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4 Ways to Answer Career Goals Interview Questions

Career goals are another way of saying where you want to get to in your career or what you want to achieve. Whether it’s in your career, skills, education, or practice, being clear about what your long-term and short-term goals are allows you to create an action plan to help keep you working toward achieving your professional targets.


Reminder: Make your career goals specific; it’s a lot easier to achieve something if you know what it is! Goals are personal and they change as you go through different career stages. So, take some time to think about it.


Common Questions About Career Goals

Questions about your career goals can be phrased in different ways, and they might be asked because your interviewer wants to find out something specific about you. Here are a couple of interview question examples and some ideas on how to answer them:


“What Are You Looking for in Your Next Position?”

Interviewers use this question to see whether you understand the role and if your goals show you are interested in staying in the role or company long-term. Do some research about the company’s values and review the job description to find what your goals are a good fit for the company.


Example reply:

"<company name>'s mission is to make its services available to less fortunate people. This is something I am really passionate about, and the skills I learned as a Peace Corps strategist will help us achieve this together. I am looking for a position where I can do the most good."


"Do You Plan to Pursue Further Education that Would Support Your Role in the Company?"

If you are asked this question in an interview, your interviewer wants to know one, or all, of the following:

  • Are you motivated to learn and improve?

  • Will your qualification(s) benefit the role and the company?

  • Will you leave the company as soon as you’re more qualified?

  • Are you interested in long-term career development in the company or industry?

There are some positives and some negatives to answering a question like this. If you are interested in developing a long-term career in the field the company is in, they could decide that it is a great opportunity to invest in you as a new hire and give you lots of support. But they might also know that their company is not a good place for you because they don’t support people with your career plans. This could be a reason not to hire you, as they know that when you are more qualified you will leave them to join another company with better development opportunities.


So, before your interview, you need to know what you want for the future and how you will answer this question. If you do want to get more qualifications in your own time, but they are not related to the role, you might want to use the example ‘no’ reply below:


Example ‘yes’ reply:

“To complement my Business Management degree, I’d like to complete my MBA to expand my knowledge base while preparing myself to take on more of a leadership role. With the availability of part-time classes, I’ll be able to manage both working and studying efficiently.”


Example ‘no’ reply:

"Right now, my next career goal is to get experience working in this role. I have not decided if I would like to go on to work as a <job title> or a <different job title>, but I think the experience I would get working at <company name> would make it very clear to me which role I am best suited for."


"What Skills Do You Think Are Needed, and What Skills Do You Want to Improve on to Perform Better in This Role?"

This is another question about your career plans, but this time it is focused on the skills you have and the skills you want to improve for the role you're applying for. Your interviewer wants to know that you understand what skills the job requires. They also want to know if you can identify where you could improve and if you will be open about it. You want to give the interviewer the feeling that you have the skills the role needs to perform well and that you are interested in getting even better.


Think about the skills you already have that make you a good fit for this role. Even if you are new to the field, you might have skills from other jobs that are very useful here.


Be honest and talk about some skills you think you could improve on. Everyone has room for improvement! It’s also a good time to say that you are always looking to improve all your skills when you have a learning opportunity.


Example reply:

“I have the discipline and drive needed to do well in this role, and my experience as a team leader will be extremely valuable when motivating my team and keeping them on target. There are many opportunities to coach and mentor members of my team, and this is a skill I’d like to develop more. I want to help my staff see their own potential and build their confidence in achieving it. Any opportunity I have to improve my skills is one I will take”


“Do You Prefer to be an Expert in Your Field, or Would You Consider Learning Other Roles? Why?”

Think about this question and what you want. Both responses are okay. Just make sure you can explain why you chose it. Your interviewer wants to know if you will be a very focused employee who becomes an expert in one role or if you want to learn the basics of many roles.


Experts are very useful to a company because they will not need much help with their role, and they can train others. Smaller and younger companies might be more interested in teams that are more flexible because they have fewer employees and change plans more often.


Example ‘learning’ reply:

"I began my career at a start-up, where I took on many different responsibilities as the company developed. I've realized that I am very adaptable, and it’s helped me build a really varied skill set. I'm always ready to learn a new role, but I'm also already capable of taking on leadership responsibilities in a variety of fields."


Example ‘expert’ reply:

“I’m happy to help out with anything that will benefit the company when I am needed, but I generally see myself working best as a specialist. <company name> has many highly skilled employees, and I believe that becoming more of a <field name> expert will benefit the company more and fit best with my very specific experience and qualifications.”


To Wrap it Up

Recruiters usually interview many people who are qualified for the role they have applied for. It’s a difficult task choosing who to hire when everyone you interview looks good ‘on paper’. They are looking for green flags that will make you a great fit for the company and the rest of the team, but they are looking for red flags too. Red flags make the recruitment process much easier for your interviewer because they reduce the number of job applicants easily and quickly.


Red Flags:

  • Having career goals that don’t fit the company shows you will not work there long.

  • Not being interested in the role or developing the skill set needed to really succeed tells your interviewer you are just there for the money.

  • Unrealistic career goals, and targets that aren’t very clear, can show you don’t understand what the role requires. and

  • Scripted responses suggest you copied your answers because you want them to look good and did not take time to really think about them. When you prepare for your interview, remember that our example replies are just a guide. Always focus on what you want to say more than how you want to say it.


It’s always best to be honest about your goals; it will be much easier to find a role fit for you and your potential. Just remember that you are at the interview because you already have everything they need to hire you! You have all the green flags you need.


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