“What is your dream job?” can be a tricky interview question to answer—especially if your dream job is not that relevant to the job you’re interviewing for!
When an interviewer asks about your dream job, most people are inclined to respond with one of two options:
1. they either say the job that they are applying for, or
2. they mention a job that is unrealistic or totally unrelated to the job description to which they are applying.
When you are asked about your dream job, it’s important that you put the emphasis on the challenges and type of work environment you are looking for rather than any specific job, and that you make your answer relevant and tailored to the position you’re applying for.
There are two reasons why interviewers ask an interview question like this:
Firstly, to get an idea of your passions, values and motivations as an employee. Will you be satisfied with the position if you got the job offer?
Secondly, the prospective employer is trying to figure out if you have the skills necessary to do the job.
Guidance on How to Answer the Question
Get clear on what you want in a job. It doesn’t even have to be a specific job like a finance manager or an architect. Instead, you can talk about different responsibilities you’d like to have in your role, the skills you enjoy using, what you value, and the type of an environment you thrive in.
In your answer, include elements of the job you’re applying for. For example, if the position is an analyst role, you might say that your dream job would include working with numbers, creating dashboards, and helping businesses make better decisions based on data.
You can also talk about your ideal work environment and company culture. For example, say you work remotely, and in isolation (translation: you’re not on any sort of a team at your company). And let’s say working remotely and in isolation is not sitting too well with you anymore. When answering the question about your dream job, you could focus on how you want to be in a warm, inviting office, working collaboratively in a team environment.
Get clarity on what appeals to you about the job you’re applying for. Look through the requirements in the job description to find what really interests you about this specific role. In your answer, you can make references to both skills you currently have and want to use, and ones that you’d like to gain in the new job.
What to Mention in Your Response
Share some examples. Tell them how you’ve enjoyed using the skills/activities you’re talking about in the past. You can also tell them what skills you’d like to hone in the new job.
Talk about what interests you. If you’ve always been interested in a particular industry or work that involves something mentioned on the job spec, you can tell them why.
Mention your career values. If your dream job involves doing a specific task, you can tell them how it relates to what you value as a professional. Make sure the values you mention are related to the values required to perform well in the position you’re interviewing for.
What NOT to Mention in Your Response
Jobs that have zero relevance to the position you’re interviewing for. If your dream job is to become a stage actor and you’re applying for a job as an accountant, keep this information to yourself!
Roles that are too grandiose. Let’s explain—it’s great to show ambition, but if your dream job involves responsibilities that are far from realistic in the role you’re applying for, the employer might think you won’t be happy in the position for too long. Avoid saying something that might give the impression that you will one day leave the job for another.
Don’t say the job you are applying for is your dream job. It’s too obvious and lazy of an answer, and the interviewer will know you are not being truthful.
Be sure to emphasize the qualities and traits that you appreciate in a work setting, and the career challenges you’re seeking, rather than bringing up a specific position or occupation. Here are some examples:
“My dream job would allow me to develop marketing copy for a variety of organizations. I am really passionate about getting to know my clients and developing copy to suit their needs. For example, in my last job I worked with clients in various industries, including FMCG and financial services, and got fantastic feedback. One of the reasons this job appeals to me is that it would allow me to work with a range of clients across different industries.”
“My dream job is one that would allow me to utilize my communication and customer service skills. I’ve discovered over the years that one of my key strengths is interacting with customers, and being able to solve their problems quickly and efficiently. The main reasons this job interests me is that I’d be able to interact with customers and discuss and sell a product I really believe in.”
Finding a job that aligns with your core values is key. If you can do this, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in your dream job—which will make answering this question super-easy!