"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" is a question that comes up in almost every job interview. What does a potential employer expect to find out with this? And as an applicant, how do you prepare for this? Staffing specialist Walters People explains. 

Popular question 

The question of where you see yourself in five years comes up in almost every job interview. A recruiter asks this question for a reason. Employers use this question to hopefully discover what your expectations are about the job you are applying for. By answering this question as well as possible, you indicate your own interpretation of the position, your ambitions and when you think you are ready for the next step in your career. It seems a trivial question, but it also gives your interviewer an idea of how long you expect to stay in this position or organization. 

Take the question seriously 

Never trivialize the question of where you see yourself in five years and avoid statements like 'in the CEO's chair' or 'retiring at 40'. This will only make you come across as unprofessional and waste your own chances of presenting yourself as an ambitious candidate.

Think about your future plans

Do you not yet have a clear idea of the direction you want your career to take? Then take a moment to reflect on what you do already know. What are your talents? What are you good at? How ambitious are you? Where do your interests lie? What kind of tasks do you like to do?

Other questions you can ask yourself are: what do I stand for? Why did I choose this education? What work experience, student job or internship made sense and why? What are my hobbies and interests? What are my current weaknesses and what can I do to improve them? 

The next step is to answer for yourself questions such as: do I want to deepen my knowledge, or rather make a career switch? Am I willing to give up certain things like salary or travel time? What personal values do I also want to find in my employer? Which tasks would I like to do and which ones absolutely not (anymore)? If I could invent my dream job: what would it look like? 

The questions above have (hopefully) got you thinking about where you are now and where you would like to be in a few years' time. You have gained insight into your own ambitions. For some, these will be big plans, while for others, modest development might be enough.

Do your future plans match the vacancy? 

You now know where you want to go with your career, but is this also reflected in the vacancy you want to apply for? Do the job description, the organization and the career opportunities match your plans? Does the organization offer the necessary training and is there room for career development? 

A ready-made answer 

Once the question of where you see yourself in five years comes up during your interview, you can answer it by first naming the aspects of the vacancy that appeal to you most and why you are applying for it. Once you know what the organization has to offer, you can link those tasks and responsibilities to your own ambitions and explain them in detail.

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