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Probably one of the trickiest interview questions (and definitely one of the most cliché), finding the perfect answer to “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” can be a minefield.
Although when answering most interview questions (like ‘do you have any questions for me?’ and ‘why should we hire you?’) we advocate being as specific as possible, in this case being more vague about your goals is likely to be the better approach.
Working out the best way to answer this interview question requires careful consideration – because you need to avoid sounding unrealistic, while at the same time making sure that you don’t seem indifferent. Read our complete guide to Interview Questions.
Scroll straight to the bottom to see a quick, summary video of how to answer!
It’s clear that answering this interview question can be tricky – so in order to work out the best answer, it’s important to look first of all at the reasons why employers choose to ask it…
When employers ask you what you’ll be doing in 5 years’ time, they don’t actually expect you to know exactly where you’ll be.
Instead, what they’re looking to hear is that you have a long-term plan, and that this particular role (and their company) fits in to your 5 year plan.
From your answer, the employer will be able to assess whether your career goals align with where they see you progressing in the role, and confirm to them that you are both on the same page.
To really impress them when answering this interview question, you can drop in some things you’ve researched about the company, and explain to the employer how these align with your personal career goals.
By asking this common interview question, employers want to know that you are sticking around for the long-haul. They want to see how this role fits into your long-term plan, so you need to make sure you reassure them that you’re not going to leave as soon as you find a better offer.
If possible, it’s a great idea to try to express that in 5 years’ time you hope to still be at this company (probably in a more senior position) to show that you are committed to the role and the progression that it will offer.
Your answer to what you’ll be doing in 5 years’ time will be indicative of your ambition, and the employer will want to know that you have the desire and the drive to progress. Individuals who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them.
While you don’t need to be specific about the position you’re after, saying that you would be interested in being in a managerial position in 5 years time, or that you’d like to challenge yourself by moving to a different office, will indicate to the employer that you have big aspirations and the drive to grow in your career.
"In 5 years’ time I would like to have proven to management that I have the drive and determination to significantly help the business grow by making some really positive steps forward, while building strong relationships with clients and colleagues along the way. I would be delighted if the opportunity of further progression arose, but in order to reach this point I understand that I would need to successfully fulfil this position first."
"My career plan for the next five years is to push myself to excel in every challenge I am faced with and take on more and more responsibility. I saw on your website you have a mentor scheme which I think is a great idea for new employees starting the company and something that I would be keen to get involved in. If the opportunity arose, I would of course be interested in further job progression, maybe even leading a small team, but I understand that any extra responsibility comes with time once I have proven myself and helped the company to grow."
"I’m a very ambitious individual and I would say I am the type of person to just get stuff done! 5 years down the line I will have achieved goals for the company as well as personal goals for myself. I would welcome the opportunity for advancement, perhaps to a supervisor or managerial position, where I can continue to grow with the company, influencing and supporting other employees in their career paths."
When answering this common graduate interview question, it's important to stay in check. Saying you want to be a CEO in 5 years time will be a big red flag to any employer.
Not only is this likely to make you sound egotistical, but it’s also, let’s face it, an unrealistic expectation – one that may indicate to the employer that you won’t be fully committed to this job role.
Equally, you need to be careful not to under sell yourself when explaining your 5 year goals.
Saying that you’d still like to be in this role in 5 years' time is a big no-no – you want the employer to know that you have ambition, and are looking to progress at their company rather than staying in the same position.
And finally, avoid saying that you don’t know where you see yourself in 5 years' time! By asking this interview question the employer wants to know that you have clear career goals, and that you are committed to the opportunity – saying that you don’t know is likely to make you sound uninterested.
No-one can predict exactly what they’ll be doing in 5 years’ time – but to avoid falling into a trap during your interview, make sure to prepare your best answer to this age-old interview question.
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