An interviewer who asks about your goals and objectives is probing to find out how prepared you might be for the position. In almost every job above those at the entry level, it's important to have specific workplace goals. Your objectives are the benchmarks and achievements you strive for in order to improve your position, department, and/or company.
In essence, this question is asking whether you've given serious thought and consideration to the job. It weighs your vested interest in becoming part of the organization and weeds out those who are simply applying for any job they might be qualified for.
Points to Emphasize
It goes without saying that you should have some solid ideas in mind; perform a bit of basic research on the company beforehand if necessary.
- Keep your ideas grounded in reality—ambition is good, but attainable goals are best.
- Answer both parts of the question separately and thoughtfully. Short- and long-term goals should each be clearly defined.
- Make sure the goals you discuss benefit the company more than they benefit you personally.
- Relate ideas to goals you have previously achieved in the industry, when applicable.
Specifics are helpful, but general concepts are usually acceptable here. After all, there's only so much you can know about a company you don't yet work for.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Remember to keep responses positive-minded. Sounding critical of the company you're applying to represents a definite misstep.
- Don't blur the two parts of the question together. Have distinct short-term and long-term objectives.
- Avoid setting goals that are focused on you instead of the company overall.
- Try not to set the bar too high—trying to reinvent the wheel overnight isn't a realistic goal for anyone and an interviewer will realize that quickly.
- Never shrug this type of question off with vague answers, as it will make you seem unprepared.
This question is a great opportunity to display your planning skills, and also to show you can think on your feet.
This can be a tricky question to work with, but this example should get you started in the right direction:
I always try to make the most out of coming in with a fresh set of eyes, so as I learn the systems and processes, I also try to find ways to make everything work as efficiently as possible. Long-term, my objective is to ensure my department is staffed with exceptional people who are cross-trained to provide redundancy so that we don't lose a step when someone goes down.
The above example is general in nature but provides two distinct ideas, one of which draws on past professional experience.