During a job interview, interviewers ask close-ended and open-ended questions. While close-ended questions test your technical skillset related to the job, open-ended questions test your overall personality and attitude. “What are your career goals?” is one of the favorite open-ended questions of interviewers.
This article will discuss career goals, why an interviewer wants to know about your plans and tips for answering questions related to career goals with examples.
What are career goals?
Career goals are milestones or targets that you aim to achieve as you progress in your career. These career goals lay the foundation of your job set you off in the right direction, and create an action plan for your future. Your career goals could be short-term, like getting a promotion or settling into new work culture, or long-term, like leading a team of 15 people.
Usually, short-term goals are achievable within six months to three years, whereas it takes over three years to achieve any long-term plan.
Whether short-term or long-term, your career goals motivate you to excel in the workplace and ensure a successful career.
Why do interviewers want to know about your career goals?
Having a career goal is imperative for a steep learning curve and ensures that you remain focused on achieving it. Career goals help create a professional development plan that steers your career in the right direction.
Interviewers ask this question because it tells them two things:
- How long do you plan to work for the company
- What motivates you to excel at work
Your career goals give interviewers an idea of whether you will be a long-term or a short-term employee. It tells whether you are likely to switch at the first opportunity or plan to grow with the company. Training new hires are expensive, so interviewers want to make sure you plan to stay in the company.
Furthermore, employees without ambition and career goals are less motivated and underperform in their work. Asking this question tells the interviewers whether your career goals match the business objective or not.
The best way to answer, “What are your career goals?” (with examples)
Before going for the interview, it is best to prepare for this question. Often, interviewers will directly ask about your career goals, but they often twist the question and ask it differently. Some career goals questions you may encounter in an interview are:
- What do you want to achieve in your next position?
- Why do you think this position aligns with your career goals?
- If we hire you for this job, what are your plans?
- Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
- Why are you searching for a new job?
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Below are a few examples of answers to this question for different job roles:
For intern position
Example: “I will graduate in mass communication next year and I would love to start working as a PR professional in your company. Apart from assisting with the PR strategy’s execution, I hope to improve my writing and public speaking skills. I want to work in a team and eventually contribute to my best possible potential.”
The applicant clearly states the short-term goals and plans to achieve them while working in the company.
For entry-level position
Example: “I just completed my MBA in marketing and I am looking forward to work in the industry. My short-term goal is to develop my marketing and communication skills to help your brand grow. However, five years down the line, I want to contribute to its success by using innovative marketing strategies while leading a marketing team. I would love to apply my marketing skill set to establish your company as a thought leader.”
Example: “For the short-term, I want to enhance my writing skills and work with a brand that focuses on delivering high-quality content. I want to help brands achieve success and become world-class publishers through quality and compelling content. Apart from my writing skills, I am always looking to improve my communication skill set as I understand that both written and verbal communication skills are essential for success.”
These answers work with the interviewer because the applicant states their short-term goals and how the company will help them achieve their goals. The first answer relates the applicant’s long-term goals to the company’s success.
For mid-level position
Example: “As an experienced marketer, one of my career goals was to become a marketing manager, which I achieved last year. Now, I look forward to managing large teams and help reputed companies increase their marketing KPIs while continuing as a leader. In this one year of leading a team of 10 people, I have realised that my skill set lies in mentoring, nurturing and leading marketing teams. I have enjoyed this position more than I enjoyed working as an individual contributor. I found your job description interesting because I would get a chance to mentor and lead a team of 15 people.”
Apart from answering about the career goals, the applicant mentions how they achieved a previous career goal. The applicant then answers about future career goals and how the company (for which they are giving an interview) will help accomplish the goals.
For senior-level position
Example: “In five years, I would like to be seen as someone with deep knowledge and expertise in the investment banking sector. This job would provide me with an opportunity to achieve my goals. The experience I have gathered over the past 15 years would be beneficial for this job. I am also keen on taking up the topmost managerial responsibility and taking the lead on a few projects. If I succeed, I am sure your company will give me a chance to become a leader. “
The applicant references how their skill set will help a company achieve its business goal. The applicant also talks about their long-term goal and tells the interviewer that they plan to stay in the organization for a long time.
Four tips for giving the best answer
Here are four tips for answering “What are your career goals?” in an interview:
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While having career goals shows your motivation to work harder, overconfidence and bragging about the career goals could cause non-selection. Telling the interviewers that your goal is to run the company in the next five years appears demeaning. It shows your unprofessional attitude, and an interviewer may not appreciate such an answer. So, when answering this question, never brag about your goals and be realistic.
Speak about one career goal
It is best to have one career goal as it helps you remain focused. Your short-term plan should dovetail into a long-term pursuit. For example, a short-term goal could be to settle in the work environment, and growing in the job could be a long-term goal. The answer you give should convey to the interviewer how your short-term goal translates into a long-term plan.
Back your career goals with a solid action plan.
Simply listing the goals will not serve any purpose because interviewers are keen to know how you plan to achieve them. A career development plan showcases your analytical thinking and ability to work with their company.
Keep your goals related to the company.
Often, interviewers search for applicants whose career goals align with the company’s vision. This means your goals should be related to the company. Talk about what you can accomplish while working in the company. Also, talk about how the company will help you reach your career goals. Do not talk about starting your business or working for a different company as a career goal.
Mistakes to avoid when answering the question
Here are common mistakes to avoid when answering, “What are your career goals?”:
- Saying you have no goal: This is one of the top mistakes to avoid. Even when applying for an entry-level position, you need to have plans to accomplish. Interviewers rarely prefer applicants with no goals.
- Talking about salary: Never tell the interviewer that reaching a specific wage is your goal. Rather than saying, “My long-term goal is to make ₹ 1,400,000 per annum by the time I am 35”, say that “My long-term goal is to become a senior finance associate by the time I am 35”.
- Getting too much into the details: If your goal is to become a managing director of an investment banking firm and apply for a different position, it is best to avoid mentioning it as a goal. This would tell the interviewer that you are likely to work short-term as you have other plans.