in this job, my real passion lies. I am proud to say that being part of your company and enjoying the work environment here was part of my dream. With the confidence that I am fulfilling the dream, I wish to set higher targets and responsibilities for me in the future. This will be my top priority for the next five years. I hope to concentrate more on the give and take relationship with the company, where I can contribute positively with my experience and benefit from the newer and innovative responsibilities given to me by the company. Being trained in human resources, I believe that I can contribute to the training process of the recruits as well by the end of five years. Invariably, I wish to transform myself into a valuable asset for this company in five years.“
In this section, the main points that are to be kept in mind while you answer this question will be summarised.
- It is of utmost importance that you follow the structure of your answer which you have planned. Any accidental deviation from the flow of thought you have processed will result in confusion and imperfect presentation. You may mention those factors which interested you in this job along with the short term and long term career goals and the relationship between the two.
- It is crucial that you explicitly mention your commitment to the goals of the company. If you present the same with high motivation, a positive attitude, and enthusiasm, your job is half done.
- Always follow the basic rule of any interview. You must do great background research to avoid any technical mistakes during the interview.
- You have to understand the intention of the question. It does not aim to measure your accuracy in prediction. When they are invested in finding how confident you are in the career path you have chosen, your answer should revolve around the same. Confidence in answering can land you high rewards.