How to answer the interview question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

With this question, the employer is asking you to gaze inside your crystal ball and predict the future. It would be nice if that were possible, but with the quickly changing economy, it is not.  This is also a veiled way for the employer to gauge your real interest in being in the position they are hiring for right now.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

This question seems to trip people up because they start to talk about the future job they really want and they stop focusing on the position they are applying for now.  Employers often use this question to weed out people who they feel are the wrong “fit” or are “overqualified” for the role.

Don’t follow the employer’s lead when they ask you if you want to pursue positions other than the one you are interviewing for.  They can lead you down the “thanks, but no thanks” path if you’re not careful.  Once the employer starts asking you questions about why you want to be involved in the other position, the conversation can go sideways in a hurry.  The next thing you know, the interview is over, you think you “nailed it”, then you are surprised when you get a “no” letter in the mail saying they have found a more suitable fit for the position.  You are left asking yourself why you didn’t get hired because you had all the qualifications and experience the employer was looking for.  Don’t fall into this hiring trap!

Your answer needs to make sense inside the department you’re interviewing with.  If you are interviewing with a brokerage for an account management position, don’t start talking about wanting to be an underwriter.  That’s a company role, and while it’s an admirable goal, the hiring manager is going to think you’re using their firm as a stepping stone to get to what you really want to do.

Instead of stating an actual position that you might like to be in in the future, tell the employer that you very open to future advancement, and strive to have a long term career with their firm.  Tell the employer you learn quickly, excel at your job, and have been handpicked for promotions by past managers based on your work performance and peer recommendations.

Here’s an example: “In five years, my goal is for you to tell me I have mastered this position, clients really like me and appreciate my hard work, and that my co-workers see me as a good resource for information and the ‘go-to’ person in the department. I think that would be a win/win for both of us and would show that I am very serious about my career with your firm.

The key to answering the five-year question is to stay logical, poised and reasonable. You don’t want to be a threat to the hiring manager; you don’t know his/her internal promotion track record, and you don’t want to come off as uninterested in the job at hand.

After you answer the 5 year question, a good follow-up question for hiring manager is to ask how they rose to the position they are in now. That answer will give you clues as to your real promotion opportunities with the new firm.

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