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How to respond to a “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question

by Rebecca Acree, on May 28, 2020 2:34:59 PM

How to answer “tell me about yourself?”

“So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?” your interviewer asks. 

You’re nearing the end of a big interview when the dreaded question is finally posed. You suspected that it was coming, but you’re still not quite sure how to respond. Should you be fully honest, tell the interviewer what they want to hear, or something in between? 

It seems simple enough, but how you respond can make or break your interview. That said, it’s not an impossible or trick question — with a few simple strategies, you can knock it out of the park. Follow these dos and don’ts to craft a thoughtful response and move onto the next round! 

Don’t: Name a salary or title.

While honesty is generally the best policy, there’s no need to be overly honest when responding to this question. Growth potential for both salary and title are very valid factors in your job search, but keep your answer focused on other types of progress. The last thing you want is to give the interviewer the impression that you’re in this just for the money or prestige. Avoid any mention of salary and title to show the interviewer that your long-term thinking is more complex than that. 

Don’t: Focus on another company or industry. 

“At a bigger, better company” might be your knee-jerk response, but we all know how well that would go over. You don’t want to give your interviewer any reason to think that this role isn’t your first choice, that you won’t be appreciative of the opportunity, or that you’re not worth investing in. Show that you’re completely serious about the job by keeping your response focused on the company and industry at hand.

Do: Think about what the interviewer really wants to know. 

When crafting your response, consider why the interviewer is asking this question. What do you think they’re trying to learn? We’ll give you a hint: they’re likely looking for more general information that helps them understand whether your ambitions and expectations are aligned with theirs. Let them know that you’re planning to invest in their company — just like they’re considering investing in you — and that you see this role as a career, not a stepping stone. 

Do: Tailor your response to the job in question. 

When possible, it’s always best to speak specifically. Describe how you plan to immerse yourself in and master the role. How are you going to give this job your all? What value will you bring, and what skills do you hope to gain? Tailor your answers carefully to the role in question, bearing in mind the job description and any other information you’ve learned throughout your interview process. 

Again, this isn’t a trap or a trick question! It’s just designed to help the interviewer learn vital information about your fit at their company. It’s also a great opportunity for you to seriously consider what you want out of this role. Pro tip: if any part of your response doesn’t feel true, or you find yourself describing a 5-year plan that doesn’t actually appeal to you, consider applying elsewhere!