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Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years’ Time?

On25/ 04 /17

This question is another favourite with interviewers, along with common variations such as ‘What are your long term career goals?’ or ‘What’s most important to you in your career?’

It may seem like a fairly straightforward question, however your response could be the difference between getting the job or being politely declined.

So how should you approach this question to remain on track?

What does the interviewer want to know?

This question is often code for ‘do you want a job or a career?’ and more specifically do you want this job to build your career?

In other words, this question is focused on your goals, and whether succeeding in this role is important to you. If it is, you are much more likely to perform well.

Equally, the interviewer wants to determine whether you are in it for the long haul. They will ask this question to look for any red flags that suggest you’re not really invested in the role or don’t see it as a long-term opportunity.

Key Considerations

Ideally, you want to shape your answer to show your ambition without being unrealistic. Always consider this question in the context of the position you are applying for and the company structure.

If you are applying to a large organisation, for example, taking on managerial responsibilities could be a realistic aim. If the role is at a very small company, this may not be possible. 

It also might be overkill to say you want to be on the board in 5 years, when applying for your first job. Saying that you see yourself in their role is another no-no!

Remember that you are being interviewed for a particular role, not a job that may or may not materialise in the future. With this in mind, you need to prove your interest and commitment in it.

Hiring managers want to avoid the costly mistake of employing staff that soon leave. They will therefore be looking for reassurance that you’re ready to grow with the company.

How to Answer the Question Well

When shaping your response to this question, it’s best to keep you answer fairly general. By all means do some research to try and gauge what a development path might look like for you at the company, but this is one question where being too specific can get you into deep water.

This question can be tackled in two parts. Firstly you want to emphasise your commitment to the role and organisation, explaining why it excites and motivates you. Secondly, you want to mention your future aspirations:

 “This role really interests me as it’s diverse and varied with plenty of scope for development. In the future I’d like to take on new responsibilities, such as line-management and increased client liaison duties.”

Or “I’m keen to find a role in a company where I can grow and develop, taking on new responsibilities over time. As I progress, I’d be keen to take on management tasks and become involved in setting strategy. Most of all, I’d like to work somewhere where I can build my career.”

A Quick Checklist

1. Keep your answer fairly general – go into huge amounts of detail and you may dig a hole for yourself.

2. Aim to show your motivation whilst being realistic. By all means say you want to progress but it’s probably best not to tell the hiring manager that you want to be MD or to take their job.

3. Stress your interest in the long term. This is especially important if you have a series of short-term roles on your CV.

If you are looking for more advice, why not take a look at our interview and CV tips section? You can also view the other posts in our interview series on our blog. Next month we tackle the question ‘Why are you leaving your current role?’
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