The Best Answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

by Pranav Ramesh
February 04, 2021

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is one of the most common questions you are likely to hear during an interview. IT recruiters, and hiring managers of all industries, have been asking this question, or some variation of it, for about as long as humans have been doing interviews. It’s a simple enough question but, if answered incorrectly, it can leave the recruiter with the completely wrong impression of you.

So, how exactly should you answer the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Topics Covered:

  • What do recruiters actually mean when they say “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
  • How not to answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
  • The best answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

What do recruiters actually mean when they ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

When a recruiter asks you about your career goals and professional future, they are trying to answer a couple of questions. First, they want to get an idea about whether you are likely to stick around. Additionally, they want to gauge whether your long-term professional goals match up with the goals of the team or the company.

Retention is important to every organization, so recruiters are looking for someone who is likely to stay with the team or company for a while. Even in short-term roles, such as 1-year contracts or entry-level jobs intended to prepare consultants for the next step, hiring managers are looking for people who will stand the test of time.

The recruiter is also looking for someone whose personal goals align with the position. If the project is designed to be completed within a year, they may not be looking for the person dead-set on creating a career. Conversely, if the contract is short-term but the team is hoping to find top-performers to convert to full-time from it, the staffing manager will be after someone willing to prove themselves.

Before you answer the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, be sure you know what the hiring manager is looking for and that their needs align with your goals.

How not to answer “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Try to avoid coming off conceited or arrogant. Job seekers will often try to make a joke or sound confident by saying they’ll have the interviewer’s job. This is rarely a good idea. Though your intent may be to make them laugh or show them how self-assured you are, it usually has the opposite effect. At best, you’ll be saying something they’ve heard a hundred times before. And, at worst, you’ll just sound over-confident.

Also, avoid any overly personal dreams you have about doing something else. Yes, you may want to become a famous YouTuber or go back to school to learn a new skill and switch industries, but now is not the best time to announce them. Your answer should be authentic, of course, but it must also be relevant to the company and job you are interviewing for.

Lastly, avoid being indecisive! Pausing too long, hesitating, then starting with “I’m not too certain, but maybe…” is one of the worst ways to answer the question. Recruiters will think you are just making up an answer on the spot (which you probably are) which tells them you don’t have a plan. Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.

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The best answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

The best answer to “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is both honest and intentional. Your goal should be to focus on the job you are interviewing for, express how well you will perform in it, convey your satisfaction in doing it, then touch upon what it may lead to if the opportunity presents itself.

  • Be authentic: Hiring managers recruit, filter through, and talk with candidates all day long. They develop a strong set of skills for sniffing out deception. Ensure you are telling the truth and you won’t have to worry about sounding fake.
  • Focus on the job you are interviewing for: Talk about how excited the training program sounds, how thrilled you will be actually doing the work, and the fulfillment you would experience from succeeding at it. Make sure the recruiter knows that your number one priority is completing the task at hand.
  • Discuss the career path this job might lead to: If the job title contains ‘Junior’, the obvious next step is ‘Senior’ and then ‘Lead’. Spend most of your time discussing why you are a great candidate for the Junior role, then slowly steer the conversation towards how you aspire to be a Senior or a Lead someday. If the path is not as clear-cut as that, do some research to determine what the logical next step would be, then look into the company to see if they have that position. If, after researching thoroughly, it doesn’t look like there is a logical next step, focus on the job itself and how you could take a leadership or mentorship role organically amongst your peers.


Recruiters, be they part of a company’s internal team or an IT staffing agency they have hired, love to ask the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. Keep in mind the two things they are actually asking themselves; “Will this person stick around?” and “Do their goals align with ours?”. Make sure your answer is relevant and hyper-focused on the task at hand, but don’t be afraid to hint about your desire to take the next step when the time is right.

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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago’s premier Information Technology (IT) staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 22+ years. Named after Chicago’s historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland.

Based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP’s 250+ employees have a narrow focus on a single market (Chicago) and expertise in 4 innovative technical areas;

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