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How to answer this tough job interview question

(MoneyWatch) If you've ever been interviewed for a job, chances are you've run into some variation of the dreaded "Where do you see yourself in five years?" question. It's tricky, since it can be challenging to come up with something truthful that doesn't resort to the usual cliches. But a thoughtful answer can help distinguish you from other other job candidates.

Career blog WorkAwesome details how to offer an engaging, intelligent response to the "five years" query. Rather than just reciting platitudes about your career trajectory, here's what they recommend:

Research the company. Do enough homework to understand how the department at the employer you're applying to relates with the rest of the company and what it actually does. Find out what you can about what's unique about the department as well as their goals and vision.

Compile your skills. You've probably already done this, so this step is easy. But talk in detail about how your skills and work experience can benefit the organization. What do you offer that's unique?

Show motivation. Reassure the interviewer that you want to make a long-term commitment to the company, including taking advantage of promotions and advancement opportunities. For companies, recruiting employees is costly and time-consuming, so your willingness to stay put could be an important consideration.

Put it all together. Here is the sample response that WorkAwesome cobbled together from these disparate pieces:

"I've been a long admirer of [company] and the way it [does this and that]. You have a real reputation for delivering excellent [services/products] -- I even [used this/that] the other day! My skills in [marketing] have helped my current company achieve [this] and I believe that they'll transfer seamlessly to the role of [job x]. In five years' time, I hope to still be with the business, perhaps even leading the team [department], but I know that there will be many great internal opportunities that could be a good fit for my skill-set and interests."

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Victor1558

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