Career goals are commonly discussed during job interviews. They are asked on any level from graduate positions to more senior roles. These questions are used to find out how your goals relate to working at the organization where you’re applying for a job. It’s important that the employer gets an idea of whether or not your goals match a career path at their organization.
Other ways the interviewer can ask you this question:
- Tell me about your short term career goals.
- Can you tell me your long term career goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me about a time you achieved a career goal.
- What are your future plans if you get this job?
The interviewer wants to make the right hiring decision and find out a couple of things about you. Of course, they are interested in if you plan on staying with the company for a while or if you’re likely to leave if you get a better suitable opportunity. Also, this question reveals whether or not you have a career plan.
For you, this question is a great opportunity to discuss why your goals align with the job that you’re applying for.
In this blog, we discuss interview questions about your career goals, why interviewers are interested in your career goals, and how you should answer.
Read more about frequently asked interview questions. Also, check our interview preparation checklist to ace your interview! Read more about other job interview topics.
Why interviewers ask you about your career goals
There are several reasons why interviewers are interested in your career goals. Employers look for candidates who are planning on staying with the company for a longer period. This is also the reason why you should focus on company-related goals during your job interviews. Therefore, avoid discussing career goals such as moving up the ranks at another, larger company. Focus your answer on what you feel you can accomplish in this particular role and how the company can help you develop your career and knowledge levels.
Another reason why the interviewer asks about your career goals is that they want to know what progression you have made in your career so far. They often ask what career goals you already achieved. It’s up to you to explain this to them and how these steps are part of a bigger plan in your career. It’s also common for interviewers to ask follow-up questions about the information you provide them with. So if you, for instance, discuss a career move, it’s likely that the interviewer will ask you how your decision fits into your career strategy.
Tips for answering career goal interview questions
The best way to answer such questions is to focus on the ‘short’ term. Cover the next couple of years in your answer and what your goals are. You can always decide to discuss longer-term goals as aspiration. Make sure these are mid-career goals, not goals for the end of your career.
For instance, avoid career goals such as ‘becoming the president of the company.’ While it’s always great to aim high, interviewers could view this as a level of expectation that cannot be met. This might cause a situation in which you’re currently a suitable candidate for the job, but you still might be bypassed due to a fear that the company is not able to meet your long term expectations. Ensure that you keep your goals near term while keeping your career goals reasonable, as well.
The most important thing to do is to keep your ambitions organization related. Make sure to prepare answers to common career goal questions that include what actions you will take to achieve your goals.
Other tips to help you prepare for career goal interview questions:
- Relate your ambitions to the company. As stated earlier, if your goals match the job and company, you will have a higher chance of getting hired. Furthermore, it will show that you plan on staying with the company for a longer period, which is what employers look for.
- Don’t talk about salary in terms of a career goal. Avoid talking about career goals associated with financial gains such as increases in payment, bonuses, raises, or other perks. Talk about the work you’re going to do to improve yourself.
- Don’t be shy to discuss accomplishments. When you’re already working on your career goals or have achieved some in the past, don’t hesitate to discuss this. This will show that you take yourself seriously and that you’re growing as a professional.
- Avoid bragging. Being confident is great; bragging is not. Explain what your (reachable) goals are and how you plan on achieving them. Bragging and boasting will leave the wrong impression. Being overconfident could hurt your chances of getting the job.
Examples of career goals
To get you started, you can find a list of example career goals below. Of course, make sure to relate your goals to the requirements of the company and the job you’re applying for.
- Getting a promotion
- Improving public speaking skills
- Earning a degree or certification
- Improving productivity
- Becoming a manager
- Gaining new skills
- Reaching a leadership position
- Winning a prestigious award in your industry
- Improving networking skills
- Becoming a mentor
- Increasing sales
- Becoming an expert in a field/industry
Example answers to interview questions about career goals
Below you can find some example answers to interview questions about your career goals and how you plan to achieve them.
Example answer to interview question about your career goal 1:
‘I’m currently working as a program analyst. I want to develop myself to become the best professional that I can in be my field. I plan on learning as much as I can about the position and how I can add value to the team and company in general.
A short term goal is completing my certification coursework together with the related work requirements. This goal aligns perfectly with the position that I’m applying for. Accomplishing this goal will help me take the next step in my career. It allows me to take on more responsibilities and a higher position in the future.’
Example answer to interview question about your career goal 2:
‘My current short term goal that I’m actively working on is improving my communication skills. In the longer run, this allows me to progress into a role where I can use these skills while also managing my own team.
I’m taking extra communication classes outside of work while I also volunteered to assist my manager in coordinating our team projects. I feel working as an assistant will give me a closer look at all the tasks and responsibilities of a manager. Furthermore, it will help me develop into a team-lead role in the future whenever the opportunity comes within the organization.’
Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic