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How To Answer The “What Are Your Career Goals?” Question

When it comes to job interviews, it goes without saying that preparation is key. OK, so you’re never going to be able to predict every question but if you can prepare answers for some of the most common job interview questions, you’ll be able to walk into the interview room knowing that you’ll be able to answer at least a couple of questions confidentially.

Now, we’ve covered a lot of the most common job interview questions and how to answer them before (you can find these in our Interview Advice section) – so today I thought I’d look at one we’ve never looked at before – the “What are your career goals?” question.

On first glance, this question looks a bit similar to the “Where do see yourself in five years?” question but it’s actually pretty different so you need to tackle it in a completely different way. With the career goals question, the interviewer wants to see how much you’ve thought about the future direction of your career and what you’d like at the end of it – and, most importantly, where the job you’re applying for fits in. This question is all to do with your long-term aims and ambitions, whereas the “five years” question is all to do with your shorter term aims.

With this question, the interviewer wants to hear that you’ve got ambition and drive – and you have a clear desire to progress along a clear career path, rather than just float through your career moving from one job to another.

If you’re at the start of your career, the career goals question can be a bit of an overwhelming one because you’ve probably not really thought about what you want from your career long-term – so preparing for this question gives you the perfect chance to take a step back and really consider what you might like to achieve.

When considering your career aims, it’s always a good idea to try and break it down into more sizable chunks and consider what you’d like to achieve from each section of your career or job. Think about what you’d like to achieve in 5 years (if you’re at the start of your career this could be to learn lots and establish yourself within an industry, in 10 years (this might be take up a senior management position) and in 20 years (this could be to become a company director and/or start up your own business).

Common career goals can include things like taking up a management position, completing certain training, starting up your own business, doubling your salary within 10 years and becoming a key spokesperson within your industry – so it’s a good idea to bear some of these things in mind when trying to plan out your answer.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer because it’s all to with your personal aims and ambitions – that said; it’s a good idea to try and keep your career goals realistic. So for example, while you might quite fancy yourself as the Prime Minister one day, if you have no interest or history in politics, this might come across as a completely unrealistic career goal and might put the interviewer off.

Whatever answer you give, it’s important to clarify how this role would fit into your long-term career goals and how you see yourself fitting into the company. That said; it’s important to emphasise that you do really want the role and can bring a lot to it, rather than mentioning that you see this role as a stepping stone for your career. Why? Well by saying that you risk coming across as quite selfish as it makes it sound like you won’t be at the company for long and you’ll only use the role to get to where you want to get to… something which isn’t appealing to any potential employer.

Like I said earlier, the right answer will depend on your personal aims and attributes but whatever you come up, be sure to have reasons for why you want to achieve these goals – because it’s highly likely the interviewer will ask so you need to be able to qualify your answers.

So there you go; a few things to consider when trying to plan an answer for this tricky question. Think I’ve missed anything out? Feel free to leave a comment below…

5 Comments

  1. Debbie Ruston

    Even more important than giving the “right” answer to potential employers, is to reflect and authentically determine what you REALLY want for your life. This is something so many miss as they give in to traditional thinking and limiting beliefs of what they are capable of. Get authentic with yourself and then take every action possible that supports those goals.

  2. pranit

    Great and very informative article!
    I have been looking for this question’s answer from long time and here in your blog i have found it so precise and good. I have had an interview last week and interviewer asked me the same question and i was not up to mark to answer this question, this will help me a lot for my next interview. thanks a lot!

  3. Bhushan Chavan

    Amazing article!! In next week my interview is coming up so looking for these type of questions so thanks a lot for these informative article, didn’t know how to answer this question but you have cleared my doubt that this is related to your long term goal.Going to bookmark this for sure.

  4. kiran sahu

    Hey,
    Great article this threat is realy good and help candidats to know there career goal answer, but I think its better to give your own career goal answer rether than preparing for a answer.
    Thanks for posting..!!

  5. Nasreern khan

    Extraordinary article this danger is really great and help candidates to know there vocation objective answer, yet I think its better to give your very own profession objective answer rather than planning for an answer.

    Much obliged for posting..!!

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