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How to answer - "Where you want to be in 5 years from now?" in an interview

Where do you see yourself in five years? They don't want to guess this question but to know this question.

New hires are often considered as an investment. When the company hires a new employee, they invest time, money, energy to train you, teach you company systems, guide you will process etc. They want to make sure that that don't have to repeat the same steps in next few months again or in 1-2 year if you leave. They want to make sure that you stay long enough for them to make this investment of time and money fruitful.

When hiring a new employee, it is reasonable for an employer to want an employee's goals and ambitions to align with the company's. When a prospective employee interviewing for an IT role says "In five years I want to be a tech lead with at least three engineers working beneath me." A growing company will appreciate it because the entry level hires of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

The interviewer wants to understand more about your career goals and how this position would fit into your grand plan. They care about your career goals because they want to hire someone who is motivated, proactive, and likely to stick around and work hard if hired.

No smart, growing company wants to hire entry level employees who want to coast in their basic position. They want to hire people who are motivated to create new products and assume new responsibilities. This is what drives growth in companies.

If succeeding in this role is important to you as part of your long-term career strategy, you are much more likely to perform well.

The interviewer asks this question because they want to know.

Are you clear about your career plans & career direction? Or Are you a purposeless person?

The interviewer may not like you if you are purposeless person.

If you have a purposes, then he would like to know if your purpose and direction matches what his company can offer you in the next 5 years. There has to be a substantial match for the company to offer you the job.

What are your long-term career goals?

What is your ideal job at this stage in your career?

What are you looking for?

How do you define success?

What's most important to you in your career?

Normally, when somebody is employed, the idea is that he stays with the company for a long period unless they don't like him/ his work.

So, if you say 'I want to go for post-graduation in the next year' or 'I want to start my own business after 2 years' or if your main goal is to work in another industry, then the interviewer may reject you as the interviewer would like you to be with the company for a long period and not just for 1–2 years. Employees start producing substantial results only after 1–2 years and interviewers would like you to be with the company for a much longer period than just 1–2 years.

Please note that employment is almost like a commitment. It is intended to be for a long term and not short term.

If you start talking about leaving for whatever reasons even before starting to work, then the interviewer would not feel comfortable with your selection.

Your answer to this question could be on these lines: "As I see it, I should be a team leader in 2–3 years handling larger projects, and may be a manager leading a larger team in 5–6 years.". Say whatever is reasonably logical.

If you say that you would like to be the General Manager in 5–6 years, then the interviewer would feel that you are a dreamer with unrealistic expectations. If you give this impression then the interviewer may not select you.

(In reality, you may get quick promotions if your on-the-job performance is very good. But, don't sound unrealistic/immature during interviews.)

How to Answer The Question

In today's competitive job market, you have to be very careful not to give out any red flags to your interviewer. This is a question ask to understand who you want to be and where you want to be. Understandably, an employer wants to hire someone who is truly excited about the job at hand, someone who sees it as a great career move and will work tirelessly to do a good job.

If your five-year goal is to become a chef, then, it's going to be hard for them to believe that this position as an IT marketing manager is your dream job.

Hiring managers don't generally enjoy recruiting, hiring, and training new people. It can be a time-consuming and difficult process. Your interviewer does not want to invest time and effort in someone who is already planning to leave for something better as soon as it comes along (whether that's a job that's a better fit, grad school, or your own business).

After all, if she hires you and you quit after a month or two, she's going to look really bad to her bosses.

In reality, you are probably considering a few different potential career paths. It's smart for you to keep your options open to a certain extent. However, you don't have to advertise this fact in your job interviews.

Let's be clear: You should never lie during a job interview. However, that doesn't mean that you have to be 100% candid about all of the directions that you are investigating.

So what should you say?

1. Keep your answer fairly general, especially if you don't know a lot about the typical career path at the company.

2. Tell them how you are looking forward to working with the company and bring up your interest in a long-term career at the company. Your interviewer wants to know that you're ready to settle in and grow with the firm.

3. Demonstrate your motivation and enthusiasm for the job as an exciting next step for you. Make it clear that you are excited to take on this opportunity right now.

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Comments 2

Guest - LeighAnn on Monday, 23 May 2016 13:04

This is always such a tough question, but I like the way you broke it down!

This is always such a tough question, but I like the way you broke it down! XO, LA
Guest - Marina Macii on Monday, 23 May 2016 15:27

This is such an interesting post. It's never easy to answer this question! Good advices!

This is such an interesting post. It's never easy to answer this question! Good advices!
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Saturday, 29 July 2017
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