The job interview (Part 1) - Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Throughout one’s professional life, one usually has several job interviews. "Why, of all people, are you the right person for the job" or "What made you decide to study?” Some questions seem to be obligatory for HR professionals and are constantly repeated, regardless of the industry. But these questions are often tough. In our series "The five most difficult questions in a job interview" we present the most common, and also the most difficult, questions.
Written on 09/24/20

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” – one of the most frequently asked questions, which regularly leads to  awkward silences. Obviously the best answers here would not be "doing your job” or "probably in another company". 

What exactly is the purpose of this question? HR managers are asking several questions at once. What are your general career goals and does the company suit you? Do your goals match the specific position advertised? Do you plan to stay with the company long term? Or do you have no plans for your professional future?

Unfortunately, there is no universal correct answer to this question. But here are some tips:

  • Tell the HR manager about the development you would like to make in the company over the next few years, i.e., what skills and experience you bring with you, what you would like to learn, what potential you see in the position, and explain how and why this position fits into your personal career path. 
    For example: "In the next 2-3 years, I would like to become an expert in the field of XY. I would like to apply my knowledge and skills, as well as continuously expanding them. Furthermore, it is my goal to understand the challenges of this position and to contribute to achieving the set goals (together with my team)."

    It is a good idea to list examples from your past which show that you have already worked successfully in previous positions and have developed further from then. 
    For example: “In my previous position, I was able to push forward projects XY within 5 years and streamline processes.”

  • Make sure that you formulate your goals in such a way that they fit the company and the advertised position. The more your goals suit the job advertisement, the better.
  • Make it clear that you want to achieve your goals in the long term in this company but also, concretely, in this position. Avoid formulations that allow the conclusion that you only want to accept this position for a short period in order to develop your career (in the worst case, outside the company)

Prepare yourself well by analyzing the company and the job specifications. 

The next article in our series "The five most difficult questions in the job interview" will deal with the question "What are your weaknesses?