What are your future goals ?
There are many open ended questions during an interview, and 'where do you see yourself in 5 years?' is one of the most common among them. This is one question which cannot have a standard right answer, because the answer of this question will actually reflect your nature, your goals, and your objective of life.
What you need to keep in mind while answering this question is that the interviewer wants to hear something that reassures him/her that you are the right candidate for the company. Hence, answers such as 'I plan to finish my higher studies' or 'I would like to be own my own company one day' do not really fit in their future plans of a perfect candidate.
Your answer should as much as possible assure him that you are a person who puts the company first; at the same time, it should not show that you are not looking at your own professional growth as well. It is best to show that you have a given a good thought to it and that your future goals are parallel with that of the company.
This is definitely an answer which should be prepared well before hand. You should use your best traits and past experience to project achievable short and long-term goals. These goals, while using your best talents, should be in conformity with the company's growth and goals. In order to be able to do this, you need to do some heavy research on what the company envisages in its future plans - as well as what exactly your job entails.
Each time you appear for an interview this question would have a different answer - exactly as the case with a cover letter to the resume given for a job interview. 'What do you see yourself in 5 years' is a question that can propel you in the winning candidates list provided you stay focused and employer and/or company-centered.
Your future plans and goals should be achievable through small goals broken over smaller periods of time. Be prepared to discuss on your plans; hence do not just give a statement. In case you want to be a manager, you should also be prepared to answer, 'why would you want it to that way' and then you should be able to answer logically and confidently why a manager's position would enable you to deliver better and more value to the company's objective and future goals. This will definitely show that you have done your homework and project you as a focused individual who has vision and good planning skills.
In case you are not sure, do not give a vague answer. Nothing can kill your chances faster. You can state instead, that your basic goal was to be a useful employee of the company initially, and long-term goals depended upon the company's new directions; whereby you could achieve a position of high responsibility and capacity of high value addition.
Your focus while answering the 'where do you see yourself in 5 years' questions should be the employer's point of view - not your personal point of stand. You should be able to show the interviewer that your professional growth is totally linked with the growth and goals of the company and hence you are the right candidate for the job.