How to Answer the Five Year Question


Where do You See Yourself in Five Years?

This is perhaps one of the most common questions any potential candidate will face. This one could be asked as “What do you want to do?”, or perhaps “What is your long range objectives?” There are many variants for this question, but it will probably be asked in some capacity during an interview, especially for entry level positions. The question is easy to answer properly, but can be tricky and destructive for possible employment opportunities.

Good Answers

What I look for when asking this question is simply to gage someone’s interest in self-improvement. Will they get the position, and stagnate in terms of professional growth? Are they realistic in what their expectations are? Will they be self-motivated? These questions are usually bouncing around in my mind when conducting an interview.

Some good answers I like to see are:

  • To continue to progress in the profession through continued experience, education, or certifications.
  • To achieve more rank and responsibility by excellent performance and high achievements.
  • To help fulfill the mission of the organization through dedication and hard work (know the organization’s mission before the interview)

Any combination or variation of the above answers will be viewed in a positive manner. I recommend keeping the enthusiasm realistic, as I have heard some possible candidates answer that they want to run the department. Usually, the interviewers will be looking in the short term, hence the five year period of time. Be realistic and positive.

A Word of Caution

This question is difficult to answer much better than other candidates, as this one is perhaps the most expected question to prepare for in any given interview. However, this question is easy to answer in a way that is unfavorable, and can undermine your chances for the open position, or future consideration for the organization.

Answers to Avoid:

  • I haven’t given this much thought as of yet/I have no immediate plans.
  • Whatever you want me to do, I only want to follow orders.
  • To be in charge/to be running the place.
  • To make the highest wages possible.

These answers will tell the interviewer that you either have no plans for the future, have little drive or motivation, or simply want to use the job as a rung in the ladder for advancement. If the position is not desirable for your career plans, you’ll have to answer the question as if you will be in the field for the long haul.

If you have everything planned out, wonderful. Elaborate and lay it out for the hiring manger during the interview. If you really don’t know, or are indeed using the position to get your foot in the door to gain experience before moving on, be vague. Always focus on self-improvement. You may have no solid answer for this question, but as long as the hiring manger knows you want to continue your education and experience, they will look upon your answer in a favorable manner.

Be prepared for this obvious and common question. Frame the answer in such a way that you are focused on internal growth, and dedication to the organization as a whole. You may not know for sure what five years will entail, but as long as you express a desire to improve your skills, gain experience, and express a desire to help the organization’s mission, the hiring manager will nod in approval and move onto the next question. You will be one step closer for consideration.