“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 typically ask this type of question to gather insight into how well this job fits with 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 where you see yourself in five years in a way that communicates your enthusiasm for the job and impresses your interviewer.
Related: How to Set and Achieve Goals
What are employers looking for in your answer?
When employers ask, “Where do you see yourself 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 leading more complex accounting projects, that shows the interviewer you see yourself growing in this position in a way they can reasonably support you. Alternatively, if you’re interviewing for a marketing role and you want to be a UX designer in five years, you most likely won’t be considered a good fit for the job.
Employers may also use this question to assess whether you’ll be satisfied and engaged in the role over the next few years. If you want to reach a more advanced job title in five years than the employer can accommodate, they may determine that you are overqualified or would too quickly become bored in the position you’re interviewing for.
Do you see yourself at the company in five years?
The length of time employees stay with the same company varies based on age and industry. On average, 54% of people stay in the same role for at least 5 years. Hiring, onboarding and training a new employee is often seen as an investment and turnover is costly, so most employers seek candidates who plan on being at the company long-term. They typically want to hear that you see yourself in this role—or a relatively similar position—at the company for several years.
Do you have a sense of ambition or drive?
It can be difficult to know or even plan for what you will be doing in five years, however, managers still look to hire candidates who have a sense of how they want to grow and progress in their career. It’s important to note that employers are particularly interested to know your goals within this role. While having grand ambitions can certainly be a positive character trait, it may not be appropriate to discuss all of them when answering this question if they aren’t relevant to the job.
Are you sincerely interested in this role?
Finally, employers are often curious if your interests align with the position they’re offering. For instance, this could be a great time to highlight your plans to become an expert in your field by taking online courses or obtaining a relevant certification. Understanding your related passions and interests helps employers envision how you might contribute to the team in both the short and long term and it assures them that the role will provide a fulfilling experience for you.
How to answer “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
In short, answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” by discussing how you could evolve in this role. This might come naturally to you, but sometimes responding to this question can be difficult. There may be times when you don't see yourself in a role long term and that’s okay, though it’s not necessary to disclose that to your interviewer. In this case, imagine how the job might help someone grow in this career trajectory and try to apply it to your answer.
Either way, 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 strengthen and also those you’d 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 related to this position that you’d like to have on your resume in five years.
It can be a helpful practice to think about what an ideal resume might realistically look like for someone in this role five years from now. Think about the following categories and how they might look in the future:
- Are there incremental job titles you could grow into? For example, moving from an Engineer I to an Engineer II.
- Are there certain skills (technical or soft) that people in this field typically hone? A social media manager may want to gain experience creating videos or graphics.
- Are there any relevant or well known industry awards or certificates you could pursue? A sales representative may aim to win a “top sales person of the year” award.
Are there specific achievements you could map out? For instance, becoming an expert and winning the opportunity to mentor junior team members.
You may not need to include all of these points in your answer during the interview. However, thinking about what your future resume might look like can help you shape your response.
Related: 10 Career Development Goals
3. Reflect on your interests and how they might evolve in this role.
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 an 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 try to learn more about customer relationship management software and marketing communications. Thoughtfully reflecting on tasks and other relevant skills or subject matters that interest you can help form ideas for where you see yourself in five years.
Example answers to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
While in most cases it’s recommended to answer interview questions as specifically as possible, this question is an exception. It is acceptable (and sometimes beneficial) 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 communicating that you’re flexible about the future. Because goals, interests and dreams can change, it is reasonable to present general ideas 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 come 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 a project I’m passionate about. I’m motivated by connecting my initiatives to a company’s larger goals and I’m excited by the prospect of getting more experience in that."
In this example, the candidate notes their desire to (1) increase their industry knowledge, (2) take on new responsibilities and (3) lead projects they’re passionate about in the next five years. Here’s another example:
“Some Of my future goals for the next few years include leading a design team in a formal or informal capacity. I’m also excited about the prospect of working with product and event teams on developing streamlined processes—this is a natural fit with my project management background. I’d also like to further develop my skills in user experience to aid in creating more user-focused designs all around.”
In this example, the candidate includes their goals of (1) practicing leadership (2) collaborating with other departments and (3) developing skills that will strengthen their expertise.
Mapping out your plans for the future and deciding how to communicate them in an interview can seem intimidating. Taking time to consider where you want to be in five years based on the job description, your interests and your goals can help you craft an answer that communicates why you’re the best person for the job.