“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Wait, does that mean recruiters expect you to predict your future with pinpoint accuracy? Will they hold you to a precise five-year plan? No, not really.
Rather, by asking this interview question, they want to understand your general long-term professional goals. It’s like they’re saying “let’s talk about all the potential paths you envision for your career and how you plan to get there.”
And while this once-classic question about your 3–5-year career plans is slowly becoming obsolete, you might still hear it. It’s just that the expectations for a good answer have changed significantly.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why interviewers ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
- How to prepare an answer that stands out.
- Sample great answers to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
- Common mistakes to avoid when talking about where you see your professional future going.
And if you just want a quick recap of the main points, here it is.
How to answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
- Show that you’re ambitious, goal-oriented, and that the job fits into your long-term goals.
- Tie your answer to the position you’re interviewing for.
- Emphasize continual learning. Let them know you want to take on courses, certifications, or other types of professional training.
- Stay realistic. Mention a job role or scope of responsibilities that’s a reasonable progression from the job you’re applying for.
- Be flexible. Although you should have an idea of where you want to be, demonstrate that you’re adaptable to change, as the business landscape is always evolving.
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Why Do Interviewers Ask “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
First of all, yes, this question sounds intimidating but, in reality, recruiters don’t really want to hear your specific, detailed 5-year plan. They simply want to know your long-term career goals (and if you have a 2-year plan and are still considering your options after that — that’s fine, too).
Interviewers will ask you “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” for two main reasons:
To find out about your general career goals
Are you thinking long-term and do you have a clear plan for what your future should look like?
If you’re already making plans, it will probably mean you’re decisive, organized, responsible, proactive, and motivated.
To find out about your goals within this company and this position
Interviewers want to know how the position you applied for will fit into your long-term goals.
They want to know if your development plans are in line with the approximate career progression plan for the role you’re interviewing for.
And most importantly, they must check if you’ll be happy and fulfilled in your new role so that they won’t have to hire again soon.
How to Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
As we explained above, there are five key steps to crafting a good answer:
- Show that you’re ambitious and that the job fits your goals.
- Tie your answer to the position you’re interviewing for.
- Emphasize continual learning.
- Stay realistic.
- Be flexible.
1. Show that you’re ambitious and that the job fits your goals.
You need to show them why you’re a good pick for that particular position.
Talk about how your plans are aligned with what the company wants to achieve with this open position. You can usually figure this out by looking at the job ad or by speaking to the recruiter about the position — there must be a reason they opened it in the first place.
2. Tie your answer to the position you’re interviewing for.
We’re not saying you should make it up, but there must be a mutual factor beneficial to both you and the company.
Take this example: you’re a senior content writer who would like to become Head of Content one day. The company says it’s growing and will potentially need someone to take over the writing team in the future.
Bam! It’s a perfect opportunity to mention how you plan to develop leadership skills to run a team one day.
3. Emphasize continual learning.
In order to be successful in just about any job today, you need to be committed to life-long learning and development, both personally and professionally.
And you have an opportunity to bring it up in your “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” answer.
So make sure you mention your growth goals and briefly outline the steps that will get you there. That said…
4. Be realistic.
It takes years to progress from one level to another, so if you’re a recent grad starting your career, saying you want to be a VP or Head of X in 5 years will make you look naive.
Also, when speaking with a hiring manager, avoid borderline arrogant statements like “In 5 years, I will be in the position you are now,” even if intended as a joke.
5. Be flexible.
Nothing better than an adaptable candidate with a quick wit.
In your answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years,” demonstrate your ability to adapt and navigate change.
Mention a plan B you have in case your plan A gets derailed. Talk about one or two additional paths you’re considering, depending on the situation on the market, in the industry, and the company you’ll work for.
For more useful tips that’ll help you become an offer-generating machine, we’ve prepared a free course (where we teach you how to speak about your strengths, sell yourself, and negotiate the salary and benefits of your dreams).
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” — Answer Template and Sample Answers
Let’s take a look at some examples.
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” — Sales Representative Sample Answer
Why we like it: The candidate doesn’t need help with setting up a plan — they already have a thorough understanding of what it takes to become a successful Sales Representative. Hiring managers love candidates with clear goals and dedication to professional development. Plus, the candidate mentioned they’re looking to settle in an appropriate company, and considering how costly it is to replace and train new employees, any company would be happy to hire a person who wants to stay there for a longer period of time.
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”: Content Writer Sample Answer
Why we like it: The candidate is thinking both short and long-term (which is awesome as some skills can be acquired faster than others). In addition, on a long-term basis, they have a more ambitious goal of developing strategic skills so that they can work on content strategy, as well as writing. This is something that any company could benefit from, so it’s a good thing they mentioned it.
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” — Software Developer Sample Answer
Why we like it: This answer demonstrates a commitment to life-long learning and flexibility. The candidate wants to work on the soft skills that would help them get into a leadership role when the time comes, but they also want to remain in their expert field and stay in the loop with the trends and innovations. This way, whatever the market situation is in the years to come, the candidate will have options to choose from.
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” — Project Manager Sample Answer
Why we like it: The candidate is specific. They clearly outlined the methodologies they want to be certified in and listed specific soft skills that’ll help them become a well-rounded professional. Additionally, they provided a reason for why they want to work in this specific company and why they’d be a good culture fit.
“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” — Teacher Sample Answer
Why we like it: The candidate succinctly lists what their values and interests are, and says they’re looking for a company with the same focus. A nice way to demonstrate alignment between their personal goals and what the institution is doing.
Still not sure how to use these examples? Here’s a template we created that combines all the best techniques:
“Where Do You See Yourself in X Years?” Template
“In the next [X] years I plan to grow in [area 1] and [area 2] and pursue [goal 1] and [goal 2]. I’d also like to master [set of needed skills]. As for what comes next, I’m considering a few best-case scenarios that seem great at the moment. Right now, my ideal situation would be [scenario 1]. But I’ll know which one is best later on, once I gain a better understanding of how my skills evolve and where the market’s at.”
“Where do you see yourself in five (or any other number) years?” is one of those questions that tend to be asked really frequently. Other common interview questions include:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why should we hire you?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How do you handle conflict?
- How do you problem-solve under pressure?
You can learn all about them by clicking the links from the list above. Or, get an all-in-one guide here: Common interview questions & sample answers.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering the “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Question
Being too vague or general
You already know you need to be specific in answering pretty much any interview question. The same applies here.
is simply not a good answer. The reasoning is good, but you need to add to it by explaining in more detail what you’ll do to get there. You need to be able to provide more specific information.
Now, this is a much better answer because it outlines what particular steps you’ll take and where you expect them to lead you.
Being too honest or weirdly specific
Similarly, you want to avoid being too honest and answering the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” like this:
What’s wrong with it: It shows you did not take the question seriously, did not prepare for the interview, that you lack planning skills, and have no desire to progress in your career.
What’s wrong with it: If there’s already a person in the Head of X position, answering the question like this will showcase your competitive nature (and you haven’t even landed an offer yet). It simply looks bad.
What’s wrong with it: You’ve placed yourself in too many boxes here. You narrowed it down and got so specific that there’s only a limited number of companies you will be able to do this at, and it’s very likely that the one you’re interviewing with will simply not check all of your boxes.
Focusing solely on personal goals or aspirations
Avoid focusing strictly on what’s in it for you.
Sure, the question asks about your goals in the next 5 years, but remember that recruiters are trying to check if you and the company are the right fit for each other.
So you need to show the alignment between your plans and the company’s goals to display you’re the right match.
Overpromising or setting unrealistic expectations
It will paint the wrong picture of you and your abilities and set employer expectations high. And if you can’t fulfill them and deliver on your promises and goals, you’ll end up looking bad.
Always stick to realistic goals and set proper plans that follow them. Delivering on what’s promised, even if it’s not crazy ambitious, will send a message that you’re a person of their word.
Showing no interest in the company or industry
Remember this answer: “In 5 years, I want to become a Head of People and Culture, leading a team of at least 5 recruiters and 2 managers, working in a B2B SaaS company that’s also strictly remote and from the US.”
In addition to being a bit too specific, it also demonstrates the candidate and the company are not the right fit.
What if it’s a B2C company in the ecommerce space that’s office-based? It checks zero candidate’s boxes.
Now, don’t get us wrong, it’s great that the candidate knows what they want, but if they know that the company does not meet the criteria, they’re wasting their (and the company’s) time.
That’s why you always need to tailor your answer so that it encompasses your goals and displays interest in the company you’re interviewing with, or the industry it operates in.
Want to score more interviews? Time to up your resume game. We’re here to help, make sure you give these handy guides a read:
- How to Write a Resume That Lands Jobs
- Which Resume Format to Choose
- Resume Summary Examples
- Resume Objective Examples
- Resume Profile Examples
- How to Describe Your Work Experience on a Resume
- How to Create an Education Section on a Resume
- The Best Skills to Put on a Resume
- How to Describe Hobbies and Interests on a Resume
Additional Tips for Answering the “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Question Effectively
Research the company and its industry trends
Being in the loop with the company’s events and industry trends will always get you bonus points.
That’s why you can dig around the company’s website (Events, Career, and About Us pages) to get informed; and you can keep track of industry trends by subscribing to newsletters, starting a LinkedIn profile, or reading online newspapers such as Tech Crunch and similar.
Incorporating the info you find here in your answer to the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” will show that you’re well-informed, aligned with the company and industry, resourceful, and a well-rounded person that could easily fit in with the team.
Reflect on your career goals and aspirations
Before you even hit the “Apply” button, you need to sit with yourself and carefully think about your goals and aspirations.
Be true to yourself and determine your career goals. It will help you down the road, as you’ll be more transparent about where you want to go and what you want to achieve.
Plus, you can save yourself time and effort and apply only to companies that align with your goals.
Need help finding the right jobs to apply for? Here’s a 4-step guide to help you niche down.
Tailor your answer to the specific job and company
As we already suggested above, whenever you can, tailor your answer to the specific job and company.
After you’ve done your research, it should be fairly easy to do it, as the mere fact that you decided to apply and landed an interview says that you could be a fit and there are mutual goals for both you and the company.
Focus on your goals but always tie them to what the company can get from them, and emphasize your skills and traits that could be particularly useful for the company.
Practice your response to build confidence
All the thinking in the world won’t help you if you don’t prepare your answer in advance and practice.
We recommend that you write your main points down. In this case, these would be your key goals and ambitions for the next 5 years.
Then put them into a single, coherent answer.
Don’t learn it by heart (you don’t want to sound robotic), but have a sense of what you’ll want to mention and how you want to phrase it.
When you have it figured out, head to the Mock Interview Practice Tool and record your answer. Ta-da! You’ll get an instant report on what you sounded like and how to improve (feedback like word choice, power words you used, your speaking speed, how many filler words you used, etc.).
You can also do a round of self-assessment, send the recording to a friend, or to a tutor to assess you.
The Evolution of the “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Question
Now, in all honesty, when recruiters ask the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” and its variations like:
- Where do you see yourself in 3/5/X years
- Where do you want to be in 5 years
- What do you want to achieve in the next 5 years
- What are your goals when applying for this job
- What are your long-term career goals
… they probably do understand that you might not have everything planned out for the years to come.
We could indeed argue that rigid planning no longer makes sense.
Nowadays, we’re seeing rapid changes in technologies and job markets. Just remember the pandemic, ChatGPT craze, and The Great Resignation, for example. There are too many factors at play and making strict plans in such a climate might now always be a good idea.
Additionally, the gig economy and remote work are becoming increasingly popular. A lot of work can be outsourced and given to anyone, anywhere on the planet. There are way fewer office limitations.
So when recruiters ask you this question, aim to display your planning and long-term thinking skills but leave some room for flexibility and adaptability. It could show you’ve taken into account even the elements you can’t predict, and it will bring bonus points.
Summary of the Main Points
- Recruiters ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” to check your long-term thinking and career goals, as well as how they fit with the company goals.
- Emphasize this alignment and show why this collaboration would be fruitful for both you and the company.
- Demonstrate your commitment to continual learning and the ability to successfully navigate changes (being flexible).
- Be clear about your career goals and show interest in the company you applied for, but don’t be too specific, don’t overshare your personal goals, and don’t overpromise on your goals.
- Tailor your answer to the specific job opening and practice your response.
We hope these tips will help you make the most of your answer.
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- Learn how to answer the dreaded “Why do you want to work here” question and wow hiring managers.
- Learn how to turn more job interviews into job offers here. (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
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What if the interviewer asks about where I see myself in 2 years?
Focus on your goals and the skills you wish to acquire that align with the company’s objectives. Emphasize how you plan to contribute to the company’s success and professional growth in that time frame.
What if they ask about where I see myself in 10 years?
Share a long-term vision of your career growth while being flexible, as industries can change rapidly. Demonstrate how you intend to grow within the company and how its growth aligns with your professional aspirations.
What if I don’t have a 5-year plan for myself?
Develop a general but flexible plan that demonstrates your ambition and commitment to growth. Identify the skills you want to develop and where you want to make an impact in the company or industry, leaving room for change as circumstances evolve.
Isn’t the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” question a bit old-school?
While it may seem old-school, this question assesses your ambition, commitment, and compatibility with the company’s future plans. An effective response shows your understanding of the industry, your professional goals, and how well you align with the company.
Do I need to tell them that my plan is to stay with them for the next 5 years?
Show your interest in staying by articulating how you see the company helping you grow professionally and how you plan to contribute to its growth. Conveying mutual benefit and long-term commitment, without rigidly locking yourself in, is key.
What if, within the next 5 years, I plan a career break to start a family? Do I disclose that?
Focus on your professional goals while being mindful of any legal rights or company policies about family planning. Don’t feel obliged to disclose personal plans, but emphasize commitment and dedication to the job during your time with the company.
What if I know I’ll no longer work for them 5 years from now? Do I lie?
Rather than lying, frame your response around your professional growth, immediate goals, and how you can contribute to their company. Focus on the mutual benefits you can bring each other during your time together.