Interview Questions: Career goals

Asking interviewees about their long term career goals is a good way for employers to see where your motivation lies and whether you are looking at a long term future within their company. They will be able to tell a lot about you from your answer. Questions to do with career goals are likely to come up in different forms such as :-

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
  • What is most important to you in your career?
  • What are you looking for in a job?
  • What are your goals?
  • How does this role fit into your career plan?

So as with any interview scenario, preparation is key. Think about what questions could be asked and devise suitable answers. Make sure you research the company so you know what type of company they are, their values, ethos and where they are going?

Don’t make the mistake of seeing goals as salary or promotion goals. Telling prospective employers what you are expecting in terms of salary or promotion for the years to come is a very egocentric answer. Avoid these in your answer and instead focus on experience, skills and abilities you would like to achieve within their company.

In general give fairly broad answers. Whereas you would normally give a specific answer to an interview question, here it isn’t necessary, you don’t want to raise doubts as to whether you’re a good fit for the company. With goals that are too specific you could be seen as inflexible and less well rounded than other candidates. Again, although goals and ambitions are good, if you’re too specific you run the risk of stating goals that aren’t really achievable.

It is important to stress your interest in building up a career within the company. Retention of employees is a valid concern for companies. They do not wish to invest time, money and energy in hiring and training someone who plans to leave as soon as something better comes along. They have to know that hiring you would be a worthwhile investment. Your response should show that you’re committed to working for the organisation for some time. A suitable response might be ‘I look forward to growing with the organisation and making significant contributions to the company’. If your career history to date has involved a lot of changes from job to job it would be worth emphasising that you’re now ready for a long-term role and you’d like it to be within their company.

Show your enthusiasm for the job but without going over the top (you won’t fool anyone!) and that you are motivated to take up this opportunity. No-one wants to hire applicants who seem half-hearted. Show that it is your goal to work for an organisation where you can build a career, to grow and take on new challenges and responsibilities over time. If you’re not altogether sure exactly where you see yourself in the future or you’re still weighing up options such as a complete change of career or setting up your own business, now is not the time to raise this with the interviewer. Any concern like this will be a red flag for them as it will not show commitment to their company.

Make sure you research the company and the role for which you’re applying. This will give you information on the structure of the company, expansion plans and what is valued within the company. Study the company website, read about their focus, look at the ‘media’ or ‘press’ pages to get an insight into where the company is moving. Follow their social media accounts for the weeks before the interview, you’ll be able to glean information about developments, recent successes and awards, expansion plans etc which you can then work into your answers.

As with all interviews it is worth spending time in planning your answers in case a particular question comes up. There is no need to memorise a script but practice how you will make your long term goals relevant to the company. See a question about long term goals as an opportunity to show your potential employer your ambitions, skills and how you’re going to help their company grow.