When you’re preparing for an interview, it’s smart to run through a list of common questions and answers. But there’s one interview question that might throw you for a loop. If anyone’s ever asked you, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” then you know how tough it can be to answer. But don’t worry—whether you do or don’t have a clear career vision, I’ve got a few tips for you to explain your five-year career goals and leave a good impression on your hiring manager.
Why Do Hiring Managers Ask, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
When you sit down for an interview, questions like “Tell me about yourself?” or “What drew you to this position?” are guaranteed. But being asked about your long-term career goals on the spot can be a little tricky. After all, nobody knows what the future holds. Nevertheless, hiring managers are looking for a few key pieces of information when they ask where you see yourself in five years.
1. They want to know you’ll be a loyal employee.
Are you a chronic job hopper, or will you stick around for a while? They want to see if you’re passionate about the company’s mission or just in it for a paycheck.
2. They’re making sure your career goals match their growth track.
Say your goal is to be in a sales manager position, but you’re applying to be a public relations assistant. Those jobs require different skill sets and involve different growth tracks, and the employer might not be able to guarantee that you can make that job switch down the road.
3. They’re considering how much it costs to hire someone for the position.
Recruiting, hiring and training a new employee costs a lot of money and time. Hiring managers want to make sure they’re making a good investment by hiring the right person at the right time.
4. They’re evaluating your communication style and self-awareness.
Do you have an idea of your goals and values? Can you communicate that clearly? If not, you might not be ready to take on the job.
5. They’re wondering how your strengths will benefit the company if you get hired.
Will you make an awesome team player and help create a healthy culture the longer you’re at the company? Will you bring new ideas to the table? Your future goals can give insight to the impact you’ll make.
How to Talk About Where You See Yourself in 5 Years or 10 Years
Some people have a life timeline with their future wedding, kids, first job promotion, second job promotion and monthly toothpaste subscriptions drilled down to the day. But sometimes career goals aren’t always that easy to plan or predict. (If only you had a crystal ball to see your future, then answering where you see yourself in five years might be a little easier!) That said, there are a few ways you’ll want to answer interview questions about your future goals when you're interviewing for a new job.
1. Focus on your potential.
For example, if you know you’ve got a talent for connecting with people, explain how you’d like to grow in cold calling for a sales position. Not only does this skill make sense for the job, but it fits your personality too.
2. Have realistic expectations.
I hate to burst your bubble, but if you’re interviewing for an entry-level job, becoming a CEO in five years is unlikely. Instead of focusing on titles you’d like to earn, be realistic by talking about the skills you’d like to learn instead.
3. Mention skills that apply to the job.
Do you want to learn how to measure website metrics with a new software? Or do you want to write copy for social media? Be specific about how the job skills you’d like to learn will help you shine in this role.
4. Tell them why you’re interested in this job.
Maybe this role helps you reach your long-term goals by providing training or contacts in an industry you love. Explain how the skills you’ll learn here will help you grow in your career. (This shows you value learning and will give this position your all.)
5. Be specific about areas you need help in.
I know it sounds crazy to admit a weakness during an interview, but it’ll give the hiring manager an idea of how they can help you grow.
What Not to Say When You’re Asked, “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
I want you to highlight your strengths and intentions when a recruiter asks where you see yourself in the future. Now, let’s look at what you shouldn’t say when it’s time to detail your five-year plan. Early on in your career, recruiters understand that you might not have your career goals nailed down to the letter. But they are looking for red flags that demonstrate you haven’t thought about the future at all—or that you don’t take it quite as seriously as you should. Watch out for these pitfalls when you’re trying to explain your five-year goals:
1. Don’t be vague or wishy-washy about your intentions.
Simply saying, “I want to be a manager,” doesn’t explain much about what you want to learn. Instead, be more specific by highlighting skills that stand out: “I’d like to grow my leadership skills by growing a team and mentoring junior level staff.”
2. Don’t joke around or admit you haven’t thought about your goals.
If you have no idea where you’d like to be in five years, don’t fall back on a joke like, “I’ll be retired on an island!” This won’t impress your hiring manager as much as being thoughtful and honest. Instead, you could say something like, “For now, I’m focused on learning X and I plan to review my goals every year.”
3. Don’t reveal your plans to leave the job immediately.
The economy is rough right now, and sometimes you need temporary work or a side job just to pay the bills. That’s okay, but don’t make it obvious this is just a temporary stop. Instead, highlight how you plan to make the most of this opportunity.
4. Don’t say, “I’m coming for your job!”
This just sounds arrogant. It’s good to be hungry, but I want you to be smart—and a humble attitude goes a long way toward building trust and getting more responsibility in your job over time.
5. Don’t lie or ramble.
Be honest, be brief, and stick to the point! Rambling can make you appear nervous or like you’re fishing for an answer.
Example Answers About 5-Year Career Goals
If you need more clarity on how to answer where you see yourself in five years, here are a few examples you can use and change depending on the job you’re preparing to interview for and the skills you’d like to emphasize.
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“In five years, I’d like to be certified in cybersecurity so I can help the IT team protect the company’s digital assets and customer data.”
“I’d like to continue growing my social media marketing skills by learning how to collaborate with public brands to create engaging and educational content.”
“Five years from now I hope to be in a leadership position where I can identify key growth areas for the company and help create a vision for the team to accomplish X, Y and Z goals.”
You can use these examples as a template and simply mention the skills, industry and goals that are important for your career direction.
Get Ready for Your Next Interview
Now that you’ve thought about your long-term goals for the next five years, it’s time to prepare for the rest of your interview. If you really want to impress your hiring manager, download my free Interview Guide. You’ll learn the five areas you need to spend time on to prepare for your next interview, the most common interview questions, and how to create a strong first impression. Download the guide today!