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Where do you see yourself in five years?

13th February 2020

Where do you see yourself in five years?

How do you answer that question?

The interviewer is not asking you to lay out a full formed action plan of your next five years and however you intend to reach a specified target. They are testing your ambition, your goals and your vision. Do you have a career plan? And does the role you are applying to fit in with that plan?


Why do they ask it?

Recruiters are looking to see various things in your answer to this question.

Firstly, they want to understand your career ambitions. In many roles, ambition is hugely important and lots of employer’s value it highly.

They also want to ensure that your goals fit in with the long-term aims of the business. Ultimately, they are looking for someone who will offer longevity in the role, given that retaining staff is much more cost and time effective than replacing them. They will also be looking for a staff member who they can train and evolve over time. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are expecting you to be there in five years, however they will be looking to find someone who is keen to develop at the same rate as the company.

They also want to be sure that succeeding in the role is relevant to your career plan. If you suggest that in a couple of years you will be going down a different career path, it is unlikely to go down well. If your success in carrying out this role is important to your career strategy, you are much more likely to perform well.

How do you answer it?

It is important to be honest but still ensure you are telling your interviewer what they want to hear.

The first step, well before the interview, is to think properly about your career, your goals and aspirations. Make sure you understand and can articulate where you would like to be in five years.

Then look at the company you are interviewing for. What are their goals and objectives? What do they stand for? See how you can intertwine your objectives with the business and role you are applying for.

When answering the question, outline your career path – concisely but with enough information to show a thought-out process. Discuss how working in this role, or for this company, will help you achieve elements of it.

Whilst doing this, keep your answer relatively general. If you are too specific with the exact aims you want to achieve and the time frames for doing so, it may raise doubts about whether you’d be a good fit.

What to avoid?

Firstly, try not to announce that you are planning a career change. Why would anyone hire you as an accountant if, a year down the line, you are planning to move into a construction trade? If your plan is to change but you are not currently exploring a different career, try to stay relatively vague with your answer. If you are already committed, it is only fair to be honest about the fact.

Don’t reply with clichéd answers such as “in your role” or ideally, don’t mention roles at all. It is possible to discuss your growth and professional development without naming specific senior positions you would like to achieve. Generally, try to avoid being to cliché or flaky with any answer you give during an interview, these will put the interviewer off you.

In summary…

If you are asked to detail where you see yourself in five years, be honest. Talk about genuine career goals you have and how you aim to achieve them. Talk about your professional development objectives. But make sure they relate to – and are achievable within – the role you are interviewing for.

At the end of the day, the interviewer isn’t looking for your detailed life plan. They are looking to see if you are the right fit for the company. They want to know your aims and goals, so they can see if they fit in with those of the business.





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