Dear Matt: What's the best way to answer this question: Where do you want to be in five years? I'd like to be on a beach, reading a book, with a lot of money saved up, but unless I win the lottery, that's not likely. Why do recruiters ask this question? What do they really want to here?

Matt: It seems that during every interview, there will be some unique questions. In many cases, there isn't one specific answer the recruiter is looking for. What they are looking for is how you respond to these questions - and possibly to hear your response as a way to find out more about your career goals and personality. While we all have personal goals we hope to achieve - such as becoming financially secure and reading that book on a beach - it's best to keep the response work-related, says Joan Runnheim Olson, Certified Career & Leadership Coach with Pathways Career Success Strategies, LLC (

"Recruiters want to get a sense that your interest is in a specific position with a particular company, not just any job with any company," says Runnheim. "They want to know that you are able to plan for the future, see potential career paths for yourself, and that your goals match the goals of the company and the specific position you are seeking."

This question is often popular in entry-level jobs, where many recruiters know that job seekers are more likely to move to the next best opportunity. They want to get a feel that you will actually stick around if hired.

The best way to answer such a question is to think about short-term and longer-term goals and talk about how the outcome of the short-term goals will affect longer-term goals, says Carole Martin, author, speaker and interview coach (

This is a good response to that question, says Martin: "My short-term goal is to start a career in the food industry and to work toward becoming a key player in the organization. Once I have achieved that goal, I can begin to focus on bigger goals and will set the goals according to the status that I have gained. I find it difficult to put a date or timeline on a career that is always evolving and developing. There are so many factors that are unforeseen it is difficult to see that far into the future."

Hopefully, this helps you land the job - and work on that dream of being on the beach.

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