7 Tips on How to Answer ‘What are your Career Goals’ (Samples)

Besides your qualifications, professional experience, and a carefully crafted cover letter or resume, interviewers are interested in the responses you provide to common interview questions. Typically, employers focus on questions that will provide them with insight about your personality, work ethics and future plans, as well as how these align with the company’s objectives. Recruiters are interested in people who have a plan for their future and thus, will ask questions about them. Employees may ask this using a variety of questions which include:

  • What are your future goals?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in X years?
  • What are your plans if you get the job?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • What professional goal do you have?

The best way to tackle interview questions is to try and understand what the interviewer is asking, the intention of the question. In most cases, interviewers’ main aim is to determine whether your career objectives align with the plans of the company.

Additionally, consider the fact that new hires are a risk for the company. Therefore, interviewers have to make sure the candidate they hire will not quit after a short period and if you are motivated to pursue something – your career goals. The responses you provide will help employers and hiring managers to understand your professional goals and if the expectations of the role align with what the position offers. And if things work in your favour, this context will enable the employer to craft an exciting job offer for you. So, how do you answer questions about your career goals?

Read on to find out how to answer “what are your career goals?” interview questions

Table of contents

1. How do I set my career goals
2. How to answer the ‘what are your career goals?’ interview question
3. Sample answers to ‘what are your career goals?

How do I set my career goals

A career goal is a specific statement that illustrates the profession you want to pursue throughout your career. With proper preparation and setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) career goals you’ll be able to adequately answer this question and convince the hiring manager that you are the ideal candidate for the position.

Start by thinking about what you want to do long-term or short-term about your career. Consider the following aspects as you set your career goals:

  • Your career interests
  • Industries or fields that align with your skills, abilities, and passion
  • The level of compensation that best suits your needs
  • Where would you like to be in 5-10 years or what do you want to accomplish in X years?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you want to be good at?
  • What projects look appealing to you?
  • What do you or have you enjoyed the most about your current or past positions?

How to answer the ‘what are your career goals?’ interview question:

1. Define your career goals
Consider what you want to achieve in the next five years of your career. Alternatively, where you want to be within the next five years of your career?.This practice enables you to have a plan and a distinct path which allows you to accomplish what you want to achieve within a specific period. These are vital questions you should ask yourself as you prepare for an interview. Set some time to come up with your career goals and write them down.

2. Do research about the company and the position you are applying for
Your response to this question should demonstrate how your long-term career goals align with how your company is growing and the opportunity the job is providing. As you research, focus on information about the company’s structure, mission, vision or new projects. This information is readily available on the company’s about page. Additionally, consider looking for press releases or news stories about the company to get more information about important announcements, new projects or achievements.

3. Start with short-term goals, then long-term goals
Consider mentioning your short-term goals such as landing the job you are currently interviewing for before moving on to long-term goals. However, if you aren’t sure about your career goals, this is a perfect time to set them.

4. Explain how you plan to achieve your goals
Just listing your goals will not make a strong case for you, you need to have a roadmap of how you’ll meet them. You need to briefly explain the steps you’ll take to achieve these goals. Describing your plans demonstrates that you’ve analytically thought about your career and how you’ll be an asset in the company’s potential growth prospect.

Additionally, demonstrate that you are passionate about achieving your goals. This will convey the message that you are motivated and inspired to work towards accomplishing your goals and those of the company if hired.

5. Provide employer-centric answers
Although this question is about you, you want to convey the message that you are motivated to achieve your goals and will most likely not abandon the company anytime soon. Focus on how your achievements, skills, and experience will add value to the company through the completion of your goals.

Consider the fact that most recruiters are looking for long-term employees, therefore instead of suggesting that your biggest career goal is to work in different fields or companies, instead illustrate how you intend to achieve your goals in the position or the company you are currently interested in.

6. Refrain from discussing salary expectations
When mentioning your goals, do not focus on remuneration, bonuses or perks whatsoever but rather on the work you want to accomplish. It’s okay to provide a salary range but make sure that you don’t pin yourself down this early in the hiring process. Additionally, when presenting the salary range refrain from being too specific.

7. Prove that you are a cultural fit
Recruiters are looking for people who will seamlessly integrate into their culture. Therefore, your career goal should demonstrate that you’ll be a cultural fit to join their team. The best way to approach this is by using your personality and work style to prove that you’ll smoothly integrate into the company’s working environment. Ensure that as you prepare for the interview, you research the company to get a feel about what the company culture is. Alternatively, you can talk to a contact, an employee, from the company.

Sample answers to ‘what are your career goals?’

Example 1
My current short-term goal is to pursue a short course on marketing and further develop my digital marketing strategies in a job similar to this one. Eventually, I hope to become the project manager of several digital marketing strategies in a position that allows me to nurture and grow other digital marketing specialists and surpass targets. I plan to work towards achieving my goals by taking up leadership roles in projects, attending annual job fairs held by your company and getting a mentor to help me in my career journey.

Example 2
Being an individual who firmly believes that learning never stops. I want to continue learning and enhancing my skills to be a better financial advisor. Hence the reason I’m excited at the prospect of joining ABC Insurance firm-an industry leader in financial matters and a natural fit for my business accounting educational background, together with sales and marketing experience. Eventually, I hope to advance to a managerial position and work towards ensuring the company achieves its goals and objectives.

Example 3
In the short term, I plan to continue developing my writing skills. I want to help brands create world-class awareness, increase click-through rate and build authority through detailed and relevant content. I aim to ensure the skills and strategies I use will improve the conversion rate of customers by at least 50%. I intend to do this by following the SEO industry leaders’ webinars, some of whom work at ABC as well as attend creatives conferences organized by your organization. In the long run, I hope to become an SEO industry expert and work together with the company to achieve its goal and maintain its market dominance.

Example 4
Currently, I strive to enhance my leadership and communication skills. I believe that these are essential attributes for a managerial position. Hence the prospect of working in your company is exhilarating. I hope to achieve my short-term goals by taking up leadership roles and attending career fairs and networking with other individuals in managerial positions. I believe that these skills are essential to ensure maximum productivity and effectiveness thus improving the business. Eventually, I hope to become the COO here. I see this as an opportunity to mould the next generation of thinkers and doers which will ensure attainment and maintenance of competitive advantage and market dominance.

Practice and plan how you are going to answer questions about your career goals. Consider asking a friend for help or practising your answers out loud, so that you can be more confident as you answer this question during your interview. The general rule of thumb when answering these questions is to ensure that your response and career plan targets the job you are currently interviewing for.

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