Job Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Ever met a successful, productive and innovative professional who has made their mark via flying by the seat of their pants?  We haven’t either. There’s a reason so many of the most eye-roll-worthy and overused sayings involve some aspect of preparation and planning.  Whether practicing to make perfect for that next job interview or mapping out a career, a little bit of foresight can go a long ways towards helping you make your professional mark.

Job-related advice columns and websites aren’t the only ones that believe this, either.  Prospective employers know that those who have put thought into their career trajectory will often make better employees with their ability to craft roadmaps to success.  As such, “where do you see yourself in x number of years” is a frequently asked question during the interview process. In the spirit of preparation, we’ve laid out some handy tips on how to answer this query like a pro and up your chances at impressing your next potential employer.

Have a Career Map

Interviewees can approach the where do you see yourself question in two main ways.  The first bent is to look at the query from a big picture perspective. Where do you see yourself career-wise in five years?  Do you want more responsibility or greater recognition? Perhaps you want to be managing a larger team of having an expanded set of duties that stretch your current knowledge of the industry.

Try brainstorming long-term broad areas of improvement and growth that would be applicable to your personal advancement within a company.  Most interviewers will enjoy hearing that you want to learn more and manage a larger team. Stepping up is a big plus and signals long-term commitment that can see you nailing a call back at the very least and even a potential job offer.

Develop Goals for Your Specific Position

The other approach to the forecasting question operates on a more micro level.  If you’ve done your research, are familiar with the field and position, and have been taking notes throughout the interview, you can probably put together a decent game plan for things you’d like to accomplish at the company.  

Think about what your potential employer needs and pay specific attention to the job listing.  If the description has listed out key responsibilities, craft some actionable items you can realistically get done in one, three and five year periods.  During the interview, pay specific attention to any areas of immediate need and feel free to ask questions about what can be improved and any specific expectations.  This can also help guide your on the spot goals when answering the five-year question.

No Matter What, Don’t Do This

While nerves or a misplaced sense of humor may tempt you to get a little cute in the interview room, whatever you do avoid sarcasm or approaching the question with an inflated sense of ego.  “With your job” is never an acceptable answer to where you see yourself ending up in the company. Remember to stay professional and that the person you’re interviewing with will have a great deal of input as to whether you end up getting hired.  Even if the comment is a throwaway or said in a joking manner, coming off as having an inflated ego can quickly turn an interview sour.

The Wrap

As a final piece of advice for dealing with the career expectations question, remember to keep your answers focused on the job at hand and geared towards how you can help grow, expand or streamline your employer’s business.  By concentrating on your expectations for providing value you allow the interviewer to more clearly picture you in the role and give a preview of just what you bring to the table. Just like with all interview questions, preparation is the key to success.  Plan in advance for this, and other common interview questions, to help be an attractive candidate in a highly competitive modern job market.

Article Updated from the Original on May 17, 2018