Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

How to Answer Interview Questions About The Future

Businesspeople making handshake at job interview
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When you are interviewing for a new job, you may be asked a question like, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” it can be hard to articulate where you would like to be in your career next year let alone five years down the road. But even when you do know, it's important to be careful how you respond because you'll need to tailor your answer to the job for which you are interviewing.

This popular interview question helps interviewers and hiring managers get a sense of how your career goals align with the company's goals. It also helps them gauge whether you’re likely to have a long tenure at their company or if you’ll probably leave after just a few months or a year on the job.

Tips for Answering Questions About Your Future Plans

Questions about your future plans can be tricky to answer - you need to be honest in your response, but also keep it relevant to the job and industry. For example, don't share your five-year goal to publish a novel if you're interviewing for an accountant position.

  • Don't say this: My long-term goal is to leave the ad agency world and concentrate on my writing. I’m working on a novel right now that’s generated interest among a few agents. Hopefully, I’ll sign with someone soon.

However, you do want to have a solid answer. Responding poorly or being vague in your response could make interviewers believe that you're not invested in your career, aren't a good fit for the company, or are covering something up. Here are tips for responding to questions about the next stage of your career, while affirming your interest in the role you are being interviewed for.

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Outline a Career Path

In order to prepare well for this question, research a reasonable career path which will flow from the position for which you are applying. How long does one ordinarily spend in that job? What are the next steps within five years?

Some employers will clearly outline pathways in the career section of their website. However, you may need to approach professionals in the field through alumni, family, friends, or professional associations to gain an accurate picture.

For example, if you’re a registered nurse applying for a clinical nurse position at a hospital, and your goal is to someday move into management, you should research the organization to see if nurses typically work their way into nurse manager roles.

Start by looking for nurse manager openings on the company’s careers site, to confirm that the company is actively hiring. Then look at LinkedIn profiles of nurse managers currently working at the hospital. If this is a likely career path, your research should show that employees typically make that move.

Sample Answer:

  • I’m eager to continue developing my clinical skills as a member of this unit. I’ve also noticed that many nurse managers at City Hospital move from staff nurse to nurse manager, and that’s something that interests me as part of my five-year plan. 

Start With Your Interest in This Job

It’s often advantageous to emphasize your interest in thoroughly mastering the initial position before moving on. If it seems like you are rushing past that first job, employers might question how motivated you are to carry out those duties.

After all, the hiring manager will probably want someone who’ll be happy and competent in that role for at least a year or two. Integrating a clear rationale into your answer about how your interests and skills equip you to do the can help to alleviate any concerns about how long you’ll want to stay at the job.

Sample Answer:

  • One of the things that drew me to this job is the opportunity to wear many hats. As the real estate agency’s administrative assistant, I know I’d have plenty of scope to continue building my customer service skills as well as a chance to put my web design abilities to use refining the company website. I’m also excited to learn more about the business from the most highly regarded agents in the industry.

When There is No Clear Career Path

Not all jobs are stepping stones to higher positions. For example, positions such as counseling, sales, event planning, teaching, and computer programming, it’s perfectly appropriate to emphasize mastery of that job as your five-year goal.

Think about components of the job in which you can excel. For example, when interviewing for a sales job, you could say:

  • Within five years I would like to be recognized as an expert in terms of product knowledge, have developed very close relationships with clients, have significantly expanded the client base in my region, and perhaps have been assigned some major national clients.

An answer like that shows that your desire for career growth doesn’t need to occur outside of job and the company.

Goals = Results

Stating your goals in terms of results which you would like to produce is another angle for responding. So, for example, a prospective teacher for a district which is trying to upgrade performance on standardized tests might say:

  • I would like to significantly increase the percentage of students reading at or above grade level through creative instructional methods.

Of course, with an answer like this, you’ll need to be able to share some examples of how you would achieve this.

Moving Up the Career Ladder

There are a few jobs where you’re expected to move on after a couple of years, including some analyst positions in investment banking and consulting, as well as legal assistants and scientific research assistants (for new college grads).

In these cases, you’ll have more leeway in your answers, but you still want to establish how the job at hand makes sense given the skills and interests you can bring to the employer.

More Questions About the Future

  • What are you looking for in your next job? What is important to you? - Best Answers
  • What are your goals for the next five years/ten years? - Best Answers
  • How do you plan to achieve those goals? - Best Answers
  • Questions about your career goals. - Best Answers

More Job Interview Questions and Answers

Your interviewer will ask a number of questions, and you’ll have an easier time and be more comfortable and confident if you prepare and practice. Take a look at these interview questions and answers and practice answering them. If you can, find a friend or family member who can pose as an interviewer and ask you these questions.

In addition, your interviewer will expect you to ask questions about the company or the job. Review this guide on interview questions to ask, so you’ll be ready.