According to Recruit CRM, only 2% of job applicants get an interview. Therefore, if you’re part of the small percentage selected for an interview, you’ll want to be deliberate in how you answer interview questions. Without preparing properly, you could become a part of the 47% who fail their job interview.
A study by Reliable Plant reveals that only 20% of people set goals for themselves. Yet, research shows that setting goals lead to successful outcomes about 90% of the time. Without goals, fulfilling your life vision is impossible, as you will have nothing specific to work toward. For the 80% of people who don’t have clear goals, answering the vision-based interview question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” can be daunting.
Fortunately, a hiring manager isn’t interested in the exact details of where you see yourself. Instead, they want to know you’ve given some thought to your career path. With the right strategy, you can answer this question in a way that highlights your best qualities and impresses the hiring manager, moving you closer to getting the job.
- Only 2% of applicants are selected for an interview.
- 47% of applicants fail a job interview because they aren’t prepared.
- “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” means “Why are you the best fit for us now and in the future?”
- Value alignment, confidence, and vision are three critical qualities interviewers look for.
Why Hiring Managers Ask “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
“In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience.”Jim Collins
A hiring manager’s main goal is to vet a candidate against other candidates. To do this, according to Career Sidekick, they examine three main qualities: confidence, expertise, and preparation. How well you answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” can place you in a top category for all three qualities.
When an interviewer asks this question, what they’re asking is: “How do you see yourself aligning and growing within this position?” As Ben with Ben Talks Talent shares, “They want to know that you share value alignment. That their culture, their ‘About Us’ page, and their website—it hits home for you. You hear it and you go, ‘Ah, these are people like me, I fit in, we share core value alignment.’”
In other words, hiring managers don’t care if you plan on getting married, buying a house, or getting a dog. They want to hear that you’ve done your homework on their company and have thought about how you are the best fit.
The Right Way to Answer This Interview Question
“I look for two things when I hire a new employee: ambition and humility. Without a proven track record of initiative and ambition, it’s likely the person becomes a drain rather than a contributor to the company—even the really smart, talented ones.”Justin McLeod, CEO of Hinge
Before the Job Interview
The best way to prepare for this question is to give it careful consideration ahead of time. Journaling, practicing visualization techniques, or doing a mock interview with a friend are great ways to prepare before the job interview. Whichever method you choose, think about your ideal life. What are your goals in 5 years? What kind of impact or role do you want to have? How do your career aspirations align with the company? Considering these questions ahead of time will provide confidence and clarity.
Variations of the question to also consider:
- “How do you define success?”
- “What do you hope to achieve by getting this job?”
- “What is most important to you in your professional career?”
For more tips on acing a job interview, read “How to Prepare for an Interview: 14 Tips to Get the Job.“
During the Job Interview
Research by Checkster reveals that 68% of job applicants lie or misrepresent themselves. Yet, a meta-analysis on authenticity proved that when one is true to themselves, not only is their well-being improved but so is their likelihood of a successful outcome.
It’s important to remain authentic during your interview. Be genuine in how you answer interview questions, particularly when they ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Even if you don’t know the specifics, use this opportunity to demonstrate your values. Convey to the interviewer what it is you hope to have learned five years from now and some of the steps you want to take to get there.
Recruiting expert Vicki Salemi with Monster explains, “Candidates who did well weren’t necessarily always the ones who aced questions about the job . . . instead, I evaluated behavior, authenticity, voice, manners, and interactions.”
Other tips for answering interview questions:
- Keep it short and concise.
- Explain how you see yourself contributing to the company in five years.
- Include any values, passions, or causes that are important to you that you know the company also cares about.
Example of How to Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”
A hiring manager asks interview questions to determine if you’re prepared, confident, and competent. This is how they vet their candidates as part of their hiring process. For this reason, any answer you give should assist in marketing yourself.
YouTube success coach Dan Lok explains, “From now on, when you hear the question, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ I want you to make the mental switch. That equals ‘What value could you bring to the company? What problems can you solve for the company? That’s what they are asking.’”
Five years from now, I’d like to embody [insert attributes and demands of the role from the job description]. Additionally, I’d love to have the opportunity to attend online leadership courses and conferences to advance my knowledge and skillset so I can grow to the best of my abilities. I also understand the company’s commitment to [insert cause or value the company supports] and I’d like to have contributed to that cause by [list three meaningful ways].
More tips for answering this question as best as possible:
- Be authentic in your response.
- Be realistic; avoid sounding overly ambitious.
- Keep it related to your career path and potential role.
- Tie it back to the company’s stated mission and values.
- Provide enough information without overexplaining; less is more.
- Demonstrate goals for both the short term and long term within the five years.
For more insights on answering common interview questions, read “The Top Job Interview Questions That Matter Most” next.
The Wrong Way to Answer This Interview Question
You want to avoid saying a few things when answering, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” For example, it may seem harmless to mention that you’d like to start your own business one day. However, saying this suggests to the employer that you may be distracted by your independent pursuits or leave the company altogether.
Examples of other things not to say:
- “I don’t know.”
- “On a beach, retired.”
- “Home with my kids.”
- “Doing your job.”
If you don’t know how to respond positively, pause and reflect on your growth from the past five years. Then, use that to formulate a response for the next five.
As career strategist Linda Raynier says, “What hiring managers and what recruiters want to be able to identify from you is whether you have the ability to communicate your thoughts, your emotions, your stories, your experiences to them.”
Avoid saying or suggesting statements that:
- Are meant to be jokes or funny.
- Imply that you haven’t given thought to your career goals.
- Overtly or subtly suggest that you want your interviewer’s position.
- Suggest that you haven’t researched the role or company.
- Indicate that you might leave the company at first chance.
- Allude to the idea you’re desperate for a job (even if you are).
- Encourage the interviewer to think that you view money as the most important factor.
Cultivate a Life Vision for Long-Term Success
“If you want a meaningful life, you must create situations that make you uncomfortable.”Dave Hollis
When Jim Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million as a struggling comic, he was committing to his vision of being a famous actor. He had no idea if he’d ever land a movie role. Right before the check was about to expire, he landed a deal that allowed him to reach his $10 million goal after having four hit movies. In an interview, he shares, “Who knows, maybe it’s fate or maybe it’s just that I believed, you know. I always believed.”
Cultivating success is all about being clear on your vision and believing in it. What kind of life do you want for yourself? Are your daily actions aligning with your goals in five years? The more clarity you have, the more your day-to-day decisions and opportunities will begin to align with that. This is how the law of attraction works. But it all starts with having a vision.
Tips for gaining clarity and vision:
- Practice methods of visualization.
- Speak with an online career coach.
- Explore vision board ideas for your own vision board.
- Read Goals: How to Get the Most Out of Your Life by Zig Ziglar.
Have a job you like but need a change? Read “You Had Me at ‘You’re Hired’: How to Fall Back in Love With Your Job.”
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- “25+ Job Interview Statistics Recruiters Need to Know – RecruitCRM.” RecruitCRM, 14 May 2022, https://recruitcrm.io/blogs/job-interview-statistics/.
- “Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals.” Noria Corporation, https://www.reliableplant.com/Read/8259/fail-achieve-goals. Accessed 23 Feb. 2023.
- APA PsycNet. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1981-27276-001. Accessed 23 Feb. 2023.
- Clark, Biron. “What Do Employers Look for in an Interview?” Career Sidekick, 13 Feb. 2023, https://careersidekick.com/what-employers-look-for-in-interviews/.
- “What Hiring Managers Look For In An Employee – 5 Interview Tips.” YouTube, 9 June 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SiSbZnw2Yo.
- Checkster. “Checkster – Hiring Charlatans?” Checkster, https://www.checkster.com/are_you_hiring_charlatans. Accessed 23 Feb. 2023.
- Sutton, Anna. “Living the Good Life: A Meta-Analysis of Authenticity, Well-Being and Engagement.” ScienceDirect, vol. 153, Jan. 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019188691930577X.
- Salemi, Vicki. How to Make Sure the Real You Comes through in Job Interviews. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/personal-branding-how-to-represent-the-real-you-0622.
- “Tell Me About Yourself – A Good Answer To This Interview Question.” YouTube, 25 Dec. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v-wyR5emRw.
- “Interview Tips to Get the Job | 5 Things You Need to Ace the Interview.” YouTube, 10 June 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkPRpz56aEg.
- “Write Yourself a Check.” CBN.Com – The Christian Broadcasting Network, 15 Oct. 2013, https://www1.cbn.com/700club/write-yourself-check.
- “Jim Carrey – How to Manifest Your Dream Life.” YouTube, 26 Aug. 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhRrobiz0V8.