Preparing for Tricky Interview Questions Part 5: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?’

Posted on 14th Feb 18

Unless you’re someone with a specific career goal in mind, it can be challenging to pinpoint where you’d like to be in five years time; you may well feel open to the prospect of different future career paths, or you’re simply happy to organically progress up the ranks and take on more responsibility (and a higher salary).


Whilst it’s totally acceptable to feel that way, employers have to grow their businesses by making smart hires; that means opting for ambitious candidates who demonstrate potential longevity within the company. Simply put, your career goals need to align with their business objectives. If you’re feeling unsure about how to approach this question, and your larger career goals as a whole, then listen up; VANRATH has three exercises that will help.


1)  Reflect on your previous experience

Ultimately, if you want to be happy and successful in a role, it has to be one that you enjoy (for the most part) and where your talent is valued. Identify what pulls at your professional heartstrings and put it at the centre of your career goals.  To do this, reflect back and pick out moments in your previous roles where you felt most passionate. Was it pitching a presentation to stakeholders? Creating a strategy? Or maybe working in the background on a ground-breaking piece of code? Either way, use this as a foundation to decide what you’d like more or less of in a role. If you enjoy channelling your energy into specific assignments which have a beginning, middle and end, like campaign work or product development for example, then perhaps you’d prefer a project-led role; or if you love being organisational and implementing systems and processes, then aim towards securing a managerial role such as a Financial Controller or Business Support Manager. Once your preferences are clear, you can narrow down your desired career path.  

2) Do your research

With an obvious career path in sight, it’s time to fine-tune. Research the different kinds of roles available within your preferred field, and unearth the companies that recruit for them. Is there a particular sector that offers something attractive to you which another doesn’t? Understanding the market and the different avenues available will help you piece the puzzle together. Thinking about the size and status of the company and team is also worthwhile. Do you see yourself working for a large team in an established company, or heading up a department at a startup? Roles come in a multitude of guises, so try and visualise where you would fit in.

3) What does success look like to you?

Cast your mind to industry leaders you admire; which part of their careers interests you the most? If you want to emulate a career of a similar stature, find out more about their career journeys and set some goals of equal measure. Yes- everyone is different and it’s important not to compare yourself to others, but an exercise like this can help to push you beyond self-made limitations. Don’t be shy about vocalising these at interview; in most cases your prospective employer will want to see an ambitious attitude.

Want to read more articles from this series? Why not check out Preparing for Tricky Interview Questions Part 4: ‘What’s your current salary?’ For other interview tips, visit our Knowledge Centre.