The Best Way to Answer ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’


“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” When you are hit with this interview question , let’s face it — you probably have no friggin idea how to answer it. Even if you do have a clear plan, you most likely second guess yourself before sharing your raw, honest plan (or lackthereof) with a judgmental stranger you’ve just met at a job interview.


Let’s be real: The job interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is a silly one. You can’t possibly know where you’re going to be in the future or what your career will look like in 5 years. Within that time frame, jobs will exist that you don’t even know about yet, and your long-term career plan could completely shift.


You’ll end up framing your answer carefully, but unfortunately you probably won’t be honest about what you really intend to do. You’ll answer in a way that doesn’t risk threathening your interviewer or the prospective company (for instance, by implying that you might want their job or position — even if that is your true ambition).


I’m going to show you two answers to this question. Remember that your situation and personality type are unique, so what you feel comfortable saying is up to you.


The 2-part safe answer that will likely satisfy 99% of employers:


Employers and interviewers want to hear certain things from candidates when they ask about your five-year plan:


  1. You plan to be at the company long term.


  3. You’re on board with the company goal and you’re not already thinking about this job as a stepping stone to move on in your career path, and


  5. You’ll be happily working hard for them for as long as they need you in that role.


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Here’s a sample answer that works well in most cases:


“In the first 2 or 3 years, I see myself mastering the role of [insert job title you’re interviewing for]. I intend to immerse myself in the position, understand the areas and processes that can be improved upon, and really get to know the ins and outs of the business. I love to look for opportunities to make the department as efficient as possible.


“For the next 2 or 3 years after that, I see myself as being a key person in the department and a liaison to all the other teams in the organization. I want to be able to extend my expertise and skills and offer to help other departments (whether it be sales, marketing, finance, or operations), using the skills and knowledge gained in my role.”


The bold (yet completely reasonable) way to look at this question:


I love Liz Ryan’s take on this question. Liz says:


“It takes guts to ask ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ when a hiring manager isn’t committing to keeping you employed five months or even five weeks from now.”


The question you ask yourself about your five-year plan sounds like this:


What if I have life and career goals that may or may not fit into what this employer might want? Should I share my personal plans and a detailed outline of my intended career path at an interview with a stranger I just met, or should I just say, “I intend to be right here working for you for as long as I’m needed?”


If you don’t feel comfortable spilling your guts and your life plans and long-term career goals to interviewers and hiring managers, talk about why you’re already a good fit for the role, and then talk about what you want to learn, improve, or get better at:


For example, you might say: “I want to learn more about analytics, specific software programs, and methodologies that are used to improve email open rates etc. I would love to take some additional training on x, y, and z to improve x, y, and z within the marketing department.”


Then, make sure to ask your interviewer, “Where would you see a person with these goals going in your organization in the future?”


You can ask them what their plans are in a tactful, subtle way, and if they are open with you and give you an answer that feels honest, that’s a clear sign that you’re interviewing with a good organization.


You need to actively decide for yourself how you answer this question. Once you do, you’ll feel more empowered than ever, and your confidence will come through in your interview.


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