How to Best Answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Clint Mytych

Clint Mytych

Certified Professional Résumé Writer and blogger. Founder of Content Pro.

Answering where do you see yourself in 5 years
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Most job seekers will be asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” in an interview at least once during their career journeys.  In this post we’ll share our thoughts on how to provide the best answer, and we’ll include some examples. 

With many job postings today receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of applications, it’s important to do everything you can to be a stand out applicant.

Of course, the first step in being invited to the interview phase is having a résumé that gets you noticed.  Content Pro has a wide selection professional services for anyone whose current résumé isn’t delivering results. 

Avoid a Response That’s All About You

What approach do you think most applicants take when answering, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  Unsurprisingly, most will individualize the response into a projection of their own goals with something like, “I want to be leading the Marketing team,” or “I hope to have completed a new degree or certification since you offer a generous tuition reimbursement program.”    

Even if you conclude with a statement about bringing new skills to the role and that you “hope to be with the company for a long time,” the answer is still very self-focused. 

Don’t misunderstand us: promotions and continuing education are noble goals!  They speak to self-enrichment and professional growth.   But in a job market where recruiters are fielding 100+ applications for each online job posting, this is your chance to shine with a unique response.

Additionally, you don’t want to frustrate the recruiter by stating a goal they could interpret as make-or-break, and that if you don’t achieve it quickly you’ll leave the company. 

Answer with the Company’s Goals in Mind

Our advice:

  1. Prepare for the interview by finding common ground between the job description and your goals.
  2. Make the company the primary subject of your response, referencing your goals in a way that supports the company’s needs.  

Real-Life Example #1 (Financial Analyst)

Interviewer:  Where do you see yourself in five years?

Applicant: To keep the company on track with timely and accurate filings, I see myself continuing to deliver each financial analysis ahead of schedule, but with added responsibilities down the road and helping lead others in the team’s success.

Did you notice how much was conveyed in this single sentence?  It communicates personal goals in the context of putting the company first:

  • A major component of the job requirement (financial analysis) is referenced right out of the gate.
  • The response conveys a commitment to succeed, with an understanding that the company won’t appreciate late filings.
  • The phrase “with added responsibilities” conveys a desire to be promoted; and, “helping lead others in their own success” clearly indicates an openness to being a manager.  

This interviewer responded with, “Sounds great, what added responsibilities are you looking for?” – at which point the door was open to go deeper about personal advancement goals within the company. 

Real-Life Example #2 (IT Developer)

Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Applicant: I see myself being an increasingly integral part the company’s expansion and ensuring all new accounts are integrated smoothly.  I’ll pursue additional training along the way to become proficient in any area that’s unfamiliar, and would love the opportunity to lead a project team.

In this example, the applicant did some research and knew from a corporate press release that a regional sales expansion was in the works and that system capabilities would likely need to be increased significantly.  He referenced goals of continuing education and a promotion to project leadership in his response, but not until after addressing a key company need.

If you’re not interviewing at a place that publishes news, any insight from social media or a current employee will be invaluable in helping you craft a unique response.

Bonus Tip: End Your Answer with a Question

To gain insight into objectives not revealed in the job posting, consider asking your interviewer, “What are your long-term goals for someone in this role?”  The answer will be insightful to you personally, and by asking pointed questions you convey genuine interest in the position. 

Each example above can be tailored for just about any position – just frame your response around addressing the company’s needs!  Like most interview responses, keep it short and concise, but “read the room” and elaborate further if appropriate.  If your interviewer asks a follow-up, consider using the chance to then talk more about promotion and education goals.

If you have an example of how you answered the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” post it below in the Comments!

Content Pro Resume Services LLC is a career development company providing tailored résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn® profiles, curriculum vitae, federal résumés, career coaching and other resources to help people succeed on their career journey.  No matter your experience or industry, we can help!  We serve clients at all levels: recent graduates, entry-level, professionals, seasoned executives, and those looking to change fields. 

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