Don’t You Hate This Question?

How to Answer Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years (Without the Anxiety Attack)

This question tops the list of most hated interview questions.   The main problem is that it gets misinterpreted and taken quite literally by candidates. It’s easy to get anxious when you need to fast forward 5 years into the future

In reality, recruiters don’t really want to hear your specific, detailed 5-year plan. They simply want to:
Find out about your long-term career goals
See if the position and company match those goals
See you’re ready for continuous learning and professional development
See you’re adaptable and have no issues coming up with a Plan B

Still, if this question catapults you into panic mode, a simple hack you can do is reframe it as: What are your career goals? or Where would you like your career to go? This trick will make it a bit less overwhelming.   Here’s how to answer this question effectively:
1. Explore typical career growth options for your role and industry  Don’t be afraid to reach out to current employees of the company or people on LinkedIn and ask about a typical career path for someone in your role. If you’re just starting your career, there are multiple options for growth for each and every role, so make sure you evaluate them and see which ones resonate with you.   
2. Stress 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 company. Showing them that this job fits your long-term career strategy will send a message that you’re seriously interested, likely to stick around, and that you’d feel happy in the role.
3. Find a balance between being general and too specific Be extra careful to avoid vague answers like I want to continue learning and be the best in the team. At the same time, don’t be overly ambitious and unrealistic and say: I plan to be a VP at a major firm with at least 7 direct reports, a company car, and a six-figure salary.
4. Avoid sarcasm  Even if your hunch is to say Who makes long-term plans in this apocalyptic economy?, don’t say it. This will destroy your chances as it shows you’re not taking the interview seriously, that you’ve come unprepared, and that you haven’t given your career plans much thought.
To put all this together, you can use this template to organize your answer (but make it your own):

In the next 5 years, I plan to grow in [Field 1] and [Field 2] and achieve [Goal 1] and [Goal 2]. I’d also like to master [a few relevant skills]. As for what comes next, there are a few scenarios I’m considering. Right now, my ideal situation would be [Scenario 1]. But I can also see myself as [Scenario 2]. I’ll know for sure once I get a better understanding of how my skills evolve and depending on where the market’s at.   That’s it! You can find more tips, examples of good and bad answers, and a list of common mistakes to avoid in this guide: How to Answer: “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” (+ Examples)       If you’re preparing for your interview right now, here are some more free resources you’ll love: My LinkedIn profile, as I post job seeking advice there regularly This Free Course to help you stand out in an interview Our Interview Q&A hub with guides on common interview questions Happy job hunting!

Until next time,
Pamela Skillings
Co-founder & Chief Product Officer | Chief Coach
Skillful Communications, Inc
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