Answering the Career Goal Question

Career Blog

So, what are your career goals? The innocent sounding question can seem like a time filler, but candidates should resist the urge to take it lightly.

Why It’s Asked 

There are two reasons:

  1. From a tactical perspective, the answer offers insight into the candidate’s aspirations and the ability of the organization to meet them. Some people want a career path that allows them to go deep into a function while others prefer a wider rotational path with an eye on management.
  2. The question also allows the interviewer to evaluate the candidate’s critical thinking and communication skills. How they convey the “why” behind the “what” they want can be a key factor in the hiring process, especially for more senior level roles.  

A Quality Answer

There’s no formula or stock answer, but a good one will contain a thoughtful rationale. Expressing a clear goal and a logical path to achieving it is what hiring managers want.

It’s also important to be realistic in terms of your time horizon. An intern instantly transformed into a CEO may make for an ideal Rom-Com, but it’s a harder plot to sell is real life. So express you interest in summiting career mountain, but to demonstrate your willingness to trek to the proverbial basecamp. For example, instead of waxing poetically on strategic leadership, illustrate how you plan to develop the people skills required of a first line manager.  

Changing Directions

Some people know their life’s work at an early age. I had a childhood friend who, as a boy, wanted to “fight crime”. He went on to build a 30-year career in the police force.

For most of us, our career purpose isn’t so clear. Take your time, pick your path, and never be afraid to walk the road less traveled if it appeals to you. 

Also, there’s no rule that says you need to end where you start. Career changes are more common than ever, so keep you options open. You can reserve the right to change your mind.

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