“So, where do you want to be in three to five years?”

This is one of those “trick” interview questions that answered wrong, could tank your candidacy rankings.

A general rule of thumb when interviewing is that you always want to answer trick questions with short answers. The reason is twofold:

  1. You don’t want to risk opening up a can of worms, rambling, getting nervous or defensive, etc.
  2. You want to minimize the time you spend answering tricky interview questions so that you can spend the majority of your time speaking to your strengths and aptitudes as they match what your interviewer is looking for!

So memorizing short answers to the top three or four of these questions is a very wise move. I consider this one to be at the top of the list.

It used to be that the seemingly correct answer to this question was:

“I want to have your job,” or “I want to sit where you are sitting!”

However, now that answer is viewed as too coarse and not politically correct.

Another pitfall to watch out for with this question is that you probably won’t know if your potential employer is interviewing you for a position that is prime for promotional opportunities, or if they want someone solid in the role for many years.

Rather than guess at what they are thinking, here is a completely safe (even fail-proof!) answer you can give:

“Well, I would expect to be advancing based on my job performance and taking on additional responsibilities.”

You can even add:

“And I would anticipate being appropriately compensated for it.”

You could also say:

“Since we are on the subject, can you tell me where you see the growth of this company/position in the next several years?”

Not only is this a great answer, but you can follow it up with a great question! You will look engaged, enthusiastic and interested in the company and the position – a triple threat!

Remember, employers will pay more for someone who markets themselves well. This includes both a well-designed and targeted resume, as well as in-job interviews. Why? Simply because that is who they end up wanting more!

Armed with this simple response, you will have successfully sidestepped a slippery trick question and taken a big step closer to a great offer!