Points to Emphasize
These guidelines will help you keep your answers in line with the interviewers range of expectations, but remember to be honest too.
Make sure you have a plan that highlights a little bit of your ideas about how you’re going to get to that place in five years.
Show how this position will help you develop into the person you’re describing.
Tie together past events to add context, so that the job you’re interviewing for seems like one stage in a larger plan.
Remember the difference between ambition and fantasy, and make sure that you are really thinking about what five years looks like.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
These missteps can make an otherwise straightforward and common question go sideways. Make sure to step around them, not in them.
Never, ever, ever reply “In your chair.” It’s not as funny as anyone thinks.
On that note, generally avoid answers that might show a tendency to value competition against coworkers over the goal of doing business.
Don’t let yourself get away with making this position into an end goal, either. Have something to work toward.
Don’t let yourself set a goal that makes the job you want irrelevant, either. That makes it look like you won’t give your full effort.
Here is one way to cut through the question’s ambiguity without being too aggressive.
Well, in five years I’d still like to be working directly people, but I hope to have moved out of a desk position and into something that lets me be more mobile, like coordinating professional meetings and events or working in training and professional development. This position will help me build those interpersonal and organizational skills, and there are many positions just like my dream job throughout the department I’m interviewing for.
The open-ended goal here shows that you can see multiple paths to your ambitions while avoiding any kind of direct challenge to anyone on the other side of the table.