Where Do You Expect To Be In 5 Years?: Tricky Interview Questions


June 14, 2021

If you’re just about to graduate, thinking about that next step graduate job can be daunting and it’s probably constantly on your mind. It can be really easy to mindlessly apply to any and every job that you see and hope for the best, but it’s crucial to be prepared for any questions that could be thrown at you. One question that can be particularly tough to navigate is one along the lines of “where do you expect to be in 5 years”?


This can be a particularly tricky question to answer if you haven’t got a clear long-term idea of where you want to be in the future.  Another problem that can arise out of this question is potential anxiety over saying the wrong thing: for example, you might feel pressure to say that you see yourself in a top position in the company in five years but this might not be an honest answer if you’re actually not even genuinely considering sticking with the career.


What is the purpose of the question?


The employers’ purpose when asking this question is to find out whether you’re committed to this career and job for a long time. They want to ascertain whether you see yourself working for them long-term, and therefore whether you’re a safe bet on employing. They’ll also want to glean from you a sense of long term planning and preparedness; that you are someone who knows what they want, rather than someone who doesn’t. 


How can you answer?


Answering this question need not be too stressful and it doesn’t need a long-winded reply. As stated before, the employer will want to know how committed you are to the company and/or career field  - therefore you must make this clear by making it the defining aspect of your response. Make sure to research the roles at the company, both senior and junior, so you can refer to them when giving your answer. This makes it clear you’re already aware of the structure of the company, and that you have a clear objective of where you want to head once you’re in it.


To answer this question, it’s incredibly important that you know where you are now, and where you want to go next. For example, what do you appreciate about who you are now, and what do you want to improve? What skills would you like to gain or consolidate on? 


What to say, what not to say?


Use statements like:


“I hope to be [insert senior position in the company] where I will...”  

This shows that you’ve researched the positions in the company, that you have a clear idea of where in the company you want to go, and also it demonstrates that you are committed to working for them on a long-term basis. As an international graduate, it will be helpful if you can express your keenness to stay with the company long-term. After all, if they’re sponsoring your Visa, they want to know they’ll be able to reap the returns on the training they impart to you. 


“I hope to be an expert in [skills you want to develop]” 

Saying this makes it clear that you are constantly making an effort to upskill. It also reflects self-awareness regarding your skill sets. 


Or a combination of both: “I’m eager to continue developing my [skills] as a member of this team. I’ve also noticed that many [position you’re applying to] move on to managerial roles, and that’s something that interests me as part of my five-year plan.”

This is a balanced response that checks all the boxes. It’s self-aware, it’s action-based, and most importantly, it reflects that you want to stay in the company long-term and contribute meaningfully.


What you shouldn’t say:


“I hope to have your job!” 


It probably won’t make them laugh and it could be taken by the recruiters that you’re not serious about the position when in fact you are. This doesn’t mean you can’t crack a joke though - just make sure that you also add a serious career plan to your answer too.


To conclude, the main reason that you’d be asked this question is to assess your seriousness both about your own career plans and your commitment to the company you’re applying to. Therefore, your response must show that you are self-aware, passionate, determined, and driven as well as ambitious. There is room for some humour — as long as you manage to demonstrate the aforementioned qualities too!


Good luck!


Written by Marco Marcelline

Marco is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of Dazed and VICE UK. He also co-edits Kalu Mala, a zine that seeks to platform the creative talents of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

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