“What are your career goals?” is a common question you’ll hear in many interviews.
And you need to prepare an answer because employers ALWAYS prefer to hire someone who can show they’re goal-oriented and have long-term objectives in their career.
There are also a couple of big mistakes you need to avoid when you describe your career goals in an interview, so we’ll cover how to avoid those mistakes, too.
Let’s get started…
How to Answer “What Are Your Career Goals?”
You always want to seem goal oriented, so it’s not a good idea to say, “I’m not sure” or “I haven’t thought about that.”
That’s NOT going to impress hiring managers.
But you also need to make sure the career goals you mention fit into the job you’ve applied for.
Here’s how this can hurt you if not:
Imagine you’re interviewing for a customer service position. And the hiring manager asks about your long-term career goals. If you say, “My goal is to move out of customer service and find a role that doesn’t involve working with customers as much. I prefer to work behind the scenes,” then the hiring manager is NOT going to hire you for their job.
Employers want to hire someone who really wants this specific job, because then you’re more likely to be motivated, have a great attitude, etc.
So prepare a few goals and aspirations you can talk about, but make sure your goals fit with the job you’re interviewing for. Otherwise, adjust the goals you plan on talking about for the interview.
Be strategic and think about what’s going to get you hired for the job you want, and don’t say anything that suggests you’ll be bored, frustrated, or want to leave this job quickly.
One more note: Just like with the question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” you’re not expected to be able to predict the future accurately.
Nobody’s going to check on you in two years and see if you’re following what you said in a few years.
Hiring managers just want to see what your interests are and whether you’ve thought about this at all. And they want to make sure they’re not hiring someone who’s going to be bored in their job.
That’s why they ask questions about your long-term career goals and ambitions in an interview.
“What Are Your Career Goals?” Example Answers
Now that you know how to answer questions about your career goals in the interview, let’s look at some word-for-word example answers.
First is an example of an entry-level job seeker.
After that, we’ll go through an example for job seekers with more experience.
Entry-Level Example Answer to “What Are Your Career Goals?”
I just graduated with my degree in Finance, and I’m excited to get my first position in the industry, now. My longer-term goals are to learn a variety of areas within the field of finance and work toward deciding what area of specialization I want to take. I’d love to become an expert in one specific field of finance in the long term, but I know the first step is to build a solid foundation and learn the basics in an entry-level role. I saw this job offers exposure to a variety of areas, which is something I liked.
Notice that the end of this example answer includes a line about why their particular job interests you.
This is a great tactic you can use with a variety of your interview answers. Answer their question, but then conclude by putting the focus back on their job and why you want this position!
Most job seekers don’t do this. You’ll really stand out with this tactic and put their mind at ease that you’ll love their job.
(Employers are REALLY scared of hiring someone who won’t love the job, even if you have the necessary experience. Because it costs a lot of time/money/energy to hire and train someone, and that’s all lost if you leave in the first year).
Mid-Level Example Answer to “What Are Your Career Goals?”
My goal for many years was to become a Manager. I achieved that last year. Now as I look forward in my career, I’d like to build and manage larger teams and continue advancing as a leader. I’ve found I really enjoy mentoring and leading a team, even more than I enjoyed working as an individual contributor earlier in my career. When I saw your job description mentions a chance to hire and lead a team of five, I knew I should apply.
Again, this sample answer for “what are your career goals?” does a lot more than just answering the basic question. You start by mentioning a past achievement, then you answer the question, and then you mention what you saw in their specific job that excited you.
This is a great formula to follow when answering this question as a mid-level or senior-level job seeker.
Senior/Executive-Level Answer Example
My career goal right now is to take the leadership and management experience I’ve obtained over the past 12 years and transition into a Fortune-500 company. I feel this would provide a new challenge and bring out the best in my abilities at the same time. I’ve excelled most in roles where I was involved in cross-functional team leadership involving multiple departments, and I feel this is something I’ll gain more exposure to in a Fortune-500 firm. I saw on your job description that this is mentioned as a part of the role here. Can you tell me more about that?
Ending your job interview answer with a question directed back at the hiring manager is a great way to make the interview more conversational. Try to do this at least a few times, instead of just answering a question and then waiting for the next question. This can be a real game-changer in your interviews in terms of the flow and how confident you feel and appear.
Answering “What Are Your Career Goals?” – Quick Review
- Never say you don’t have any goals or haven’t thought about it
- Always share a goal that’s at least somewhat related to the job you’ve applied for
- Start your answer by explaining your current situation and what you accomplished previously in your career
- Next, explain your future career goals and how you plan to achieve them
- Conclude by telling the interviewer what interested you in their particular job (based on the job description) – make sure they can see how their job fits into your bigger career goals
If you follow the advice above, you’ll give a great answer when interviewers ask about your long term career goals and objectives.
You’ll show them that you’re someone who has long-term aspirations and plans and they’ll love to see this.
You’ll also show them why their job interests you, which tells them you’ll be motivated and work hard. This makes them FAR more likely to offer you the position than someone who can’t clearly explain their career goals and how those goals fit into this job they’re discussing.