This is quite an unoriginal question to be asked and also rather outdated, but apparently, some consultants keep asking it (not really reflective of the times either).
I generally believe honesty is the best policy, and for someone at the start of their career whilst you may have a view of where you want to get to in 5 years, it is unrealistic to expect either
a) you know specifically what exactly you will be doing in 5 years
b) that you won't change your perspective along the way
Having interviewed 50+ candidates both in and outside consulting, I would be skeptical of anyone who gave an answer that was too specific or tailored for consulting as being either ungrounded or disingenious e.g. saying they want to be a partner (yes I've heard this before!), principal or thought leader.
At the same time, you don't want to be too broad or unclear e.g. saying you have no idea, as that wouldn't send a great signal either.
A good middle ground might look like something like:
- You don't really know what the world will look like in 5 years so couldn't say specifically (good, signals honesty and realistic)
- But you want to work in consulting to apply your current skills (tailor this), develop new skills and also figure out what sectors / types of work you are good at and enjoy (good, signals you are giving and also taking)
- That said, you have had an ambition to be a business leader or thinker... (tailor this)
Increasingly, firms are more open to an honest exchange to maintain the appeal of consulting vs. big tech to grads. MBBs highlighting the alumni network, exposure/training for 2/3 yers, the exit opps into tech/politics/industry etc.).
The best answers I heard when interviewing Associate Consultants at Strategy& balanced a humbleness (wanting to deliver / learn / work hard), honesty (consulting being a great first career) and ambition.