Nick Fear
Nick Fear
Senior Associate: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

How to answer: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’

One of the fundamental purposes (of an interview) for an interviewer is getting to know the lawyer candidate better: to understand what makes them tick as an individual, learn their career ambitions and gauge how committed they're going to be to in the role. This can be challenging when the lawyer is nervous or guarded – usually in an attempt to uphold a professional barrier.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for interviewers to fall back on tried and tested, clichéd questions such as: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”. This question can fill a candidate with fear as they don’t want to say the wrong thing; seeming either too ambitious or not ambitious enough: undoubtedly, the question is a broad one.

Ultimately, if you’re not in a position to correctly answer the question, it suggests you don’t know enough about the job. If you know the role inside out: what it entails and what the prospects are for career advancement, then you shouldn’t have any trouble discussing where you’d like to be in 5 years.

However, if you find yourself in a position where you don’t have enough information to confidently answer the question (maybe it’s the first interview), the below pointers might help. Obviously, there’s no one size fits all so depending on the situation, I suggest the following:

  • “That’s an interesting question. Could you tell me a little more about how you envisage the role progressing over the next five years?”
  • “My main drivers are to find a job where I enjoy the culture, find the work challenging and see an opportunity for advancement. If these are available in this role, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t still be here in five years.”
Alternatively, if there’s something in particular that you want out of a new role, there’s nothing stopping you from being honest. E.g.:
  • “I’m on a good track with my current firm. If I was to move to a new firm I’d like to think I’d do all it takes to make Partnership within five years.”
The above is absolutely fine, but it’s crucial you don’t say things like this if they’re not deal breakers for you.

If you need help on how to structure your answers to interview questions (so that the answers aren’t misconstrued), get in touch with a good recruitment consultant. It’s probably one of the best reasons to engage with one.

For tips on how to answer the most common interview question, click here.

Nick Fear is a Senior Associate at BCL Legal's Birmingham office.

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