Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years? (Sample Answers Included)

where do you see yourself in 5 years

By Mike Simpson

Updated 4/30/2022

where do you see yourself in 5 years

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? It’s one of those interview questions that seems so simple, but it’s surprisingly tricky to answer. Doesn’t the hiring manager know you can’t predict the future? Yes, they do. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ask you to try.

So, how do you answer a question well if it’s based mainly on guesswork? We’re about to tell you. 

Here’s what you can expect from us in this article:

    1. Why do Hiring Managers ask this question?
    2. Communicating Your 5 Year Goals
    3. Mistakes to Avoid When Answering This Question
    4. How to Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
    5. 3 Great “Where Do you see Yourself in 5 Years” Examples

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask This Question

Alright, before we hop into any “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” sample answers, let’s talk about why Hiring Managers ask this question.

Do hiring managers think you can tell them with 100 percent certainty where you’ll be five years down the road? No, they don’t. Instead, this question is sort of a test (and not necessarily a great one).

There’s a lot of debate regarding whether hiring managers should ask this question. Some people consider it one of the most ineffective interview questions around because it’s asking you to provide an answer based on a theoretical future no one can actually predict. Others dislike it because it’s essentially requiring candidates to provide lip service to the company.

Still, whether it’s a great way to just a candidate’s chances of success, you may need to answer it. So, it’s vital to know what the hiring manager is actually trying to find out.

Essentially, the hiring manager wants to see whether your answers line up with the company’s goals and the hiring manager’s vision for the position. In the end, hiring a new employee costs around $4,000 to hire, but that’s just part of the equation. Companies also invest in onboarding and training.

Since that’s the case, they want to make sure the incoming hire stays put long enough for them to get a sufficient amount of value out of them. If this job is a fit for your long-term plan, that increases the likelihood that you’ll stay in the role long enough to make hiring you worthwhile. If it isn’t a match for your goals, they may assume that investing in you isn’t a wise choice. Yes, it’s that simple.

In some cases, hiring managers can learn a bit more, too. Depending on how you answer, they can assess aspects of your personality. Are you methodical or free-spirited? Ambitious or cautious? Metered or bold? How you answer may tell them.

By knowing what hiring managers are trying to find out, you can create an answer that speaks to those points. That way, you can increase your chances of standing out for the right reasons.

FREE BONUS PDF "CHEAT SHEET" Get our Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years cheat sheet that gives you  3 more word-for-word example answers to this interview question and more. 

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Communicating Your 5 Year Goals

Regardless of the reasons for the Hiring Manager to ask this question, the fact of the matter is, there is a good chance you’re going to be asked it. And this has been made more relevant during the post-Covid world, as the Great Resignation continues and companies become more and more paranoid about losing workers. They want to know if you’re going to stick with them after they’ve invested in you.

So how do you communicate your 5 year plan? How do you let them know that you’ve walked into the interview with a firm grasp of your short term, medium term and long term career goals?

For starters, you need to have put some thought into this before your interview. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Don’t wait for a manager or mentor to ask you what your goals are. Get ahead by brainstorming and crafting your professional goals independently.”

There are many goal-setting resources out there that can assist you with building a goal profile that you can feel confident about heading into your interview.

Once you’ve flushed out your goal profile, get comfortable with it. Read it over several times. Ask a friend to sit down with you and ask you questions about your goals; anything from short- to long-term, financial or growth related or anything else that an interviewer might ask you.

And finally, study how your goals might align with what the company is expecting from the person they hire for the job:

MIKE'S TIP: Setting goals is great. Everyone should do it. But do you know what is even better? Tailoring your goals to the company you’re interviewing with. This is a good way to ensure that your goals align with what the company is looking for from a hire for the position they’re interviewing for.
A fully tailored list of goals is a very impressive thing to any Hiring Manager, and it will ultimately ensure that you answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” perfectly.

Common Mistakes People Make When Answering the Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years Interview Question

So, can you make mistakes when answering the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question? Yes, you can.

Usually, the biggest misstep is discussing a goal that has nothing to do with the job or company. If you don’t line up your career path with the opportunity, you’ll seem like a poor fit, even if you could thrive in the role.

Outlining an unrealistic target is also a big mistake. While saying you’ll be CEO in 5 years might seem daring and passionate, if getting into that role in the next half-decade isn’t actually plausible, it’s a bad answer.

Undershooting works against you, too. If you don’t discuss any kind of growth or advancement, it makes you seem complacent about your career. The hiring manager may also worry that you lack confidence or that your abilities don’t actually line up with what they need. In any of those cases, that works against you.

Saying you want to end up in the hiring manager’s job is also a terrible choice. It doesn’t seem ambitious. Instead, it comes across as a threat.

How To Answer Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years

Creating a fantastic answer for this interview question usually seems tricky. However, with the right strategy, you can get the ball rolling. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are three tips that can get you moving in the proper direction.

1) Research the Role and Company

Since your answer needs to show that the position you want to land fits into your 5-year plan, it’s time for some research. Learn as much as you can about the job and the company, especially when it comes to missions, values, and goals. That way, you can fit the right details into the answer, making you seem like a strong fit.

Additionally, spend time researching the next job in the career path. That could give you a reasonable 5-year target, giving you a reference point to discuss how you see that time potentially unfolding.

2) Let Your Enthusiasm Shine Through

Talking about the future should be fun and exciting. If you deliver an answer to the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question that seems hesitant or uninspired, the hiring manager might assume that you don’t have much passion for the field or the opportunity.

Instead, you need to ensure that your enthusiasm shines through. Show that the path ahead is genuinely motivating to you. That way, you increase your odds of impressing.

3) Embrace Genericness (To a Degree)

Generally speaking, being generic when you answer a job interview question is a poor choice; this is the exception. Since you’re talking about a moment far in the future and there’s no way to know exactly what’ll end up on the horizon, it’s okay to be a little vague. Embrace that idea.

By being a bit generic, you can tailor your answer to the job without making your plan seem too rigid. Additionally, with a broad answer, the hiring manager may fill in some of the gaps themselves. They might figure out how the role could potentially work for you in ways you wouldn’t think of, causing them to relate their ideas to you in their minds. In some cases, that can work in your favor.

MIKE'S TIP: "Genericness" is typically a dangerous move in a job interview. In most cases, you need details and real-world examples to impress, so you shouldn’t use this approach for practically any other question. Additionally, it’s still wise to sprinkle in specifics with this answer, ensuring your response is focused enough but still has some room to breathe. That way, you strike a balance, enticing the hiring manager without putting in so much detail that you could seem like a potentially poor fit.

Step-By-Step Guide for Answering This Question

As with most interview questions, a strategic approach is your ally. Here’s how to answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

1. Do Your Research

As mentioned above, you need to spend time learning about the job and company. That way, you’ll have an easier time designing a response that’s relevant in the eyes of the hiring manager.

2. Check Out the Career Path

After you dig into the role and employer, spend a little time reviewing your potential career path. Determine what jobs come next and how long it usually takes to land them. That way, you can find a solid target for your answer.

3. Have a Compelling Value Proposition

In the end, you should always strive to showcase your value during your interview. Consider how any goals you outline can benefit the company, allowing you to show why your growth and advancement is ultimately a win-win.

4. Embrace Brevity and Be Generic

Generally, this is an interview question where the answer should be short, sweet, and free of any overly limiting detail. Provide a quick overview with somewhat generic targets, ensuring it’s easy for the hiring manager to see how the job can fit into your 5-year plan.

But what if they ask you where you see yourself in 10 years? Don’t worry, we’ve written a separate article for that which you can read here.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years Examples

How you answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” largely depends on where you are in your career. Since that’s the case, it’s helpful to see a couple of examples. Fortunately, we have your back.

Here are three “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” sample answers, with each one targeting a different moment in a person’s career.

Entry-Level Recent Graduate

As a recent graduate, I’m excited to take my first steps into my chosen field. Over the next five years, my main goal is to continue learning and growing. That’s what initially attracted me to the position and your company, as you have a reputation for supporting your employee’s development.

Ideally, I’d also like to take move from an entry-level role into one that’s a bit more advanced within the next five years if the opportunity arises. Along the way, I also want to explore emerging trends in the field, including on my own time. That way, I can provide an employer with value beyond my current role, hopefully putting me on the track to a rewarding career.

Mid-Career Individual Contributor

During my career, I’ve mainly focused on honing my capabilities, ensuring I can exceed expectations in every role I’ve held. One of those opportunities involved overseeing a critical project. It was my first chance to lead a team, and it ignited my passion for coaching others toward success. Due to that, my main goal for the next five years is to work toward a management role.

To make that a possibility, I’m already taking extra steps. For instance, I’m signing up for project management and leadership courses, allowing me to boost those capabilities. I also feel this role helps me continue down this path, as overseeing projects is a major component of the position.

Manager, Leader, or Executive

During the next five years, my top priority is to support the growth and development of a team while supporting my employer’s overall mission and vision. I’d also like to keep my career moving forward.

In my current position, I’ve had the opportunity to guide and coach an outstanding team, leading to a variety of individual and team successes. For my next step, I’m seeking out opportunities to expand my responsibilities.

That’s why I feel like this role is an exceptional fit for my goals, as it allows me to oversee a department. Ultimately, I’d like to take my knowledge of leadership and coaching and apply it at that level. That way, I can provide exceptional value, all while expanding into new strategic areas that allow me to give even more.

Putting It All Together

By now, you like have a good idea of how to answer, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Use all of the tips above to your advantage. That way, when it’s time to speak with a hiring manager, you’ll have a plan in place, making it easier to impress.

FREE: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years PDF "Cheat Sheet"

Ok the next thing you should do is Download our PDF Answer "Cheat Sheet" that gives you "word for word" example answers to this dreaded question.

In it you'll find answers to fit a variety of scenarios including: if you are applying for an entry level position, mid management and more!


About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.