Interview Insights | Key Question: What are your career goals? [Template & Sample]

Interview Question: What are your career goals?

This question tries to uncover a few things:

  • We want to know whether this job is the right fit for you
  • We want to figure out if you are realistic, optimistic, or a pessimist
  • We want to hear how you think

This question can be asked in a myriad of other ways. For example:

  • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 15 years?
  • What’s your long-term game plan?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • How does this job fit into your overall career strategy?

Regardless of how an interviewer serves you this query, it’s helpful to go into an interview prepared with a vetted response.

As you brainstorm your best answer think through the following pointers to ensure that you are answering the question in a way that furthers your candidacy:

  • If I secure the job that I’m pursuing today then will I have many opportunities to gain the skills that I will need to secure my next role? Name some of those anticipated opportunities.
  • If I research LinkedIn for executives who have 5, 10, or 15 more years of experience than I, would I find professionals who have taken similar career steps as I’d like to take?
  • If I compare what I need to be successful in the role I’m pursing (in terms of skills and experiences) with what I will need to have refined to secure my next anticipated or desired position…would I uncover too many gaps? Alternatively, am I not trying to reach high enough?
  • Do I have an overall career strategy? Can I articulate this grand plan to a prospective employer? Have I been following this road map? Where have I meandered and how can I explain those windy turns?

Here is a sample response:

The strategy behind my career choices has been to consider roles that engage me intellectually, include client-facing interactions, and value actionable analysis. I’ve used these criteria as my filter and this filter has helped me evaluate and decide on the best career options for me during each and every turn in my career. This role in particular ticks those three boxes for me.

For example, after speaking with Tom Bart, I learned about the green energy project that he is leading. If I were a team member assigned to this project, I would have the opportunity to speak with our investors on a daily basis. I would also have a chance to showcase my analytical skills to help us ascertain our current and anticipated capacity levels, and I would be working through complex concepts that fascinate me.

I imagine that this role would also position me well perhaps five years down-the-line for a job similar to Tom’s whom I admire greatly and have valued as a mentor for the last three years.

The key insight is that you think about your response to this question in a way that shows you are considering the job that you want and all the subsequent steps that you’ll need to take to reach that longer-term position.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • You already made it past the phone conversation with human resources
  • You have a scheduled set of interviews with a hiring manager, perhaps direct reports, and with a few cross-functional players — all in one long day or over the course of a week
  • While you are in the initial stages of a longer interview process, right now your goal is to get beyond your next important meeting — it’s at the top of your mind
  • The opportunity you are going for ticks all your boxes: you’ll get to bring your relevant experiences and fill in some missing skills that you’ll need to land the right job down the line. However…
  • You are struggling with really accessing the times you’ve done certain things in the past, telling those stories in short sound bites and making them relevant to the job you want
  • You want to demonstrate how you can be successful in those other areas and build the confidence that you would need to go after a position like that
  • You feel like you were just in a professional car wreck: only 20% of the company was left and you have voices of self-doubt playing in your head
  • You feel less prepared than in the past because you’ve been out of practice interviewing — you haven’t trained or rehearsed very much

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then I want to say that I’ve helped many people just like you.

  • Are you ready to develop applicable skill sets you can immediately and effectively put to use landing your next role?
  • Want to increase your sense of confidence before heading to your next interview so that you can land your dream job?
  • Could you use an edge over the competition?

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Melissa Llarena’s craft is coaching top executives on how to strategically dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Get instant access to a 20-page interview preparation kit that will give you an edge. Join the thousands who’ve read her career insights in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Follow her at @CareerOutcomes.