where do you see yourself in five years

“Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

Read the first part of this column on LinkedIn here.

Here are three sample answers to the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Notice that each answer ends with a question back to the interviewer. This is a must, unless you want your interview to turn into a power-imbalanced, awkward citizenship exam format. Don’t let that happen if you can help it!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to learn a lot more about the technical side of HR, about HRIS and compensation systems in particular. I’m not sure how that maps to your structure here or where that curiosity will take me exactly, but I know that’s a strong interest for me.

Where would you see a person in this position moving in this organization over time?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’ve spoken Greek and Italian since I was a kid and at some point I want to use my languages professionally. As a marketer I see a lot of ways for that to happen but I’m pursuing my interest in channel marketing right now and very open to opportunities to expand my experience outside of North America.

What’s your take on the five-year roadmap for Acme Explosives?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I made detailed plans for myself professionally until I was 29 or so, and the learning from that was that even a one-year planning horizon doesn’t map with the reality of the world today.

I knew I had to finish my certification programs and so those programs were constants for me during a time of incredible change. I’m sure you’ve seen the same currents here. Nowadays I try to focus on a north star — for me that’s learning everything I can about tech startup Finance, and using what I learn to help a company succeed.

As for the five-year crystal ball, I’ll be busy and happy if I’m alive, that’s the only thing I can say for sure. What about you?


10 replies
  1. Leopoldo Blanco Sosa
    Leopoldo Blanco Sosa says:

    “In five years I will have your position (CEO of this company) because in five years you (the CEO) will be Secretary of Commerce”.

  2. Kishan
    Kishan says:

    I am very new to technology and there are massive opportunities which you can provide me. This questions needs basic understanding of the structure of organization, failing to which I can only substitute myself at the place where you want me to send. Now selecting from such opportunities obviously lead me to path of success in act of growth.
    So could you describe me the structure of organization which follow and what are the different paths which i can choose from.

  3. Kirk
    Kirk says:

    I’ve only been asked the “where do you see yourself in X years?” during an interview once….it was the singular most miserable employment experience of my life. The organization turned out to be as lacking in vision and goal-less as the canned question was.
    My advice; don’t answer, just walk away.

  4. Darryl
    Darryl says:

    Very interesting view on that Liz, at least from an HR position. From that standpoint I would definitely agree. However from a life prospective I think it is one that too few people ask of themselves. It is a question we use in prospecting for people in Shaklee and probably all Network Marketing businesses. The question of “where do you see yourself in five years” is relevant for someone to ask one’s self so that they may put together some sort of plan for their life. Many people simply subscribe to the also old school plan which is to: 1. Go to college, get a degree. 2. Get a job. 3. Get married, have children and live happily ever after. It seems our education system lacks in preparing us or our children for the realities of life. Having the framework of a life plan is as essential to an individual as it is in having a plan to build a house. You need a blueprint. As with homebuilding or remodeling there are often changes made throughout the process, the same is true in life. But without having a blueprint or plan we often find ourselves in a position we didn’t expect to be in. Whether it is one year, five years or ten years we should have a plan.

  5. Paul C
    Paul C says:

    I’d been out of school and working in my first job for 3 years when I was asked this question whilst interviewing for my second job. I’d been working at an IT services company and was hoping to secure a job with the local telco. I replied that I’d only been working 3 years but such a lot had changed in that time it was hard to predict where we’d be 5 years from now, which I thought was a reasonable answer. The same manager asked the same question on my second interview. “Ah, that old chestnut!” I said, possibly slightly cheekily (the enthusiasm of youth!) He said “well you’ve had time to think about it since we last saw you.”

    I can’t remember what my answer was, second time round, but I did get the job, the 5 year question guy ended up becoming my boss a year later, and I stayed with the company 3.5 years. Looking back, I think it was the job I’ve enjoyed the most, out of my 22 year and counting career… I still hate that question though!

  6. MicheleElys
    MicheleElys says:

    Liz, Your passion comes through loud and clear on these types of interviewing questions. Sometimes being polite and refraining from a quirky response to ludicrous questions is just to dang hard to refuse a comedic moment.
    The question “In five years?” Hopefully I am still alive! (I said this laughing at the question and did get the job, it was good for a year working for the company).
    What’s your greatest weakness?” My answer was – I have a quirky sense of humor with a blunt hammer!

    “With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you?” (This did happen) I said: If you have had that many talented candidates, why did you not hire one of them and quit wasting your time interviewing.

    Liz, you have been in the HR arena for a long time and would recognize talent, not wasting precious time. Your answers are eloquent, but I also see in your articles how frustrated you become with the scripts. Thank you for always writing great articles allowing the REAL human side to be visible. You have truly stepped up and with flak from others in changing a broken wheel. Thank you!!

  7. Fortune
    Fortune says:

    This can be a really dangerous question for temp/contract jobs, believe it or not.

    Temp and contract jobs are designed around the idea that they will end someday, and that you won’t be on the job forever. So in most cases, the five-year question doesn’t matter, so it doesn’t come up in an interview.

    But I interviewed for a administrative assistant contract job that was supposed to last about eighteen months, and that a staffing agency was recruiting me for. I’m training to go into the mental health field. I’m currently finishing my BS in psychology, and then I’ll go to grad school part-time. So in five years, I expect to be finishing grad school and starting my career.

    The agency told me not to discuss my future plans with this client. I hadn’t planned to anyway, figuring they were irrelevant, since this job was not in my field. So I didn’t expect that question to come up. I expected the interviewer to focus on my current skill set, not my plans for after the job was supposed to end. So imagine my deer-in-the-headlights reaction when the interviewer DID ask. I felt like I had no choice, since she caught me off guard. (Maybe this agency didn’t know the client as well as they thought they did.) I thought, “Why would you care about that?”, but I played nice, and didn’t say that.

    Turned out, the interviewer didn’t like my future plans, and told the agency. She didn’t like that I “had more ambition than to be an administrative assistant.” And I didn’t get the job.

    So, unfortunately, I found out that some employers believe your future plans are relevant even if the job is only supposed to last a certain time, and will not hire you if you display any desire to go beyond the skill level of the job they’re hiring for. It’s sad, but there it is.

  8. David Conoh
    David Conoh says:

    In five years, I’ll still be in the business of learning new skills and growing my mind power. That is, of course, if I’ll be alive.

  9. Moss
    Moss says:

    I have only got this question a couple of times. Both times I said “thank you” shook their hand and walked out. That question tells me that you’re not interested in me whatsoever. I’m there, obviously common sense is that I would be with you and trying to grow. So that question further tells me that you don’t find me to be a good fit or professional.

    Just the same as “Tell me what some of your weak points are?”
    If I can sit there and tell you I’m flawed and haven’t fixed them, then why would I be acceptable to be hired?

    And the last is “Why should I hire you?”
    This tells me you don’t respect me enough to view my resume or you don’t see how I would fit. Or, you’re looking to get me to beg for this job somehow. Both send red flags to me about your company.

    When I hear those, it tells me the HR person is just wasting my time.


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