Where Do You See Yourself in the Next 5 Years?

Anyone who’s been in the market for a job has probably heard this interview question, “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?” And if you’ve been in the job market for a while there’s a good chance you fielded the question more than once. While it may sound like a cliché, the employer generally has good intentions for asking it, and a strong answer to it could be the difference maker in you getting the job.  Here’s how to answer it well.

Why Are They Asking Me This Question?

First, it’s a good idea to gain some perspective on this question. When a hiring manager is asking, “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?” they are probably trying to answer a few questions within the question. For example:

  • Are you a job jumper? – Are you going to stay with their organization long-term? Turnover costs employers big money.  Thus your longevity in their organization, or lack of it, can impact their business, and they generally prefer to have individuals who they feel will stay with them for the long haul.
  • Do you have bonafide career goals? – More often than not, employers find a candidate appealing when the candidate has ambitions to grow in his or her career.  Signals they are looking to pick up from you are things like:  Are you ambitious and looking to grow? Are you looking for stability in your job and committing to a career trajectory? Do you have any educational goals? What certifications would you like to pick up? What other interests do you have and would they make you consider transferring to another department down the road?  An individual with career goals more often than not is a more appealing candidate than an individual who ‘just wants a paycheck’.
  • Does what you’re seeking fit the company culture? – If it’s a culture of continuous challenge, learning, and growth, your goals for continuing education and professional certifications could resonate as a great fit within their organization.

All of these things make the answer the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” a potentially critical part of the employer’s evaluation of you as the right candidate for their organization.

How to Answer the ‘Five Year’ Question

Go ahead and assume you’re going to field this question at some point and prepare in advance by crafting a well-thought-out answer that you can fine tune to  the specific job you’re applying for.  Some of the things you should do to prepare include:

  • Figure out your career goals – What do you want to do, career-wise, in the next five years? How about learning new skills? What are they? Do you want to go into management someday? Or would you rather rise to the highest level of your craft as an individual specialist? Are there specific types of projects you’d like to take on someday? What job title would you like to have in five years and what classes or experiences will you need to complete to get there?
  • How does the job description of the position you’re interviewing for fit the career goals you’ve outlined -This is a key part of the exercise: think about how the job you’re interviewing for fits into the career goals you’ve mapped out.
  • Can this organization you’re applying for give you the kinds of training, skills, and experiences to help you reach your career goals? – If you can’t readily get to a resounding ‘Yes’ to this question, you may want to figure out if this is the right job you should be targeting.

Here are a few sample answers to the ‘five year’ interview question to help you prepare to answer successfully:

  • “In five years, I hope to finish my BA and also earn a project management certification. I look forward to growing into a future project leader for the organization I work for.  I looked at your website and I noticed you offer tuition reimbursement, which would greatly help me advance toward that goal.”
  • “In five years, I’d like to move from this role into demonstrating my candidacy for managing the department. I know your organization offers mentoring and leadership training. This, to me, is highly valuable and important for helping me advance my career in your organization.”

Practice It Before the Actual Interview

A good practice is to do prep your talk tracks for the ‘Five Year’ question:  talk to the mirror, in your bedroom, or a quiet office, and trial run – out loud – what you would actually say as your answer to this question.  Often times, how we think our answer may sound vs. how it actually sounds may not be in sync.  But by practicing your response out loud, you get a chance to hear how it sounds, fine tune your response, and ultimately ensure it delivers the message you want with the impact you intend it to have.   Practice makes perfect!

Blackstone Talent works with job seekers to find the right positions to fit their five-year (and beyond) career goals. Talk with our team today about how we can help.

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