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How to answer career goal questions

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 19 May 2021

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The reason many of us don’t feel particularly comfortable with or get nervous for upcoming interviews, is often because we are afraid of the unexpected. When we don’t know what’s going to happen or what the interviewer is going to ask, it can lead us to overthink and overprepare. Yes, there is such thing as overpreparing for an interview. The main part of advice that I give anyone for interview questions, is to think about them beforehand. This doesn’t mean having an exact word for word answer ready, just do a bit of planning, and let your thoughts help guide the interview conversation.

Career goals

Many of us know what we want to do with our career, many of us do not. Not everyone has a clear pathway of what they want to achieve and how they are going to do it. Career goals can change in time, yet employers are always interested in understanding what we want and why we want to work for them. Career goal questions are not just about the employer understanding what they can get from you, but what they can give to you and how they can help you and your goals.

Career goal orientated questions, much like any other interview question, can be asked in many different ways. Here’s just a few examples that I’ve been asked throughout my job seeking experience.

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your future goals and how would we help you achieve them?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job role?

Knowing what you want

The key to answering these questions well in an interview is to simply think about what you want. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your career but having goals and understanding why the job you’re applying for can help you, is a very good start. Most of the time, employers don’t expect a long answer about where you’re going to be before you retire, they’re just trying to figure out if you’ll be a good fit for each other.

When answering something like ‘Why do you want to work for this company?’ A good starting point is to go through the job spec and pinpoint the things you’ll enjoy doing most. Go through the skills list and analyse what skills you would be able to show of best. Work with all of the resources they have given you to answer this question. More importantly, think about where this job will get you. Is there room to develop yourself within the company? Do your research and see what you can find out.

Being honest

When answering career goal questions in the form of ‘Why do you want to leave your current job?’  You want to be honest, but not too honest. If you have issues with your current or past employer, try and keep the bitterness hidden. Talk about how you have grown there, worked hard and managed to get everything you can out of your current job. You are someone that needs to be challenged and you think you’re ready for the next step. No matter how negative your experience has been, try and stay positive when answering questions.

Giving the best answer

You want to start by talking about a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Make sure you are keeping the discussion going and try to also talk about the steps you would take to reach your goals, keeping the job you are applying for in mind. For example.

‘One of my personal goals is to develop and use my communication and leadership skills in a team environment. Eventually, I would like to continue to progress and use these skills to help me reach a leadership position within the company. I will prepare for this goal by building on the skills I already have, working in team projects and attending leadership courses, like the one this company runs on a yearly basis.’

You have stated a goal and how you are going to achieve it in the long-term. You have also stated how the company would be able to help you achieve this, showing not only have your done your research, but you are already dedicated and ready to be a member of the team.

Career goal questions are always going to be a little bit personal. They are predominately used to get to know you better and to see if you would be a good fit for the company. Most people feel pressured when they are asked these types of questions because they might not know everything they want to achieve throughout their career, and that’s okay. Use time to prepare for these and it may just give you the thinking time you needed to discover what you really want from this job.