Why do interviewers ask the question “What are your career goals?” Also, why do they care? The universal truth about job interviewing is that the interview is not about you, that it’s about the business problem that the hiring manager has. So why do they sometimes want to delve into a candidate’s career aspirations? Why do they want to know about a candidate’s career goals?
Mostly, they ask about your career goals because they want to hire someone who will be excited about the job and where it will lead them, whether that’s to a specific higher-level position in three years, or just increased satisfaction with the work they’re doing over a shorter period of time. Interviewers want to know that you’re not just applying for jobs randomly and taking whatever you can get, but rather that you’re someone who has put thought into why this particular job makes sense for you.
Why is this important to a company? Because making a bad hire—say, someone who doesn’t fit in with the company culture, or someone who (it turns out) doesn’t have the necessary skills—costs real money. Replacing someone who leaves (soon after being hired) can cost a company an astronomical amount, so there is a real incentive for hiring managers to make good, thoroughly thought-out hiring decisions.
No company wants to hire someone who will likely get bored or leave as soon as something else comes along.
You are likely to encounter an interview question about career goals at some point during your job search. Here’s what you need to begin thinking about while prepping an answer to the question “What are your career goals?”
Start with short-term goals.
These career goals may be more tactical and executional in nature.
Move onto long-term goals.
These career goals are more strategic, in that they are the big picture goals that help you progress toward your end goal.
Explain how you’ll get there.
Simply listing your goals does not make a strong argument. You need to explain how you’ll achieve them, but you do not need to go into the interview ready to discuss your full career road map. Be both specific and succinct. Describing your plan demonstrates that you are thinking critically about both your career and your future with the company.
It’s not about you.
Focus on the employer. How do your goals align with the organization’s goals? With the hiring manager’s goals? How will your specific goals help to benefit the employer? You need to make connections here, and put them front and center in your response.
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Keep it simple and clear. No one wants to listen to you talk for 15 or 20 minutes about the granular details of your career objectives. Above all, be sure that you relate your objectives back to the role, and to the employer.
Points to Emphasize
- Connect your answer to the job for which you’re applying.
- Talk about how you want to learn new things that will make you stronger in the position you’re applying for.
- Try to bring up skills and traits that you have that would help you do the job.
- Make sure the career goals you talk about have the potential to happen at the company you are interviewing with.
- Answer the question honestly and in a way that assures the interviewer that you are genuinely interested in working for—and staying with—the company.
Knowing where you want to be, and who you want to be professionally, in the future, is not an easy task. Articulating it succinctly presents even more of a challenge. Practice your answer to the “What are your career goals?” interview question, and clearly and quickly explain your goals in less than 90 seconds. Then move on and inquire about the goals for the position, and growth opportunities at the company.
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