Not everyone is the best planner. There are those who have a perfectly scheduled diary, months in advance, and there are those that don’t even think as far ahead as lunch (You know who you are!).
However, when it comes to interviews, you need to be able to demonstrate that you’re able to see the bigger picture. One popular interview question hiring managers love to ask is Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That means you’d better have a good answer up your sleeve.
If you want to know how to answer this question like a seasoned interview professional, keep reading.
Why interviewers ask this question
No, they’re not just being nosey. What the interviewer is trying to find out here runs a little bit deeper than that. Your answer to this question dictates the following to your potential employer:
- Whether you’re serious about the opportunity or not
- How likely you are to stick around
- If the role fits in with your long-term plans
- Your level of ambition
- If your plans fit in with what the company needs
So, like with most interview questions, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot riding on your answer.
How to approach the question
They say honesty is the best policy. In interviews, and life, this is generally true. However, when it comes to answering Where do you see yourself in 5 years? you need to weigh up the pros and cons of being perfectly candid.
Let’s say, for instance, you’re applying for a digital marketing job in Birmingham. However, your life-long ambition may be to move to Spain and open a bar. Do you think that the interviewer needs to know that, in 5 years, you see yourself running ‘Wish You Were Beer’ in Benalmadena? No, they most certainly do not.
Your plans need to involve the role you’re applying for as part of a wider vision. Therefore, the best way to approach this question is by putting yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. What do they want to hear? How can you answer in a way that is truthful but will also impress them?
What you need to say
This isn’t an easy interview question to answer on the spot. That’s why it’s essential to plan what you want to get across in advance. Go into your interview already knowing how you want to answer the question. It may be worth preparing for the same question but for the 10-year mark, too.
Here’s what you need to cover when tackling this question.
- Your general career goals, in relation to the job you have applied for
- Make sure any personal goals you discuss are relevant and aren’t disruptive to the business (i.e. only mention travel if the role will require it.)
- Express your interest in a long-term career with a reputable company
- Show that you have drive and ambition
What to avoid
Don’t be unrealistic
If you’re applying for an entry-level role and say that in 5 years’ time, you want to be the CEO, earning £500,000 a year, the interviewers will think you’re mad. Your vision for the future needs to be ambitious, yes, but also achievable.
“In 5 years’ time, I want to have your job.”
Just… no. No! You don’t want to do anything to rub the interviewer up the wrong way. Interviews are all about rapport. If you come across as arrogant rather than ambitious, you’re likely to be shown the door.
If you hesitate or struggle to answer this question, it may raise suspicion. In the interviewer’s mind, if a candidate can’t answer Where do you see yourself in 5 years? then maybe they have no plan or ambition. Maybe they can’t make decisions. Maybe they didn’t prepare for this interview.
Don’t try to cover all bases
Sometimes, job hunters try a little too hard to provide the ‘perfect’ answer to this question. As a result, they end up tripping over themselves. They don’t stick to one set path. “I’d like to be a Manager in 5 years, but I’d also be OK with being an Administrator, too.” This makes you appear flighty and will definitely raise a red flag!
It’s crucial that you prepare your answer to Where do you see yourself in 5 years? before an interview. That being said, don’t reel off the same old prepared speech at every interview. Tailor your response to each job and business, and talk naturally about your future. Ensure that your plans fit in with what the employer would want you to say, but keep it truthful!