It’s common for interviewers to ask a job candidate some future-vision version of “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” or simply “Where do you see yourself in the future?” And it’s just as common for a job seeker to respond with a cautious answer that they hope the employer wants to hear. And that’s a shame.
Tempting as it may be to respond with a supposedly safe and very unoriginal answer like “in five years I see myself as a manager” or a joke answer like “on a beach in Tahiti” (please don’t do that), that’s wasting a great chance to show some original thought … and show the interviewer you know something about the company’s actual needs and direction.
How to answer 5 years from now interview question
It’s worth taking extra preparation time to research and think about the type of company (including where THEY see themselves five years from now), the position itself, and how the employer describes their ideal person in the company’s job description.
Then tailor your answer to this particular job and company as well as something you’d truly feel good about. Sincerity shows, even if the sincerity comes with awareness of the company you’re talking to.
For instance, if you’re interviewing for a customer service job in a small company with little room to move ahead (other than perhaps supervisor), you might not want to seem too ambitious about moving up rapidly, or they won’t see you as someone who’ll stay in the job – or even like it for very long.
Then again, if you’re interviewing with an aggressive company, they want to know that you have ambition and drive. So give them an answer that shows that need to move ahead, with an awareness that you plan to earn it. Feel free to add something from your past to bolster whatever goal feels right.
Steps to prepare yourself to answer the question
So how do you make sure you come up with a solid answer that helps you look like the best candidate?
(1) Learn about the company. Research the company, its culture, and some of its employees as best you can. Read about where they see the company going.
(2) Review the job description. Get a good sense of what they really want. Does the position have room for growth? (It’s ok to ask about that in the interview as one of your questions for them.)
(3) Review you own resume. Think about things you’ve accomplished in the past that show you set goals and make things happen.
(4) Come up with a basic answer and then adjust it to the job. Think about the company, the job, and who you are. Look for a chance to use one or two examples from your past to emphasize your strengths while talking about the kinds of new things you’re hoping to accomplish. If possible, try to connect it to with where the company sees itself going.
• If the job seems to call for career growth … include that in your answer, along with things you hope to accomplish. But also make sure to include something about how you’ll have gained strong knowledge, built relationships and learned things along the way. It shouldn’t feel like it’s just about you – it’s about you within this particular growing company.
• If a career path upward isn’t clear … talk about “horizontal” growth, like taking on interesting projects, finding ways to solve problems, perhaps becoming an expert in a specialty field or new software (a good time to use an example from your past) – whatever feels right for the job and company.
Basically, in either case, you want to paint a picture of someone who will become an essential, valued part of the company – someone they can count on to find an answer or solution in any situation. And to be someone people can turn to when things get tough.
Handling the question on the day of the interview
- Think about all this ahead of time, but don’t try to make each and every point … it would sound too canned.
- Then answer as naturally and sincerely as you can. Great interviews are more about the connection than the facts.
- Show you understand the reality of the job and the company – but also show that you want to be a key part of their firm … and will be looking for good opportunities wherever they arise.
Remember to use your research, but also anything they may tell you in the interview up to that point to aim your own vision of career growth. It’s ok to take notes for this very reason. Listening and adjusting accordingly is a big plus when you answer interview questions.
Oh … and if you get a sense that the growth potential of this particular job does not match your own needs, then add that to information you’re gathering for yourself. In the end, if it’s not a two-way match, you probably won’t be happy even one year from now, much less five years in the future!
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