You’re in the middle of a great interview and things are going great.  Then comes the ultimate job interview question that makes everyone squirm in their seats: Where do you see yourself in five years?

When you’re asked this question, there are probably quite a few things that run through your brain: “Moving up quickly,” “running the whole place,” “being my own boss,” or, the one that goes through most job applicant’s minds, “taking your position.”

While all of these seem plausible as they run through your mind, they really aren’t things you should express out loud.

So, how does one answer this question?

When asked, this question can seem like it’s a bit of a trick question because sometimes the true answer is all of those things. But unfortunately, you can’t actually say them to a hiring manager. The good news is, you can still be honest and tell them what they really want to know at the same time.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have realistic expectations for your career?
  • Are you ambitious?
  • Does this specific position align with where you want your career to go?

One way to look at it is by thinking about where this position could realistically take you, then look at how it aligns with your future professional goals.

For example, you could say, “I’m really excited about this position at ABC Company because in five years, I would like to be seen as someone with deep expertise in ABC widgets, and I believe I have the opportunity to do that here. I am also excited at the possibility of taking the lead on some big projects and moving into more managerial responsibilities as well. I have been so fortunate in my career to work for some pretty amazing managers and developing into that type of manager myself is something I look forward to.”

Responding poorly or being vague in your response could make interviewers believe that you’re not invested in your career, aren’t a good fit for the company, or are covering something up.

Who cares if this particular job isn’t a one-way ticket to the CEO’s office. It’s okay to say you really don’t know what the future holds – neither do they – but let your interviewer know that this career experience could help in answering that question.