The question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” – why do you need it and how do you answer it to get an interview?

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The question about plans for the next five years seems to many to be on duty and even useless. So, answering it, you can laugh it off or not answer at all? Anyone who has been interviewed at least once knows for sure that rarely any interview for a vacancy does without the “favorite” question of recruiters: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But is this question really that important? Why ask it at all? Is it possible to draw from it some information that the candidate does not voice himself? How to correctly answer it? Let’s figure it out.

What employers are looking for in a response

When at an interview you hear: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” – this is by no means an idle curiosity and certainly not an on-duty question. And from it the recruiter can draw a lot of information about the candidate. Often even the one he would prefer not to voice.

What are HR professionals trying to understand?

  • Really understand your career goals for this position.
  • To be sure that the position will satisfy you, that you will work hard and stay with the company for a long time.
  • They expect your personal and career goals to align with the long-term goals of the company.

This is in general terms. If you look in more detail, then most likely they are looking for several key pieces of information.

Are your expectations in line with what the employer can provide?

Employers want to know that your goals are in line with the job they are offering. For example, if you are interviewing for an entry-level position in accounting, but in the future you see your growth and development in more complex areas, this will show the interviewer that you are interested in functionality, you want to study, develop professionally in the chosen direction, and the vacancy will allow you to prove yourself and accumulate experience. And in this, the employer can reasonably support you. Either you are interviewing for a marketer position and want to be a UX designer in five years, then you will most likely not be considered suitable for this job because they will not see long-term motivation.

Will you be satisfied with your job and engaged in it in the next few years

If you want to get a more advanced position in five years than the employer can give you, then interviewers may decide that you are too ambitious or that you will get bored with your current position too quickly. In this case, there is always a risk for the employer that, without receiving the expected promotion, the ambitious employee will simply leave for another company. Therefore, before the interview, you need to carefully study the structure of the company, understand what prospects may be in a vacant position and how appropriate it is to reveal your true ambitions (if they exist and are obviously higher than the company’s capabilities).

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Do you see yourself in this company in five years?

The length of stay of employees in one company depends on age and industry. On average, 54% of people stay in the same position for at least three years.

Hiring, onboarding, and training a new employee is often viewed as an investment, as employee turnover is expensive. Therefore, employers are looking for candidates who plan to work abroad for the company in the long term. Usually they want to hear that you see yourself in this place and in a similar position for several years.

There are times when a person does not see himself in one position in the long run, and this is normal. But there is no need to tell the interviewer about this. In this case, it is worth imagining how this job can help you grow in the right direction along your career trajectory and try to reflect this in your answer.

How to answer this question

First you need to consider how your goals really match the job description.

To do this, it is better to draw up your individual career development plan in advance. Before answering this question in an interview, you must answer for yourself: “Where do I want to be in five years? What do I want to do? Who and where do I see myself? Here, by the way, coaching practices for visualizing a dream job work well. By charting your future plans and matching them to the job description, you can find the answer that explains why you are the best fit for the job.

The recruiter does not have the goal of pissing off the candidate, it is important for him to understand whether the company can satisfy your wishes.

To answer the question: “Where do you see yourself …”, you first need to decide how you want to grow: horizontally or vertically.

Horizontal growth means that you want to develop within the same position, with an emphasis on expertise in a professional area. Vertical growth is career advancement. For example, today you are a java-developer, and in a couple of years you plan to become a teamlead and focus on people-management.

There is also diagonal growth. This means that with the change of grade, you also plan to grow to a new position.

If you have outlined a development vector, then it becomes easier to set goals. Let’s say your career is important to you and your long-term goal is to become a development team leader. The first step is to determine what skills you lack for a new position. Career sites can help with this: open a similar vacancy and look at the requirements column. And then decide how you plan to develop the missing skills.

  • Vertical growth is important to me, so in 5 years I see myself as the teamlead of the development group. Now I lack the ability to build communications in a team, motivate, develop, involve and select employees. To develop these skills, I plan to be involved in recruiting and eventually take on personal projects.
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If you do not want to be a leader, but your plans are to become an expert in a professional field, pay attention to how the employer develops its employees, and also focus on the fact that you yourself are ready to upgrade your skills.

  • I plan to develop in my professional field. I have a good theoretical background: I follow market trends, read professional literature and attend conferences, but so far I lack practice. I hope that working on real cases will help to apply the acquired knowledge.

Here are some examples of how you can answer:

  • I want to delve into the intricacies of this industry, thoroughly study it and become a master of my craft. This will help me not only realize my ambitions, but also benefit the company (you can even list which one).
  • My plan is to grow with the company, learn, expand my responsibilities. That way I can bring the most value to the company.
  • It’s great that you pay attention to the development and training of your employees, I like it. After 5 years, I would like to help each member of my team develop.
  • I don’t have a clear plan yet. But I do not want and will not stand still, I plan to develop. I am ready to do everything possible for the head of the company, who will believe in me and provide opportunities for development.

But what will happen if you answer wrong, or fail the answer?

You shouldn’t think about the bad. But even if we assume that this happened, then this is not a failure. An employer at an interview evaluates candidates in a comprehensive manner, and an error in one question will not make a difference. Strengthen your position in the next answer.

And remember – you don’t have to guess the answer. This is not a quiz. As a last resort, if you don’t know what to say, ask what development scenarios exist in the company for specialists like you.

Summarize. The question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” needed by both hiring managers and applicants. To answer it honestly, ask yourself:

  • How will working in this position help you get closer to your career goals?
  • How do you see the logic of your development over the past few years: what tasks have you set for yourself, what has been achieved and to what extent?
  • Do you plan to improve your skills, what do you want to improve and why is it important for you, how will it help in your work.

And everything will fall into place. Good luck!

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About the Author: Nicky Bella

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