How to Answer the “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Interview Question

Updated: June 24, 2023

After reading through this article, you’ll:

  1. Recognize the purpose and value of the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question in job interviews, and how it can highlight your long-term career goals and commitment to potential employers.
  2. Acquire strategies and techniques for crafting a successful response, including understanding your own career trajectory, researching the company, and aligning your aspirations with the company’s objectives.
  3. Gain an understanding of common mistakes to avoid when answering this question, ensuring your response demonstrates both your ambition and realism about your future career progression.

In many ways, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is an odd question for an internship or job seeker. After all, you’re interviewing because you don’t know where you’ll be two months from now—forget five years!

While this may seem like an impossible question, there’s no need to panic. This question is actually all about what you hope to be doing in five years—so it’s important for you to prepare before answering. Read on for sample answers, tips and tricks, and common mistakes when it comes to answering this popular interview question.

Crafting a great response

In truth, you could be anywhere in five years. You could be at this job, or you could be running your own business. You could be living in DC or living in Timbuk To. You could have a dog, a turtle, or a llama. But that’s not what your interviewer is looking for. Instead, a strong response should convey that you:

  • Expect to be with this company in five years.
  • Have seriously considered your future (because you’re an ambitious person).
  • Are passionate about this job/company/industry.
  • Want to grow with the company/in this role.
  • Have done your research.

A step-by-step guide

Step 1: Reflect on Your Career Goals

Before the interview, take time to reflect on your career aspirations. What position do you aim to hold in five years? Which skills do you hope to have developed? Understanding your own career path will provide a solid foundation for your response.

Step 2: Research the Company and the Role

Look into the company’s structure, mission, values, and culture. Explore the possible career paths within the company and the opportunities for professional development. Understanding the company’s ethos and potential for growth will allow you to align your ambitions with what the company can offer.

Step 3: Align Your Career Goals with the Company’s Objectives

Think about how your career goals can contribute to the company’s objectives. If you’re applying for a marketing role and aim to be a marketing director in five years, explain how you hope to increase the company’s market share and contribute to its growth in that time.

Step 4: Formulate Your Response

Combine your career goals, your research on the company, and the alignment between the two into a concise and compelling response. Avoid being vague or overly ambitious. Keep your answer realistic, but also show your enthusiasm for growth and progress.

Step 5: Practice Your Response

Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your answer until it sounds natural and convincing. Avoid memorizing it word-for-word to keep your response sounding genuine and not scripted.

Step 6: Review and Revise Your Response

After practicing, review your response. Is it realistic? Does it show your commitment to the company? If not, revise your answer until it meets these criteria.

Step 7: Deliver Your Response in the Interview

In the interview, deliver your response confidently. Remember, the goal is to show the interviewer that you are a good investment for the company – that you have long-term career goals aligned with their mission, and you are willing to grow and contribute to the company in the long run.

Following these steps will help you craft an answer that is both authentic to your career aspirations and appealing to your prospective employer.

Sample answers to “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Now, we’ll look at some strong sample answers to this question. Then, we’ll delve into the details of how to craft your own superb response. Here’s an optimal answer:

It’s really important to me to keep growing my skills and adding value to the company in new ways. One thing that drew me to this position was the opportunities for professional development and growth. So, in five years, I plan to master my skills as an associate, so that I have a solid base for taking on managerial responsibilities. I’d love to be leading a sales team of my own.

This is a great answer. It’s specific, it shows ambition, and it indicates that the person expects to build a career with the company. Here’s another strong response:

As a project assistant, I look forward to learning from my colleagues and developing my skill set year over year. In five years, I’d like to be a project manager. I’d also like to start pursuing my MBA while I work, so I can add even more value to the organization. And I love traveling for work, so I’d like to be working with foreign clients, particularly in Europe, since I speak basic French and German. I know you have a number of clients in other countries and are looking to expand those services.

This answer shows that the candidate plans to stay on for the foreseeable future, building their skills and pursuing progressively more challenging positions. It gets bonus points for showing that the person prepared in advance. They clearly did their research and knew that the company was looking to expand their services abroad—so they used that fact to their advantage.

The interviewer’s mindset

While “Where do you see yourself in five years?” can seem like a silly question, it’s not actually testing your prophetic abilities. By asking this question, the interviewer is trying to gauge your passion and commitment to the job at hand.

The hiring process takes a lot of time, energy, and money for a company. They don’t want to waste these resources on an employee who will leave six months from now, forcing them to start the process all over again. Additionally, employers want employees who are motivated and proactive. If your long-term career goals align with their company, then you’re much more likely to invest in the job—and thus much more likely to be satisfied and productive. Finally, not only does a short-term employee create a drain on the company, but it makes the interviewer look bad.

Common mistakes

You understand what to say, but it’s also important to recognize what not to say. Here are the top mistakes when answering, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

  1. Being too vague or saying, “I don’t know—that’s a long time!” Having no answer is the worst-case scenario for any interview question. For this particular question, saying nothing or being extremely vague gives the impression that you’re not focused on your future, you lack passion, and you just don’t care. It’s a red-flag for any interviewer.
  2. Talking about irrelevant goals. You need to keep your response relevant to the job to which you’re applying. It doesn’t matter if you see yourself living in Spain or having a hit single. If it’s not related to the job, don’t mention it.
  3. Mentioning jobs or companies other than the one to which you’re applying. For instance, you wouldn’t want to say, “I’d really like to start my own company one day.” You want to give the interviewer a glimpse into your potential future at this company.
  4. Not doing your research. Sure, a great answer shows that you’ve conducted research on the company and role on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. But the main reason you need to do research is to avoid making assumptions and being unprepared. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a business analyst role and the company has a strict process for promotions: you move from business analyst to junior consultant to senior consultant to manager, with each promotion taking 2–3 years. If you say, “I’ll be a manager in five years,” you’re showing that you didn’t do your research.
  5. Being unrealistic. Although providing a lofty goal (like becoming CEO) might seem like you’re demonstrating your ambition, it will actually make the interviewer question your judgment and staying power. They may worry that you’ll leave when you realize that your goal is impossible or if you haven’t been promoted in a few months.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In other words …

Keep in mind that there are other ways to phrase, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The interviewer could also ask:

  • What is your ideal job?
  • What are you looking for with this job?
  • When you think about your career, what’s important to you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What are your long-term goals for your career?

Each of these questions really seeks to establish how passionate you are about this career in the long run. Are you looking to stay and continue growing with the company? Or are you looking for a paycheck until something better comes along?

Ultimately, business is all about ROI: return on investment. If you want a company to invest in you, make sure that you tell them what they will receive in return. By positioning yourself as a long-term employee and demonstrating your unwavering enthusiasm, you’ll put the interviewer’s mind at ease and set yourself up for career success.


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