So you’ve received an interview invitation for a job that you really want. Now the next step is to pass the interview stage, and have the job offer letter in your hands.
You know that there’s one question that often gets asked in job interviews, and even after going through so many interviews, you’re still not sure how to answer it. The question I’m talking about is, “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”
Before we talk about how to answer this question, let me tell you how not to answer this question, by understanding why the employer asks you this in the first place.
Why employers ask this question
Your employers want to make sure you actually want to be there in the long term. As realistic or unrealistic as that may seem, if you give any hints that you plan to be elsewhere, and not work at this company well into the future, then they’ll consider that as a red flag and likely not consider you further in the process. So if you actually truly plan to run a business in the next 5 years, maybe it’s a good idea to not mention that as part of your answer.
The other reason why employers ask this question is that they want to weed out the candidates who really just want the job at hand, versus those who are looking to have a ‘foot in the door’ or are already thinking about the next job title. Thus you want to ensure that your answer speaks to only what the job at hand has to offer. Your answer shouldn’t involve you saying that you want to be a Manager or Director in the next 5 years. Sometimes, companies don’t know if they’ll have a higher level role for you to go into in the next 2, 3 or 5 years. So if you make it sound like it’s your expectation to be promoted into a Manager title, Manager role or Director role in the next X number of years, then they’ll likely stumble on the side of caution and not consider you further, because they may not be able to provide you what you want. They might also see you as overly ambitious and using this opportunity as a stepping stone to get to the next level.
How to answer this question
Now that we understand why this question is asked, let me give you my magic formula for how this question should be answered. There are 2 parts to this answer. You’ll understand the structure as we go along. Part 1 of the answer is as follows.
“In the first 2-3 years, I see myself becoming a true expert and master at my role as a [job_title] at [company_name]. I plan to really immerse myself in the position, understand areas that can be improved, get to know the ins and outs of the business, and look for opportunities to make the [department_name] team as efficient as possible.”
Part 2 of the answer is as follows.
“For the 2-3 years after that, I see myself as being a key [department_name] business partner and liaison with all the other teams in the organization. I want to be able to extend my expertise and offer help to other departments, whether it be sales, production, accounting or administration, using my skills and knowledge gained from my role.”
The reason why this formula works so well is because firstly, you’re keeping it general. You’re not talking about specific titles you want to achieve, which may put off some interviewers. And instead, you’re talking about “what you’ll do” instead of “who you’ll be” in the next 5 years. Secondly, you show that you’re eager and that you truly want this job. You’re connoting that you plan to stay focused on this and this role only. You’re telling the interviewer that you simply want to help and give value.
This secret formula works across any job title and any industry. If you’ve been saying anything other than this, and you like this little 2-part formula that I’ve come up with to answer the question at hand, then feel free to use it.