The most important thing an interviewer is looking for in your answer is evidence that you have given some thought to your career and where you would like it to go. They will also be interested in finding out how important a part of the picture their company is in your plan.

To answer this question, begin by outlining your desired career path. Start with the job you are applying for, it is important you do not overlook this job, it should be central to your answer. If a company feels you are not going to be committed to this job they will not hire you, no matter where you see yourself in 5 years. Depending on the job and the company there may be a defined career path within the organisation. If there is you can use this as your template. Research the company before the interview. Use LinkedIn to see how people in the company progress, look at the organisational chart and other company information to better understand the opportunities you will have in the company. The job you are applying for should be a central part of your 5 year plan. Identify clearly what you can learn from the role, the skills you hope to develop, and the accomplishments you expect to achieve.

Do not discuss your 5 year plan in terms of how many promotions you hope to get, and how much more money you expect to be earning. This is not what the interviewer is hoping to hear. It should be about personal development and how you can contribute to a company or industry. Show your desire to make an impact, and the difference you hope to make to the company’s performance. Explain how you will develop your skills, whether through training courses or other means.

Personal ambition is a good thing to have and the interviewer will need to see that you have clear goals for your career. The employer will take this as an indication of the commitment and hard work you will display in the job. Remember to focus your answer on the contribution you hope to make to the company, the skills you can develop, and the responsibilities and tasks you can take on. Most importantly, don’t forget to keep the job you are interviewing for at the heart of your answer.