It seems to be a stock question that interviewers keep using. That doesn’t make it any easier to answer so how do you answer “where do you see yourself in 5 years” in an interview?
This can feel like a bit of a trick question, because you don’t want to say “not in this job,” or “in your job,” or something like “at a bigger better opportunity elsewhere.” However you don’t want to say that to a recruitment manager.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
Basically, the translation is, ‘do you care about our work?’. They aren’t expecting you to accurately predict your future.
The good news is you can be honest while still telling them what they really want to know. Hiring someone is an investment and interviewers believe that someone genuinely interested in the organisation’s work will be the better hire.
So, what he/she really wants to know is whether this particular job and company is part of your career path or whether you’ll be jumping ship in a year once you land your “real” dream job. They also want to see that you have ambition, drive and initiative.
So how should you answer?
If the position you’re interviewing for is on the path to your goals, share that, plus give some specifics. For example, if you’re interviewing for an account position in an advertising firm and you know your goal is to become an account supervisor, say that.
Then add specifics about the sort of clients you hope to work with, which will help your answer sound genuine, and again show why this particular company will be a good fit.
Another example, you might say:
“Well I’m really excited by this position at [insert company name] because in 5 years, I’d like to be seen as someone with deep expertise in the [insert] sector and I know that’s something I’ll have an opportunity to do here.
I’m also really excited to take on more managerial responsibilities and potentially even take the lead on some projects.”
What if it isn’t my dream job?
If the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations, the best approach is to be genuine, but to follow your answer up by connecting the dots between the specific duties in this role and your future goals.
It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision or that you’re excited about the communications skills you’ll gain.