How to Answer “What are Your Career Goals?”

How to Answer "What Are Your Career Goals?"

When preparing for a job interview, one of the most common questions asked is regarding your career goals. This question can be tricky to answer. You want to make sure that you show the interviewer that you are ambitious yet convey that you’re entirely focused on the role you’re applying for.

Your answer will influence the interviewer’s opinion on your commitment to both the job and the company in the long run. So, how do you let them know that this role you’re applying for is an ideal next step in that direction? As with most aspects of interviewing, you’ll find success with thorough research that allows you to create a concise and tailored answer.

Articulating Your Career Goals

When recruiters ask about your career goals, they want to know if you see yourself at the company for the long haul or if you’re simply looking for any available job. In addition, they’re trying to gain insight into how you’ll fit with the team and the overall company culture. Are your goals in line with the company’s mission?

The best way to answer this question is to do your research before the interview. Learn about the company’s culture and values. What are the company’s long-term goals? How does this role fit into that picture? Align your career goals with what you know about the company—conveying that you’re not only interested in the job but also in being a part of the company for the long haul.

Defining Your Goals

It might seem obvious, but your first step should be defining your career goals for yourself. The more clearly defined your career goals are, the easier it will be to communicate how a role or a company will fit them. Ideally, you’ll have a target of both your short-term and long-term aspirations.

Although it might seem daunting to create an entire career development plan, remember that it’s always flexible and is solely meant as a means to check that you’re making conscious choices toward an end goal. One common suggestion for creating your career plan is to work backward when developing your career plan.

Envision how you want your life to look in 10 years or more, and then consider what kind of career will help you build that life. The following questions can help get your creative juices flowing:

  • Would you love to work in the hustle and bustle of a city office, or do you dream of working from anywhere and becoming a digital nomad?
  • Do you aspire to a specific title or role in the future?
  • What do you enjoy doing professionally?
  • Does a job need to satisfy your interests, or simply provide the means to explore them outside of your work environment?
  • Would you love being a team leader, or do you relish only being responsible for your individual performance?

With the strategy that these answers provide, you can start forming your answer for your upcoming interview.

Strategizing Your Interview Answer

You’ve likely read multiple times that preparation is the key to nailing your interview. That’s especially true when articulating the nuances how your career goals align with the company’s long-term vision. Fortunately, several resources are available to help you learn more about a potential employer. The company website is an excellent place to start, but you can also find valuable information on social media, your network, and LinkedIn.

Taking the time to learn about the company’s history, its culture, and why it’s passionate about its products and services will help formulate your answer. The more you know about the company, the easier it will be to explain why you’d be an enthusiastic and dedicated team member. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing position, your answer might sound like this:

I am interested in the marketing manager position at [XYZ Corporation] because it represents an excellent opportunity to use my marketing and communications skills in a professional setting. Additionally, I see this job as a stepping-stone to my eventual goal of leading a marketing team. I am confident that I have the skills and abilities needed to succeed in this position, and I am eager to continue growing them in a challenging and dynamic work environment.

Minding Some Boundaries

Keep some boundaries in mind as you’re creating your answer. You’ll want to avoid mentioning a specific salary. It’s great to have ambitions, but you want to convey that you’re driven by hard work and challenges, rather than motivated by compensation. And while it’s excellent to have goals, you don’t want to imply that you’re eager to get to the next step as soon as possible.

Instead, ensure you’re communicating that you’re eager to fully embrace and learn from the role you’re getting interviewed for. You also want to keep your answer concise, rather than get into any specifics. If you have a very targeted role in mind, your recruiter might be cautious about bringing you on board if you seem inflexible and focused solely on minute details, rather than the big picture. Instead, appear flexible with generalized goals.

Making a Great First Impression

Career planning is an essential part of life, and interviewers appreciate it when you’ve taken the time to consider how the role and company you’re applying for fit into your long-term plans. By developing a plan, researching how the company fits into them, and practicing concise answers, you’ll be able to give a response that helps you stand out from other candidates.

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