Answering the Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Ideal responses for one of the trickiest interview questions.

This one is right up there with “tell me your top five strengths and weaknesses.” In an ideal world, prospective employers would only ask about your workplace experiences (teamwork, job responsibilities, how you handled projects, etc.) and draw their own conclusions about you as an employee from there.

But that doesn’t always happen. Some companies have set questions they ask potential employees to weed out undesirable candidates from the rest of the applicants. Asking where you see yourself  in five years is one of those questions.

Your answer can tell them something about your drive, your desire to keep working at their company, and where you think this position fits into your career and overall life.

Here are our tips on how to best answer.

Focus on Upward Movement

Most employers want an employee that plans on improving over time. They don’t want you to be content with the same responsibilities year after year. The expectation is that you’ll come to master some of your responsibilities, and be able to handle more work (whether that means just more duties or an outright promotion).

So when they ask where you see yourself in five years, don’t say the same position. Aim for a management position, just not the position your possible manager has (you don’t want to seem like you’re gunning for their job). Find a specific position if you can (___supervisor, ___manager, etc.), not just “a management position.” Note that you hope to use all of the experience and responsibilities you will pick up in this position in your future career.

Show Your Passion for Learning

Employers love employees that love to learn. If you’re constantly improving yourself, you’re continually making yourself a more talented and desirable employee.

In five years, you want to still be learning, still honing your skills. Whether that means obtaining a certain metric (___ number of customer services calls an hour, ____ increase in page views on a website, ___% increase in product production time, etc.), taking continual online training courses, obtaining a certification, or earning a degree, tell your interviewer about it. Make sure to associate all of that learning with the position you’re interviewing for, and how it will help the company as a whole.

Illustrate Your Desire to Stay At the Company

General turnover is higher now than in previous years. The current economy is a job seeker’s market. That means employers are looking for people who are in it for the long haul. When they ask you about where you want to be in five years, tell them you plan to be at ___ company. Mention a project you’ve read about online that’s coming up in the future you’d like to be a part of, or a future product you want to help create.

Research the company’s upcoming plans (news releases are great for this). Is there anything that looks like it will be launching within the next five years or so? Mention you want to be involved in that, and you’ll show that you really know the company.

And that’s how to answer the question!

Show you’re a stellar employee with real goals who truly wants the position. That’s what they’re asking for, anyway. “Do you really want this job? Will you work hard at this job?  Are you in this for the long haul? Okay, then prove it.”

And now you’re ready to do just that.

Have you ever had to answer this question? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below!

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13 Responses to “Answering the Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

  1. Nicole #

    I just had to answer this question at an interview. I was completely prepared with the strength and weakness question my job experience but this one through me when they asked at the first question. Thank goodness I answered with the first upward movement answer but I wasn’t specific like this article says to be. I haven’t got the job yet so I don’t know if it helped or not. I do love learning especially from articles like this. Thank you for posting this.

    November 17, 2018 at 1:28 pm Reply
  2. Chris #

    I passionately hate this question. It sounds like they are asking the person to project into an uncertain future. I don’t know! I can lie and do the “I want to move up in this company” blah, blah but it sounds so insincere. I wish this question would get dropped from all interviews. I think there is a better way to ask what they want to know.

    The last time I was asked that, apparently I answered correctly. But in my head I was saying “I’ll be happy to be alive in 5 years”. I’ve had several close calls in my life. Someone asking me that question brings up all the accidents and emergency surgeries I’ve had.

    December 3, 2018 at 11:39 pm Reply
    • Kathy #

      I agree, Chris. This question is so dated! This question came up on my self-evaluation @ my annual review. I was in my late 50’s. I wrote down, “Retired.”
      I was in Human Resources Management for several years and thought this question was ridiculous. Most companies don’t even have any loyalty to their employees but expect them to be loyal to them.

      December 5, 2018 at 5:51 pm Reply
    • Thank you for making me laugh. I totally understand. I am glad you are OK though. I would love to say retired. I am not close yet unless I retire early. I do qualify for AARP! I was asked this question before. I think I answered correctly. I usually do well in interviews. Don’t always get the job though. I was also told, when answering the strength and weakness question to turn the weakness into a positive. Job searching now. I would love to work from home not doing Customer Service!

      December 6, 2018 at 6:52 pm Reply
  3. Ronald Brown #

    In 5 years I see myself climbing a Fortune 500 company ladder

    December 5, 2018 at 9:49 am Reply
  4. Tammy #

    I glad that I was able to be prepped on this question I’ve never had to answer this question before. But I will surely think hard and be ready. Thank you

    December 5, 2018 at 10:02 am Reply
    • Movin' On Up Staff #

      Thanks Tammy!

      December 5, 2018 at 10:03 am Reply
  5. William Morgan #

    Owner of electrical bussiness

    December 5, 2018 at 10:30 am Reply
  6. Erik #

    The 5 year-plan is a question for a person who is going to make career at that company. They should be ready for that commitment.

    December 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm Reply
    • Chris #

      My point is that if the employer wants to know if an interviewee plans to remain at the company in 5 years and plans to move up in the company in that time, then those are the questions that should be asked,

      The question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is too vague. The answer could be, “I see myself competing in marathons.”I’ll have my instrument rating pilot certificate by then.” I’ll be competing in the Indy 500.”

      December 6, 2018 at 2:11 pm Reply
  7. I have been asked this question throughout my career, and must have answered it satisfactorily, because I have gotten the job(s), but this has got to be the most outdated question in the history of interview questions. Most applicants need a job to make money to live. There was a time when a person could get a job regardless of their experience or thereof, but now you have to have 1-10 years experience. Where do you get experience until you’ve worked, so there’s far more important questions that should be asked. The first thing I would look for in an office setting is the dress code. T-shirts and flip flops…..I wouldn’t even begin the interview. Organizational skills, body language, verbal skills, eye contact. Plus, who really sits around thinking about what you want to be doing in five years???

    December 6, 2018 at 12:42 pm Reply
  8. Adam #

    I’ve been asked this question and it was a surprise because the job was not a high-paying one. I wanted the job because it seemed interesting. I was honest about my goals. Once I was offered the position and once I was not. Be honest and enthusiastic about your response to this question.

    December 6, 2018 at 10:42 pm Reply
  9. Dale Crane #

    If you actually have a goal or a plan then you will be able to answer this question with all sincerity. I would be up front with any interviewer, if you don’t have an answer then tell them or ask them to explain for more clarity or even ask them why they’re asking you any question if you don’t understand, this will show them that you’re listening and are courteous. They just might be looking for someone like you, someone honest and courteous. Don’t be afraid of them, if you want to work in a certain field then be that person, interview the interviewer for a good fit for all parties involved.

    December 8, 2018 at 10:15 am Reply

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