You successfully landed an interview with a company you really want to work for, and it’s going really well. Then the interviewer asks that one question; “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”, and you are instantly filled with dread and uncertainty. For many jobseekers this question, or ones similar to it, are a major obstacle to overcome in an interview. ‘How do I answer this correctly?’ or ‘What are they looking for here?’ are examples of the thoughts that run through peoples’ minds, but don’t panic, read on to learn why this question is asked, and how to respond to it.

Why do recruiters ask this question?

It must be said, not all recruiters prioritise this question in interviews, in fact, some deem it to be pointless, and would never consider using it. However, for those that do, why is this an option they gravitate to, and what are they hoping to uncover about the candidate by asking it?

The first thing to note, and what many jobseekers may not realise, is that hiring new employees is both time consuming, and costly. As hard as it can be to find a job if you are a candidate, it can be equally challenging to find an appropriate candidate for an open position. Recruiters are looking for that one applicant that will be the ideal fit for the role, both regarding their skillset and past experience, and their personality fit with the company’s culture. By asking the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” a recruiter is hoping to gauge a few different things about the candidate; dedication to their chosen career path, drive and ambition, andpotential loyalty to the company.

Dedication to a chosen career path

where do you see yourself in 5 years - dedication to chosen career path

When hiring for a position, recruiters are looking for candidates that are certain of their career path. Nobody wants to hire a candidate for a role, only to have that person decide, 3 months down the line, that they’d rather be doing something completely different. As mentioned above, the recruiting process takes time and money, so hiring a candidate that is uncertain about ‘what they want to be when they grow up’ can be a costly error.

By asking the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” a recruiter is able to gauge a candidate’s dedication to the career path they have chosen. Answers that involve positions in completely different fields, or that are totally unrelated to the current position being applied for, are red flags. Instead, answers should include a desire to progress within the same field as the job being applied for, or a natural progression to an associated field.

Drive and ambition

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years” is a good way for a recruiter to assess a candidate’s professional drive and ambition. Companies want employees that will work hard, to the best of their abilities, and these are traits that are driven by ambition. When a new employee is driven to succeed, and has an ambition to progress, they work hard to make it happen, and reach the goals they set for themselves.

Recruiters are looking to hire candidates like that, not people that will be happy to remain in the same position for the entirety of their professional lives, producing average work, with no desire to progress further. So, when answering this question, demonstrating to the recruiter that you are an ambitious, progression driven individual, is a good way to go.

Potential company loyalty

where do you see yourself in 5 years - company loyalty

When hiring new employees, recruiters are looking for candidates that will stay with a company for a long time. As mentioned previously, due to the effort that goes into the process, no recruiter wants to be hiring another candidate for the same role a few months down the line, and so hiring someone who sees a future with the company is important.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years” is a good way for recruiters to assess a candidate’s desire to work for the company on a long term basis. Nobody wants to hire an employee that sees the position as an interim role, a job between jobs, or a stepping stone to something better. So, when answering the question, declaring a desire to progress, not only in the same field, but also within the company and its ranks, is a good way to approach it.

The question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” can understandably be a frightening prospect, but it doesn’t need to be. Answer honestly, – I’m assuming the job you are applying for is one that you are passionate about, if not what are you doing!? – show you are dedicated to the role in question, and the career path it will put you on, and show drive and an ambition to progress within the company by committing to learning fast, and working hard. If you manage to do all this when answering the question, you have nothing to worry about.

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