How to reply to the interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

As part of an ongoing blog series, we will be taking potentially tricky questions you might encounter in an interview and dissecting it to help you formulate a thorough, satisfying (and always honest!) response. If you have an interview question that has you stumped, leave a comment and let us know!

Five years ago, did you see yourself being where you are now? Probably not. It’s tough to even know what you’re going to do six months from now, let alone 5 whole years. You’ve probably been asked this question in a variety of ways, making it no less difficult to answer. However, it’s something that we should all be asking ourselves every once in a while, and this week, we’re delving into it with you.

So why is this question asked?

Interviewers are interested to see if the job at hand is something that will interest you long term, help you reach personal goals and, ultimately, whether it’s worth your while… and the company’s. So hearing your dedication will be very important to the company, as it will demonstrate that both parties will only gain from you being hired.

So how should you go about answering this question?

At the end of the day, think about responsibilities and achievements, not items, promotions or perks, as well as showing the impact you could have on the company and the kind of positive growth the company could benefit from by hiring you. It’s also best to concentrate on your career goals rather than personal ones unless specifically asked.

Don’t say: “I see myself in an F015 Luxury in Motion Mercedes, driving to work as the CEO of XYZ enterprises with a salary indication of X amount per year.”

What that sounds like: “I expect rapid promotion and an increased salary from the current position I’m interviewing for without specifying how I plan to earn it. I am shallow and don’t seem particularly interested or passionate about the actual job or industry.”

Instead say: “In five years, I hope to know all there is and more about your company’s values, products and services while expanding my skills and responsibilities to become an even greater asset to the company.”

What this sounds like: “I am ambitious, eager to learn and put down roots rather than branches in order to become increasingly valuable to the organization by taking on new responsibilities within the XYZ department/ team.”

This response makes no mention of promotions (vertical growth) by rather the addition of responsibilities on a team or in a department (horizontal growth). You’re expressing a desire to remain with the company for several years and build up your value to them, something all companies are eager to find in their new hires.

Practice makes perfect

Unfortunately, no DeLorean can bring you back to make a second first impression. Before any interview, come prepared with answers to these sorts of open questions. Not only are they looking at who you are now and what you have done, they also want to see the person who you expect to become and if that person is the right fit for their company.

For our previous question series article on “How would your friends and colleagues describe you?”, please click here.

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