Is there a balanced approach to the question: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

At least one other reader has this question, and I'd like to put it to the community.

I've been saying that "I want to serve the best I can in the role in which I find myself, and if I do that, the career will take care of itself." I've given this answer in three interviews, and it is being well received. 

I didn't major in accounting in college, yet five years later I got the education to sit for the CPA Exam, something I never planned on; the coursework fell in my lap.

Is there a balanced approach to this answer? I feel like if one says, "CFO", then you're seen as a threat. If one says,"The same thing i'm doing now", you're seen as a bum.


mmann's picture
Licensee Badge

 What other facets are there of a promotion?  Salary might seem crass to mention in an interview, and at the same time, you should be seeking an increase which exceeds the inflation rate.

Industries in which you'd like to work in and the size of the company would be other possibilities.

Example: I'm ready to be Financial Director for a division of a large-cap manufacturer anywhere in the US.  I could also see myself as CFO for a mid-cap manufacturer with a promising future.



naraa's picture
Training Badge

Ideally a little bit of research about the company or type of business of the company might help with the answer.

For example I work in engineering, in a market short of high skill-experience professionals, in a company that has experienced very high growth locally and which is expanding to other markets.  

When I hire I want people that can be part of that expansion, that see themselves in 5 years taking a more prominent role, either in leading projects, especializing technically on a critical issue for the business, willing to take an active part in acting on the strategy of continous growth to other markets or other services.   

But I want them to want that in 5 years, not inmediately, if you pass the message that inmediately you want a challenge, I will assume you  may get frustrated because you will have to prove yourself first.  So, the answer "I want to serve the best I can in the role in which I find myself, and if I do that, the career will take care of itself", with perhaps some enphasis specific about the high growth rate of my company and how you can see yourself advancing as the company advances further (or even better, the company advancing as result of your growth), would put a smile on my face.


duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I'm with you, I never know how to answer this in interviews and I never know how to evaluate it when I hear it as an interviewer.  I'd love MT to do a podcast on this question.

I presume the purpose of the question is to see if you can set and achieve goals, so I usually say something general ("I want a job where I can use skills X, Y and Z") and pivot to talk about a time where I did set and reach a career goal.   Not an ideal answer and not very crisp.   

When I was younger I used to say the best advice I ever got was "do what you love and the money will come later".   Which is still great advice, but not something useful to an interviewer.


I went to a lecture once and a CEO said she thought 5 years career plans weren't very useful (our industries change so much, who knows what opportunities will be available in 5 years.) 

She recommended a 2 year plan which made more sense to me.   The rationale was that 2 years is more achiveable for people; and once you hit that milestone you usually see new opportunities that might interest you.   

Her view was that there is such a thing as having blinders on - you might spend 5 years narrowly focussed on getting somewhere but miss opportunities along the way as the world changes around you.



SamBeroz's picture

If I remeber correctly, I think the guys addressed that question here:

Hope that helps - Sam