Now that you secured an interview, let's get you ready to answer the career goals interview question.

During your interview, you can expect to hear some version of the “future goals” interview question. It'll come out in one of a few ways:

  1. What are your career goals for the future?

  2. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  3. What goals have you set for your career?

  4. What are your career goals? 

The best way to answer questions about your goals is to be prepared by thinking about it critically, practicing your answer, and even bringing reference notes. Having this crutch can help calm your nerves, but remember: Do not read from your notes as you answer questions. Just use them to keep your mind on the right path. 

Why do companies care if you have goals?

Hiring new staff members can be a time-consuming money pit that some companies try to avoid if they can. They have to pay for the job posting, sift through hundreds of resumes, and then devote time to interviewing candidates. After all of that, once the company hires someone, they have to spend resources training that person. 

Since they go through all of this to onboard new staff, hiring managers aren't looking for employees who only want a paycheck; they want you to have ambitions. Candidates who have no goals set are usually the ones who jump ship the instant another offer comes along, as well. 

The best way to define your ambitions is to set goals

When a hiring manager asks, "What are your career goals?", it's best to have an answer prepared. They tend to frown upon job candidates who give them the deer-in-headlights look. Avoid this problem by building SMART goals.

  • S = Specific

  • M = Measurable

  • A = Attainable

  • R = Relevant

  • T = Timely (or Time-Bound)

It is important to note that goals are not set in stone. For example, let's say you have a goal to be a millionaire by the time you hit 30 — that's not wholly unreasonable. As a goal, it has all the qualities it needs. For example: 

  • It's specific — you want to be a millionaire.

  • It's measurable — you can check your financial portfolio to see if you've hit the millionaire mark.

  • It's attainable — becoming a millionaire isn't completely out of reach. 

  • It's relevant — you're seeking employment that will provide an income that you'll use to hit the mark.

  • It's time-bound - you want this by age 30.

However, now that you're 29, it looks like you aren't going to make it. That's okay; part of life is being flexible and adapting to change. 

How does all of that translate into a great interview answer?

The goals you set for your career should be relevant to your industry, as well as the company that you're interviewing for. A hiring manager won't be interested in the idea that you want to be a millionaire by age 30. 

Instead, they're going to want to know how your goals can help them. In everything you say during an interview, always end with how you will add value. There are a variety of goals you can set, and here are a few to get the juices in your brain flowing:

  1. You can learn a new skill.

  2. You can strive to be the top performer every month.

  3. You can work towards a leadership role.

  4. You can become a subject matter expert (SME) on a particular subject.

  5. You can work on building a large network or expanding the network you already have. 

“What are your career goals?” example answers

Start off with your short-term goal, discussing how that it is relevant to the company. Then, transition into your long-term goal. This style of answering will show the hiring manager how you'll be valuable to their team. Here are some sample answers to get you started: 

“As I went through the company's website, I realized that we have shared visions. My short-term goal is to be partnered with a company that treats customers like more than a dollar sign. Ultimately, I strive for a role that increases my level of responsibility, especially if that includes coaching and mentoring staff. By earning a leadership role, I will be able to shoulder some of the burdens your current leaders take upon themselves.”

“I have a passion for learning new things. I know that this company is dedicated to staying on top of the latest technological advances. In the short term, I'd love the opportunity to learn what the people here know. That way, in the future, I can offer myself as a subject matter expert on one or more topics to help guide less experienced team members.” 

“Since I am new to the working world, my short-term goal is to build up my network. I know that will take some time. However, once I've built that larger network, I can leverage those relationships to build partnerships with experts. Through those partnerships, we can build more value for our customers.”

What should you avoid saying when talking about goals?

Anything you say during an interview should be relevant to the industry, job, and company. Avoid talking about goals related to family, hobbies, or personal plans. Also, stay away from goals that are related to things you don't like about the job or industry. It's great to be innovative; however, you don't want to give off the impression that you're going to try to change the status quo on the first day of your job — you can work on changing things after you've established yourself as an expert. 

Walking into an interview can be very nerve-wracking, but this is a common question every interviewer will ask. Preparation and research are imperative to your success. So, write down your goals and go ace that interview!

Is one of your goals to ace your next interview? Let our interview coaches guide you to success. 

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