How to Answer: What Are Your Career Goals And How Do You Plan To Achieve Them?

If you really want to get that job, you need to pass the first interview first. During these interviews, it’s common for interviewers to ask you some career-oriented questions.

For them, this is an efficient way to see if your career goals and expectations of the job match what they can offer you. Furthermore, it shows the interviewers if you have a career plan. And also, if you plan on staying with the company or if you are likely to leave if you get another opportunity.

Other ways the interviewer can ask you about your career goals:

Interview questions about your career goals and how you plan to achieve them are commonly asked during job interviews. It’s therefore important that you prepare well for questions that you expect during your interview. In this blog, we explain how you can discuss your career goals. We also discuss how you can use this question to your advantage and how to answer. In other words, we’re here to help you out!

Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Read everything about the most common interview questions here. Learn more about questions to ask the interviewer here.

Why the Interviewer Asks About Your Career Goals

Interviewers are interested in your career goals for several reasons. An important reason is that they want to know if you plan on staying with the organization for a while. If you’re likely to leave if you get another opportunity or if you see the job as temporary, you might not be what the interviewers look for.

Another reason for interviewers to discuss your career goals is to see if you have a career plan and how you plan on developing yourself. Your answer should give the interviewer an understanding of your professional goals. Furthermore, it should demonstrate that your expectations of the position match what the company can offer you.

Interview questions about your career goals help the interviewer to make a better hiring decision. Think about it; it’s logical that the organization wants to hire candidates whose long-term goals match the objective of their business. This also works the other way around. You are more likely to want to work for an organization that matches your personal goals and invests in your professional development.

Basically, the main goal for an interviewer is to gather information about your career goals, motivation, and any training and development needs. During a job interview, they try to identify job candidates that could be a potential fit or who could grow into other roles within the organization, whether this is now or in the future.

Defining Your Career Goals

To answer questions about your career goals, you first need to be able to define them. This starts with thinking about what you want to accomplish within the next five years of your career. Focus on setting realistic goals. You can also think about your longer team goals. Write down your career goals that you want to achieve, both short term and long term.

Career Goal Categories

There are several types of career goals that can be distinguished. You can break them down in short and long-term goals. Between goals, you can go more in-depth and focus on specific elements that are also required for the position that you’re interviewing for. This is, of course, to convince the interviewer that you are a great candidate for the job.

  1. Productivity Goals

Productivity career goals are goals that focus on improving the results that you can produce for an employer or customer in the position that you are in, within a set time frame.

Examples of productivity career goals are increasing customer satisfaction, delivering projects within deadlines, or helping the company reduce costs, etc. These are all performance metrics that can be quantified.

Quantifying your goals and making them measurable gives them more weight. Furthermore, by setting ‘short-term’ goals that can be achieved over the next years, it’s easier for you to achieve longer-term goals such as getting a promotion.

  1. Efficiency Goals

Just like goals that focus on your productivity, you can also focus your goals on your efficiency as a worker. These are goals that refer to your ability to achieve results. However, instead of just focusing on your productivity, these goals focus on improving your speed, consistency, and accuracy by which you deliver results.

  1. Educational Goals

You could also focus your goals towards getting additional professional education that can help you improve your position within your current career. Furthermore, additional education can help you demonstrate that you are staying up to date with developments in your field of work.

Another reason to bring up educational goals is to improve your skills to get ahead of the competition. This way, you remain current and relevant within the career path that you chose. Goals that help you improve your skills and abilities, such as getting (additional) education or training, are always good to mention – as long as they align with the company goals.

  1. Personal Development Goals

Personal development is just as important as development through education. Your personal development will also benefit you in the future. Improving skills such as communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, leadership, competency, and creative thinking. These personal development goals will also help you achieve your short-term and long-term goals easier.

Setting Career Goals

We’ve discussed defining your career goals, but how do you actually set goals that suit you and your career? Try to come up with a couple of goals for each type of career goal category. Based on the timeframe you set per career goal, you can estimate how long it will approximately take to achieve the goals you’ve set.

It’s important that you make your goals quantifiable and measurable. This way, you can track your progress, and the goals will be regarded as realistic by a potential employer. If you do not map out your career goals properly, it will be harder for you to explain to the interviewer how you’re going to accomplish them.

Therefore, ensure that when you are preparing your career goals to discuss during your interview that your goals are set based on the criteria described below.

  1. Specific Goals

When you’re setting your career goals, keep in mind what success means to you. Also, think about what you value in your professional accomplishments. Next, break these goals down in separate milestones to make them more specific. Specific goals are better explainable, and you will leave interviewers with a stronger impression.

  1. Measurable Goals

Once you figured out some career goals, make sure you go for those goals that are measurable. Being able to track and measure goals is essential in order for you to achieve them. This can, for instance, be done by setting a certain timeframe to accomplish your goal. An example is: ‘I want to complete my specialization course within the next year.

  1. Realistic Goals

To impress an interviewer, you need to have realistic career goals that align with what the company can offer you. This does not mean that your career goals should not be challenging; they should be. If your career goals do not make you a little uncomfortable and excited, then you should probably set your bar higher.

  1. Action Plan for Each Goal

After you set specific, measurable, and realistic career goals, it’s time to create an action plan for each goal. Your action plan should detail how you plan on accomplishing your goals. Create a list of different activities required to achieve your goals in the short-term or long-term.

Setting Your Personal Goals

To start setting your career goals, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What would you like to be good at?
  3. Which parts do you enjoy most about your current job?
  4. What professional achievement are you most proud of?
  5. Are there any other jobs or projects that look appealing to you? Which ones and why?
  6. Are there opportunities in which you want to engage within the next years?
  7. Which skills do you want to gain or develop over the next years?

Once you have answered these questions for yourself, you can make your goals more tangible. Focus on setting challenging but realistic and achievable goals.

Tips to Answer Questions About Career Goals

There are a few things you should consider when you’re preparing answers to questions about career goals.

  1. Outline your short-term and long-term goals

When the interviewer asks you ‘what are your career goals?’, make sure you outline what you have set short and long-term goals. This way, the interviewer will notice that you have already thought about your career and what you would like to achieve in the short and long-term. It’s, therefore, important that you are able to distinguish your career goals because they require a different strategy and approach.

  1. Discuss your action plan

When the interviewer, for instance, asks you about a specific goal you have mentioned, outline how you plan on reaching your goals. Ensure that you keep your answers concise and to-the-point. Furthermore, focus your answer on the steps you need to take to achieve your goals.

In other words, describe to the interviewer step by step what you’re currently doing and what else needs to be done. This might sound like an open door, but the interviewer does not know you (yet) Therefore, demonstrate to them how your goals align with what the company needs and how you can add value.

  1. Focus your goals on the company and job you’re interviewing for

Even though this point has been discussed earlier, we cannot emphasize it enough. Always ensure that your goals align with those of the company and job you’re interviewing for. Your answer should explain to the interviewer how your career goals will ultimately add value to the team and company.

  1. Keep your answers focused on yourself

Keep your answers focused on yourself and what you can do for the company, and within the position you’re interviewing for – not the other way around.

Sample answers to interview questions about career goals

Below we discuss some sample answers to the question ‘what are your career goals?‘. However, these are just examples that you should use for inspirational purposes. Tailor your answers to the company and position you’re interviewing for.

Example 1 – short-term career goal:

‘In the short term, I would really like to work as a marketing representative for an organization like yours. I’m excited to work for such a strong brand that is known for its creative and innovative marketing strategies. Starting as a marketing representative will help me to develop myself and gain the needed knowledge of service, support, and solutions that the organization offers.

My main goal is to work my way up from a marketing representative to eventually become a team leader. I feel like the position, and the learning and development program are the perfect opportunities for me to prepare myself to grow into the organization.’

Why this is a strong answer: The answer explains that your short-term goal can be accomplished by working for the organization that you’re interviewing for. In other words, you demonstrate that your goals align with what the company is looking for. Furthermore, it’s a concise answer that points out where you’re starting, where you want to go, and how you plan on doing this.

Example 2 – long-term career goal:

‘The main reason why I want to work for this organization is because of the opportunities to develop my skills further to grow as a professional and add more value in the longer run. The mentorship program that you offer excites me and will help me progress my career and knowledge-levels.

In approximately five years, I want to become an expert in my field, get my professional certification, and hopefully lead my own team in some capacity. Furthermore, I want to become a person within my team that others can go to, to discuss ideas and creative strategies.

I would like to keep developing myself professionally so that I can help, coach, and mentor others when needed. Eventually, I would love to be a part of the mentorship program myself as well.’

Why this is a strong answer: The answer shows that you did your homework and that you’re aware of the training and development opportunities within the organization. Furthermore, after discussing your short-term career goals, the answer explains what the training will bring you in the long-term. Furthermore, the answer is relevant to the position and realistic. This means that the goals you have set are challenging but obtainable. Also, the answer demonstrates a commitment to the company and team for the long-term, plus how you plan to add value.

Learn more about commonly asked interview questions about career goals and how to answer them here.

Job Interview Topics – 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!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic