Job interviews can be stressful, but as I've said before, the more you prepare for them, the more stress you can eliminate.
Part of that preparation is understanding there are going to be standard interview questions and even a few weird ones. It also means that the hiring manager is trying to get a "feel" for you. Are you a slacker? A whiner? Ambitious?
One of the ways he or she will seek to do that is by asking "So, where do you see yourself in five years?"
Some people try to be funny when answering this question (don't -- it often backfires), while others answer with "I dunno" and a smile. (This also doesn't go over well.)
Let the interviewer know that you've give this some thought because any company wants to know that you're interested in more than just collecting a paycheck -- they want to see someone who has set goals and is mature enough to go after them.
Here are some thing to think about when you give your answer:
- Relate it to the open position. If you're applying for an accounting job, don't say you hope to be living in Paris and working on your art in five years. Why should a company hire someone who is obviously passionate about something else and may jump ship as soon as he or she saves enough money for a one-way ticket to Paris?
- Show some enthusiasm. While you may be passionate about a life in Paris, it's better to think about how the open position could be a way to build your career. "I think accounting will help better hone my financial skills. I know that understanding finances and how to handle money correctly is a critical part of any successful business, and I hope to learn even more about this aspect." You're going to need accounting to build your dream art career, aren't you? You're being honest about your goals -- just not shoving Paris into the immediate picture.
- Talk about growing. Really, what the hiring manager is seeking is someone who is interested in learning and growing in the company, not someone who just wants to warm the chair and collect a salary. They're not pushing to have you become of the CEO of the company -- they just want to see if you're someone who will jump ship in six months. You can give a fairly general answer, such as: "I like to learn. I think that my goal is to just keep growing and learning. I've done my homework on this company, and I think this would be a really great company where I can keep growing and contribute in a meaningful way."
What other suggestions do you have for answering "Where do you see yourself in five years?"