Interviewer: Where you do you see yourself in 5 years?
Me: Well, I am going to tell you that I see myself at your company at a role where I contribute to the organization’s success… and you will not believe that I am genuine but then I will say that anyway because this is the only answer I know you are looking for…
Such a ridiculous question to ask. But, it’s one of the most common ones. In this guide, I will show you exactly how to respond to, and genuinely impress your interviewer, when talking about where you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, or so on.
Trust me, if you stay until the end of this article, you will have significantly increased your chances of not only giving the perfect answer but also increased your chances to get that job.
First things first, let me introduce myself. I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting in our strategy consulting business unit. I am also the creator of The Career Mastery and infamous Landing Interviews Guaranteed (1-hour long free masterclass where I teach candidates advanced strategies to pass job interviews.
I launched The Career Mastery blog as a side project in 2016 because I wanted to help unemployed and underemployed find better jobs with large multinational employers and management consultancies.
See, I’ve joined a lot of interviews as a hiring manager. And one thing I noticed very clearly is that today’s job applicants – you – are extremely misled. There is so much complete nonsense advice out there given by completely unqualified non-achievers who have the audacity to teach you. And as a result, a lot of candidates end up wasting so much valuable time and settling for sub-par employers. I blame HR for this not just the ones currently working but also the ones with their online blogs. But that’s another day’s topic…
Alright. Before we learn what to do, I just have this overwhelming urge to share with you 1 no-no.
- Don’t try to be funny with the interviewer. I remember at least 4 candidates who said they saw themselves in my position in 5 years. Where are they learning this from? Who’s that guy teaching them it’s okay to say something that's just awkward and obnoxious?
Now that we’ve gotten this what-not-to-do out of the way, I’ll share with you some of the best answers to this interview question. We’ll start with a conventional approach then progressively move towards riskier but more rewarding answers…
So, Deniz…where you do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Let me first share with you the boring yet conventional approach. This answer will only let you “tick” the box and move on to next questions. You will not gain any “points” out of this. So, If I wanted to be conventional and safe, I’d answer this way:
I am really determined to achieve my and company’s goals. I’d like to deliver to the best of my abilities while learning from the best. Having said that, I see myself 5 years down the road growing into a managerial role and demonstrating my leadership capabilities.
Or I could spin it some more and respond with:
I am really looking forward to spending the next five years in an organization where I feel I share all of its values, especially when it comes to [some values]. I would love to have the opportunity to demonstrate my leadership capabilities when the time is right, hopefully within 5 years and contribute to its growing success.
As you can see, these are perfectly fine — and if i may say, boring — answers. You can try these and the interviewer will smile but probably not remember you later from Adam. Everybody uses this safe approach because it ticks all the boxes.
Yes these above sample answers may check all the boxes and prevent you from taking any risks, but at the end of the day, it’s just BS…all fluff not meant to show who you are.
So, now let me share with you a more exciting answer.
The way I see, crafting this conventional response needs to show the following:
- That you are committed and are not a 2-year jumper (which most of us suffer from)
- That you are looking at the company not as a quick solution to unemployment but rather as the last and main destination of your career (Remember, from a hiring manager’s perspective, finding the right member consumes too many valuable resources...time being the most important one. So, show your loyalty and commitment to the organization.)
- Being ambitious and assertive are characteristics that are in high-demand for certain roles, especially sales-related ones. So, feel free to clearly state positive traits associated with the job you're targeting and how you're looking to learn from the best and, when ready, take on more responsibilities.
Then, how to do it? How to impress the hiring manager?
How to get an edge with your answer to where do you see yourself in 5 years?
First think about this; if you are interviewing with the hiring manager, you need to recognize the fact that you will be working with that person for quite a long time. Do you really want to start that relationship with lies? Don’t you think he is smart enough to figure out that you are just BS’ing your way through the answer?
When I interviewed for PwC Consulting 4 years ago, I didn’t. I didn’t want to start that relationship based on a lie. So, here is how my answer went;
Hmm. Let me gather my thoughts for a second… [Yes, I literally took my time to think. You should try it too…just don’t stretch it to an awkward silence.] Judging by the fact that where I saw myself in the past is never where I ended up, it’s really hard to say where I will be 5 years from now. If you asked me this question 10 years ago, when I was working at Standard & Poor’s as an analyst, I’d tell you I wanted to be an investment banker and make a million dollar bonus. Then 5 years later, I was a project management consultant, then sustainability consultant…and now here I am interviewing for a management consulting role which I can confidently do very well.
So you see, where I wanted to be almost never happened, and it’s really hard to say now where I will be in 5 years.
But I guarantee you this. I will do my best in this role and have a wonderful career at PwC with your team and with your leadership. And when the time comes, I will assume more leadership roles, hopefully easing some of your intense work load.
When I gave this answer, something incredible happened…
The partner was definitely shocked, and I could tell he wasn’t expecting my answer.
He was also incredibly impressed. I could see it in his eyes. His mood instantly changed.
After my answer, he started to pat me in the back, saying “Son, it’s okay. It’s very normal going through things like this at your age, we don’t always get to have the career we want. But, don’t worry, things will be a lot clearer for you moving forward with us of course if you choose to work with us.”
And I was like; did you just say “choose to work with us?” Did you really just say that??? Nooo!! You didn’t…
He was completely engaged for the rest of the interview, conversing with me, giving details about the way they work, and telling me that he’d love to have a talent like me in the team.
Then, he asked how soon I can join…
I couldn’t ask for a better interview, for sure!
Imagine, my interviewer was a Senior Partner at PwC Consulting… a position that only few partners have. And my answer impressed him!
So, what happened?
It wasn’t because I showed my uncertainty of what I wanted to accomplish…
What worked was very simple. After so many years in his career, he finally heard a true answer to his question.
I was probably one of the few who opted not to give a BS answer and to show a less than perfect version of myself. But what he saw was someone who will never give excuses or lie or BS (I just realized I used “BS” way way too many times in this article) his way out, no matter how stressful the situation may get.
Finally, I have one more tip for you that will significantly increase your chances to impress the hiring manager.
Once you pull off a speech like above – assuming it fits your situation, you can then take out a 1 page slide (like the one below), and show him your career progression. Show him that when you worked for the employer A, you learned a lot about “investment banking” which really got you excited about a career in that field, but then later in your career with Employer B, you had a change of heart and you found yourself into “project management”. Basically, use a visual aid to amplify your story. This will not only help you deliver a better answer, but also will show your interviewer that you are prepared and determined to get this job. Trust me, the hiring manager will be incredibly impressed the moment you take out that slide. The rest of your interview will go so much better just because of this 1 little page… It’s that good of a tactic.
If you’d like to download these PowerPoint templates, please register here to access download page
So, next time a hiring manager asks you where you see yourself in 5 years, try to do the same thing. Aim to give an honest and genuine answer without selling yourself short or going overboard.
So, here is what I say about Landing Interviews Guaranteed training program;
P.S. Would you do me a favor? If you think you found great value from this article, can you please share it with your network? The SHARE buttons are on the left. Thanks! If you share it on LinkedIn, please remember to add me to your LinkedIn connections. In fact, you may want to browse through my connections in LinkedIn as well. I have many connections who are executive recruiters.