Where do you see yourself in 5 years within the organization?
Employers ask this question because they want to make sure you are goal-oriented and are thinking about the future. They also want to make sure the job you are interviewing for fits into your “future plan”. Why? Because if it doesn’t, you may leave the company quickly to pursue a role that does, and in general, employers prefer to hire candidates that have the intention of sticking around for a while. In a way, this is how the company tries to gauge how serious you are about them. Not many firms will hire someone who is only going to stick with them for a few months before moving on to another company.
A good answer to this question will show that you’ve given much though about your career, and more importantly that you’re eager to continue to learn and grow within their company. If anything, that is something that you should stress on. Even if you do have lofty ambitions and reasons why you may accomplish them, you must have credible reasons why and how you would achieve that kind of goal. In other words, keep your ambitions realistic.
Make sure you keep your future goals relevant to the industry/company you are interviewing with. One way to do that is to really think about what you want to get out of this job, and where you want it to take you.
One way to accomplish this is to find something about the current job opportunity that does match up with your long-term goals and then work that into your discussion. You want to highlight your skills and motivations while note absolutely committing yourself to anything. You should definitely make it clear that you want to invest yourself in the success of the company and continue to learn and improve your performance within the company.
It’s also great to assume in 5 years that you’d like to “own” something versus supporting it. Whether that is a certain project, process, or anything else, taking on more ownership and responsibility is great 5-year goal.
If you know about the growth path in the organization, use that to your advantage.
Some companies have a clear structure for growth, which you may be able to learn from your company research. If you can find that information, it’s great to have it up front and to use it in your answer.
Just remember though, that when you’re giving your answer to the interviewer, it’s really important to keep it down to earth and honest.