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Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? The Answer

Posted on April 06, 2016

Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s one of the most common interview questions out there. And with good reason. It gives your potential employer insight into your career plans, your ambition and your understanding of the role you have applied for.

With that in mind, it’s easy for panic to set in. What if you don’t know where you want to be in five years? Relax. Your interviewer doesn’t expect you to have a crystal ball. It’s all about showing some commitment and ambition.

So, where do you see yourself in five years time? Here are some pointers.

What does your interviewer want to know?

The five years question is common. In fact it’s become a bit of a cliché. It’s asked so often because it can reveal a lot: about your ambition, your commitment and your understanding of the role.

Recruitment is a time-consuming, expensive process for employers. They want to know that you are going to stick around. You have to show that you are a safe bet; that the job can fulfil your career ambitions and that you are working in a sector that interests you.

Set career goals

The best way to prepare for the five year question is to spend some time thinking about your professional goals. What skills would you like to learn? Any industry qualifications that interest you? Would you like to manage a team one day?

Once you know what you are looking for in your future career, you can think about how the position you are interviewing for can help you achieve your goals. It gives you a basis for providing an answer that will really impress your interviewer.

“Well, I’d love to get my X qualification – and the experience I can get in this role will be invaluable to that.”

“One day I’d like to manage a team. Joining a company with so many respected leaders will be a great way to learn.”

“I’d like to become an expert in B2B marketing. Working with such a broad range of clients will give me fantastic insight into the challenges that different businesses face.”

It’s all about aligning your ambitions with the experience you can gather in your new role. And it’s an important step in reassuring your interviewer that you are genuinely motivated to succeed in the available role – particularly if you are embarking on a shift in careers.

Show (the right amount of) ambition

Showing ambition is great. Showing too much ambition can set alarm bells ringing. If you are interviewing for the role of account manager, it might be a little far-fetched to state that in five years you see yourself running the company. Or on a six-figure salary. Or doing the interviewer’s job. It’s fine to say that you’d like to progress within the company – perhaps working up to account director, for example. But it’s important to be realistic too. Overdoing it will suggest to your interviewer that you don’t understand the role on offer.

Commit

As we said, recruitment can be expensive for employers. You have to show that you are willing to commit your future to the company. Nobody is saying you have to stay with your employer forever. But don’t expect to land the job if your interviewer suspects that you’re going to be out of the door in two months. State that you are excited about joining an ambitious company where you can progress and grow and make a difference. This is particularly important if your CV suggests a history of job-hopping.

Don’t mention personal goals – unless you have been asked

Forgive the candour, but it’s unlikely that your interviewer will care about your five-year plan to become the captain of your Sunday League football team. Keep your answers career-based, unless you are specifically asked to expand on your life outside work.

In a nutshell

  • Write down your career goals and think about how the available role will help you achieve them
  • Show ambition about your career – but don’t overdo it
  • Explain that you are excited about committing your future to the company you have applied to
  • Keep your answers focused on your career, unless you are asked about your personal ambitions


RELATED:

>> Interview formats, common questions and how to prepare
>> What recruiters want to see on a CV
>> How to prepare for an interview
>> How to dress for a job interview

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