Job Interview Question & Answer: Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

Why Interviewers Ask About Your Future Plans

The Point of the Question
Widely recognized as one of the most frequently asked interview questions, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” often proves challenging to answer once the purpose of the inquiry becomes evident. Designed to gauge the ambition and drive of job seekers, the seemingly straightforward question deals with the professional goals and aspirations of prospective employees. Essentially, the highly common interview question requires each candidate to outline a personal, five-year career plan. As a result, the popular query also reveals the level of commitment and loyalty each applicant plans on bringing to the job.

What Employers Look For
On the surface, the question appears to give job seekers plenty of leeway in constructing a response; however, most employers actually look for specific elements in the answer. Interviewers want to see whether the career goals of potential workers align with the goals of the prospective employer. Similarly, hiring officials also look at the feasibility of responses to see how the anticipated career paths of applicants might fit with the realities of the desired position. Most importantly, employers look for relevant answers focusing on professional goals rather than personal ones. In other words, restrict the five-year plan to include only job-related ambitions, such as developing new skills or earning opportunities for career advancement, and save discussions of irrelevant aspirations for less formal conversations.

How to Respond
Besides centering on relevant career goals, the best responses successfully navigate the fine line between ambition and reality. Candidates interviewing for entry-level jobs, for instance, should refrain from mentioning a desire to become CEO of the company in five years, as employers will most likely regard such a goal as unrealistic and might even view the applicant as being naïve or unaware of typical workplace conventions. Instead, the response should demonstrate a willingness to spend time growing and learning with the company. Employers understandably prefer to hire workers who want to remain with the company for the foreseeable future, and providing a five-year career plan gives interviewees the opportunity to convey the sense of commitment and loyalty recruitment officials generally look for. Finally, the response needs to outline the career goals in specific detail while remaining flexible enough to account for unforeseen circumstances that might arise during the five-year timeframe stipulated by the interview question.

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