Where do you see yourself in five years? You may wonder why this job interview question comes up, because you’re talking about the job at hand–the here and now– right?
The Reason Behind “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”
Your interviewer wants to see if you’re thinking about your career. They want to know if you’re goal-oriented. And they also want to gauge your level of ambition.
Another reason is to get a sense for how you view the position at hand.
Are you looking at this as a quick stepping stone, just to get your foot in the door and move on quickly? Are you there to just take a job, any job? Or are you seriously dedicated to doing THIS job as it’s defined for the foreseeable future?
How you answer this question can reveal a lot!
Answering if You’re an Older Worker
Being asked, “Where do you want to be in five years?” when you’re in your ’50s or ’60s is very different than if you’re asked this in your 20s, 30s, or 40s.
If you are in that older worker category, what they really want to know is, “Are you just biding your time until retirement?”
Assure them that you’re there to stay and do your best. For Example:
“I’m here because I’m excited about this opportunity, about building relationships, to achieve a lot, and to contribute for as many years as is mutually workable for both me and the company.”
Put some thought into what it is you want in five years, or three years, or even one year. They might put a different number on it when they ask the question.
Responding if You’re Looking to Move Up…Eventually
Let’s say that you’ve been working for a little while, and this is a hands-on role. You have a goal to eventually get into a management role. Here’s how you can be honest without damaging your candidacy for this job:
“I’m really excited about this opportunity and looking forward to making strong contributions for as long as I can. I would like to eventually assume some management responsibilities. Down the road, I’d like to take advantage down the road of any opportunities that can help me build my skills so that I can be one day become a manager.”
Answering When You’re Early Career or Changing Careers
If you’re more entry-level, focus on growth and development. This also works if you’ve recently changed careers. For example:
“I’m just getting started in my career, I’m really excited about this skillset that I’ll be using, and will be really focused on developing as much as possible in these next five years. Naturally, if an opportunity came up to grow even more in the company, I’d be really excited about pursuing that.”
Remember, the most important things to keep in mind are to sound proactive, sound intentional, and to sound ambitious enough, but not so much that you will be perceived as not interested in the job at hand.