Where do you see yourself in five years? Anyone who thought they knew where their lives would be five years ago is probably re-evaluating their plans right now. Five years ago, we had no idea our world would change as much as it has due to a global pandemic.
Yet, unfortunately, “where do you see yourself in five years?” is a question job interviewers still tend to ask in job interviews. Often, interviewers ask this question because they want to know if you actually do want the specific job you’re interviewing for and they want to know if you see yourself at their particular company for the long haul. This question allows them to get insight into your personal career goals to see if it aligns with the role and company. As a job candidate, it can be tricky to know if you should be brutally honest or fake and flattering when posed with this question.
To make answering this question easier, here are the only three things you need to focus on the next time you’re asked this awkward question:
Focus on what work you want to do
It may sound compelling to let the interviewer know that you plan to have a much higher senior title in five years or that you plan to start your own company or something similar, but these options aren’t the best way to approach this question. If you mention to the interviewer that you plan to have a specific job title at the company in five years, you might be shooting yourself in the foot before you even get the job. It’s uncertain if the particular role you might mention would even be available five years from now. If you mention that you plan to do your own thing five years from now, the interviewer might assume that they’re merely a stepping stone for you and that you’re not truly invested in the opportunity.
Instead, you want to focus on the responsibilities you hope to partake in over the next five years. Next time try something like, “In the next five years, I see myself growing and becoming an expert in [job function/industry]. I see myself still working on challenging projects like [specific projects mentioned in the job description or interview] and probably taking on even more challenging work as I learn and develop even more skills.”
Focus on how you want to feel
While you can’t predict where exactly you’ll be five years from now, or the role you’ll have, or that you’ll even be at the company you’re interviewing for now, you can visualize how you’d like to feel about yourself and your career five years from now. Focusing on how you want to feel when answering this question also gives you the chance to subtly infuse the elements that are important to you in your next career move. Plus, if the company’s culture and values align with your career goals (as they should), this will give you the chance to further prove to the interviewer that you’d be a great addition to the team.
Here’s an example of what you could say: “I see myself feeling excited about the work I do. I see myself working with colleagues and a manager who still inspires and empowers me to keep growing and stretching myself to achieve and exceed expectations.”
Focus on how you want to contribute
Companies want to hire problem solvers and team players and this question is a great opportunity to show that you have a strong desire to make an impact over the next five years. Focusing on how you plan to contribute is a creative way to do that without predicting the future and mentioning specific details that may or not happen five years from now.
To show how much you intend to be an asset, you can say something along the lines of, “I see myself continuing to be an asset to my clients, team and all the other people I’ll have the honor of working with over the next five years. That’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity to join your team as a [job title you’re interviewing for now] because I know I can jump right in and add tremendous value now.”
Yes, this question may seem awkward and intrusive. But, when answered the right way, it’s a great opportunity for you to share a little more about you and to drive home the key factors that make you a great candidate for the position. By only focusing on these three things, you’ll be able to answer this question with more confidence and authenticity, and you’ll likely increase your chances of getting hired.