Tough Interview Questions - What are your near term goals over the next five years?

Following is a tough interview question:

What are your near term goals over the next five years?

Similar interview questions:
What are your short term goals? What do you want to accomplish over the next two to three years? Where do you expect to be in five years?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is seeking to understand your near term motivations and expectations. The near term/short term perspective is being applied to understand if you will be both challenged and yet content with the role for which you are interviewing. While most positions have a life expectancy of two to three years early in your career, that amount of time you will be in a role can extend to three to five years (or more) later in your career. So this question is all about what you plan to do in the role and what the expected next step would be.

The best approach to answering this question:
Focus on being the very best in the role for which you are interviewing, then use that answer as a launching point to prepare yourself for future needs of the employer. The question is not about you, it is about serving the needs of the employer.

An example of how to best answer this question:
"I am working to become the very best _____ I can become. I am focusing my development on both delivery of key projects while also personally developing my skills so that I can become the subject matter expert in my field. As an example of this, I was recently asked to teach a course on _____ to new hires. In the next three to five years, I plan to develop myself so that if and when a higher level role became available, I would be ready to step in and take on higher level responsibilities."

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"My near term goal is to make as much money as possible. I am very money motivated. I want to retire early, so I am doing whatever I can do reach that goal. That's why I'm interviewing for this job, so that I can get a pay increase in making a move, since they are only giving out small pay increases this year in my current job."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!