Almost everyone has career goals, and you would think it won’t be a problem when recruiters ask, “what are your career goals?” The question always seems to find its way into interviews, but people still fumble it.
Recruiters want to know your career goals and what better way to understand this than to ask you?
One of the reasons people fumble with this question may be because they are unsure of their career goals or haven’t given it a thought. In this case, the question comes as a shock to them as they scramble to provide themselves with a career goal. This struggle now leads to saying the wrong things and further spoiling their chances of landing the job.
We understand the struggle, and that is why we’ve come up with this article showing ways to answer the question and more. Before we go any further, what is a career goal?
What is a Career Goal?
When we talk about a career goal, we are not talking about a goal you score in football, or soccer, or whatever you call it in your area, no. Career goals are professional aspirations you want to attain as you progress.
The good thing about career goals is that there is no limit on their time frame. The goal can be a long-term goal where you’re thinking of becoming a manager and handling the company’s day-to-day running. It may also be a short time frame goal where you’re looking at getting a particular certification in the next year or so.
Whichever time frame you use, the point remains the same; your target in your career, something that drives you to continue going. With that being said, there are several ways this question can be phrased during an interview. Here are a couple of common questions that mean the same thing as “what are your career goals?”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
“What are your future plans?”
“What are your plans for the future if you get this job?”
Why do Recruiters Ask “What are Your Career Goals?”
You may be wondering why recruiters ask this question; after all, it seems like a personal question. Does it mean they care about you? Well, not to say they don’t care about you or anything, but that’s not the reason they are asking this question.
By answering the question about your plans, recruiters can pick up a few things. Interviews want to know if you’re ambitious and have goals you strive to achieve.
Recruiters also want to know if your aspirations align with the company’s goals and understand your personality better. By matching your goals with the company’s, they can get a good idea if you’re in for a long time or will jump at the next shiny opportunity to achieve your goal. No one wants to hire and train an employer, only to keep doing it every two years because they keep leaving. This is why recruiters wish to hire an ambitious person with goals aligned with what the company can give.
Recruiters want a person that really wants the job and does not see it as a way to keep busy for the time being.
How to Answer “What are Your Career Goals?”
Everything you’ve been learning is to make you better prepared to answer the common interview question, “what are your career goals?” They have all worked to prepare you for understanding what recruiters expect of you. You’ll keep that in mind as you answer the career goals question.
To avoid the shock that many people encounter when asked about their career goals, you have to know how to answer the question beforehand. It may seem straightforward, but it requires some guile to answer it correctly and improve your chances of getting the job in the end.
So what do you do when you’re asked about your future goals? How do you answer?
Think About Your Career Goals
Take time out to think about your targets and aspirations. Give it some thought. What would you like to achieve in your career in the next two, five, or ten years?
Come up with a couple of interesting answers that best describe what you would want for yourself. About five to ten different goals are ideal at this point. Try as much as possible to have varying answers as it gives you a large pool to pick from when answering the question.
The aim here is not to answer the question but give you possible answers you can choose from whenever you’re asked. Now you’ll no longer be shocked when you’re asked about your plans because you’ve given it some thought. You can use a notepad to put them down, so you do not forget.
There are some things to keep in mind when selecting career goals. These factors help you to remain in line.
- Realistic: Only select realistic goals. Even though no one can predict the future, some goals will only look like a pipes dream.
- Timeframe: Select goals with a timeframe or at least come up with a timeline for all the goals selected
- Relevant: Ensure the goals you select are relevant to you and shows what you truly want to achieve.
Research the Company’s Goals
Now it is time to do a deep dive into the company and the role. You want to research the overall goals of the company and that of the role. If you do not know the company’s goal and position you’re applying for, how will you ensure your goals align? This is why doing a deep dive into what the company stands for and what the role can give you is essential.
There are several places you can start your research, but the job description is one of the best places to start. You can pick up subtle tips on the goals of the position you’re applying for just by going through the description. You can then move to the company’s website to get more information about the company. If you can, find out the last person occupying the position. Why did they leave the role? Was it a promotion? If it was a promotion, you just got yourself a possible company goal.
Select Goals that Align
Armed with several career goals and knowledge of the company and the role’s goals, you can now select goals that align. You want to focus on your career goals and leave your personal aspirations out except they align.
Match your goals and that of the company to see those that align and are relevant. These are the targets you want to mention. Remember, you’re trying to land a job not to show you’re the most ambitious, and by aligning your goals, you jump ahead of many candidates who will just mention irrelevant goals.
Promotions, increased pay, and perks are part of the whole process, but you want to keep them out when talking about your career goals as it shows where your priorities lie. Instead, focus on the experience and skills you’ll get.
Provide a Balanced Answer
You want to provide an answer that covers both short-term and long-term aspirations. This is one of the easiest ways to relate your goals to the company’s, as you can tailor your short-term goal to match the role.
You also want to provide a broad answer, so you’re not limited to a particular job description. You do not want to be vague here, just broad enough to keep your opportunities wide.
Examples of Answers to “What are Your Career Goals?”
Okay, you’ve learned how to answer the question, but you’re still slightly lost on how to frame your reply, don’t worry, we got you. Here are example answers you can tweak:
“My future aspiration is to become a marketing director, and this is why my immediate goal is to continue to develop my marketing skill. At this point, I need to spend time in a marketing role as I continue to develop my ability to sell while building leadership qualities along the way. It’s even more exciting as I’ve seen that your company encourages employee growth. I would like to show my worth and hopefully get the chance to work my way up.”
“Haven just graduated with my law degree; I’m excited to take on my first role. My long-term goals are to get grounded in various disciplines and then specialize in a particular practice. I understand that a solid foundation is important to achieve this, and this entry-level role seems like the best place to learn since it provides exposure to several disciplines.”
“I understand the increasing need for python in the finance world, and this is why my short-term goal is to learn python as it relates to finance this year. My long-term goal is to become a finance director eventually. I see your company provides room for the career advancement of its employees, which is why I liked it.”
What not to Mention When Answering “What are Your Career Goals?”
While we’ve been focusing on answering the question, it is vital to look at how not to reply—things you should avoid if you want to land the job.
- Do not say you’re unsure or haven’t given it a thought yet
- Do not give the impression you’ll be bored and frustrated in your role
- Do not give the impression you’ll want to leave the position quickly
- Do not mention unrealistic goals
- Do not include personal aspirations
- Do not mention irrelevant goals
Even if recruiters do not ask you this question in an interview, you should have aspirations you’ll want to achieve in your career, as it acts as inspiration and motivation as you navigate your work life.
Knowing your career goals become even more critical as it is a popular interview question that can make or mar your chances of getting the job. Learning how to answer it correctly has become non-negotiable. This article puts together everything from what a career goal is to what you shouldn’t do/say when replying.