It’s already tough enough trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Imagine being asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Let’s help you answer this question.
When you hear the question “where do you see yourself in five years?”, you might wonder “does it really matter?” Yes, it does! Your career plan speaks volumes about your focus and goals. In fact, the reasons why an interviewer might ask you such a question are:
The interviewer wants to know your career plan and if it matches the goals of the company
It reveals if you are going to retain your position in the company for a long time
If your career plan is not aligned with the company’s goals, that makes you a flight risk. Therefore, you need to set a clear career plan so that you can effortlessly answer “where do you see yourself in five years?” I don’t know about you but in the next five years I see myself as a: Dog mom relaxing in my beach house in Honolulu, Hawaii, sipping on a glass of 2015 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru as my ravishing rich husband massages my feet.
Even though that answer fits a social setting, it is not appropriate for an interview. Here are some examples of what you should not say:
“Hmm” or “Umm”
I’m not sure. That’s hard to say
Dreams about being famous, going back to school, or owning a business.
Schemes about getting a work promotion
Jokes about how you will be on the interviewer’s side of the table.
What is the interviewer asking?
Before we dive into how to answer “where do you see yourself in five years?”, you should know what the interviewer wants by asking this question. Generally, the interviewer wants to know what your career plan is in relation to the role you are interviewing for. The interviewer wants to know if the position will satisfy you and if you will be retained for a long time.
Always remember that a successful recruiter is measured by how many employees are happy, hardworking, and retainable. Thus, if an employee quits, it reflects badly on the hiring process and the recruiter’s skills. Furthermore, low retention of employees is costly and time-consuming for the company because they will have to carry out the onboarding process all over again.
Accordingly, the “where do you see yourself in five years” question, is all about how long you are going to stay in the company.
Tips on how to answer
Show that you are content with the position as is and show enthusiasm about developing realistically.
Match your personal career goals with the goals of the organization. For example, if they are looking for people to work abroad, show interest in moving and working abroad.
Do not tell the interviewer that you want their job in the next five years.
Always gauge your audience. You can make a joke and then answer the question if you think that the interviewer may find it amusing. When the interviewer asks you “where do you see yourself in five years?”; and your spontaneous reaction is to yell, “Paris! Married to Kofi Siriboe. Retired, and living my best life”. You better pray that it is followed by hearty laughter.
Be vague and realistic especially when you have not laid out your career plan or have no idea what you want to do in the next five years. This is the only question during interviews where you are allowed to provide a bland answer. Picture this:
You are on a date with this beautiful lady and it looks like a scene straight out of a movie or your dreams. Suddenly, she asks you “where do you see yourself in five years?” She wants to know if you are open to having kids or committing to marriage in the future when all you could be thinking about is whether you have clean socks and a fresh pair of boxers for the next day.
She wants to know if you are on the same page; and has probably already visualized getting a pet, buying furniture and utensils, and going for a parent-teacher meeting with you.
So, this is how you wiggle your way out of this tough one. Think of an answer that will satisfy their concerns and show that you are not against commitment at the time. You’ll want to use the same rules when answering “where do you see yourself in five years?”
What is your career plan?
You need to make steps towards having a career plan. Even if your goals are not related to the position you are interviewing for, list them down on a piece of paper. Afterwards, write down the long-term career goals that flow from the position you are seeking. The next step is to do some research on the organization and the position that it is offering. Look out for interesting projects, shared values, career paths for the position, development opportunities, and training opportunities.
When you come across anything you admire, list it down and include it in your “where do you see yourself in five years?” answer.
“One of the reasons I want to work for your company is because I think your mentoring program is attractive. I am excited about the chance to work with a mentor and boost my skills. I am also over the moon about your personalized training approach. Thus, in the next five years, I would like to be a seasoned expert in a team with the right skills and experience that can be used to also mentor and train others when the opportunity presents itself.”
If your research does not get you any relevant information, try matching your career plan with the goals of the company. If your career plan is not aligned with the company’s goals, use the following questions to come up with a general yet realistic answer for “where do you see yourself in five years?”
Does the organization have long-term goals that align with me?
Do any of the projects that the organization handles interest me?
Could I learn a new skill from this job?
Is there any training I could do outside work that would be relevant to this position?
Focus on how you want to develop your skills without making it sound like you are preparing for something better and bigger in the next five years. Additionally, don’t choose skills that are crucial for the role. Avoid skills that are already required for someone seeking the position because it will make you look unqualified.
You are likely to get this question if your resume raises red flags such as gaps in your career. Watch out for these nine variations of the “where do you see yourself in five years?” question:
- What are your goals for the next five years?
- Do you have any long-term career goals? What are they?
- What are your short-term career goals?
- Describe your career plan/ goals.
- Please define success.
- What do you want to achieve by applying for this job?
- Do you have an ideal position at the peak of your career? What is it?
- Have you taken any steps towards achieving your career plans in the next five years?
- What is most important to you in your career?
The formula for a “where do you see yourself in five years?” answer
Start out by highlighting at least two career goals and linking them with the qualities needed for the job.
Explain how you will perform your goals by creating a career plan.
Conclude by highlighting your ambitions after the next five years (if you want to).
The chances are high of getting asked “where do you see yourself in five years?” during your career. It is one of the most dreaded interview questions and as luck would have it, this guide will help you make a slam dunk.