When an interviewer asks about your long-term career objectives, he or she is probing for several pieces of information. This question is designed to learn more about your career progression—whether or not you continually set goals for yourself and whether you’re on a generally upward trajectory, as opposed to making lateral moves. Employers often seek to hire those with a focus on moving forward to bigger and better things and accepting greater challenges.
Points to Emphasize
Keep in mind what the question’s truly asking when formulating your response for best results.
- Have something to talk about—lack of a plan for your career suggests an overall lack of big-picture focus.
- Talk about your career progression to date and how it fits in with your long-range plan.
- Remember to define timelines for completing your stated objectives to show focus and motivation.
- Keep your goals and objectives realistic while setting a reasonably high ceiling to display your growth potential.
Focus on positive-minded ideas and speak as though you intend to accomplish each of your objectives with certainty.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Rule number one of any interview question: have something to say. Don’t find yourself without some sort of objectives or ambitions to talk about.
- Avoid thinking on the spot, as your career objectives should be well considered long before the interview.
- Don’t misinterpret the phrase “long range”—discuss objectives at least five to 10 years in the future.
- Provide specifics. Overly-vague answers suggest a lack of focus or authenticity.
- Don’t sell yourself short; confidence is a winning quality in any job interview.
Lacking long-term career perspective can hurt you in the eyes of employers, so make sure you’re prepared for questions like this.
Your own response will sound much different, but this example shows you one general thought process to consider:
My long range career objectives are to continue working toward an upper-management position in the industry with the ultimate goal of opening my own business, hopefully within 10 years. I’ve stayed focused on assuming as much responsibility as possible at each stage of my career thus far, and I think that running a company for five or six years would be invaluable experience before starting my own.
This answer shows long-term thinking with a nod to the progress that has already been made toward the greater goal. It also indicates a genuine interest in the industry, lending confidence to an employer that you would likely be a part of their organization for the foreseeable future.