Asking questions about your long term career goals is a great way for recruiters see where your motivation lies, and how serious you are about pursuing a role within their company. In other words, they will come up. So it’s time to start thinking about your preparation.
At interview, the difference between success and failure often comes down to knowing when to stop talking.
This question is a perfect example. Your first reaction could be to say as much as you possibly can about the role; because the more information you give, the better, right? Wrong.
When an interviewer asks this question, they’re actually trying to gage your ability to summarise information. To avoid getting carried away with the details, think about the ‘essence’ of the job, rather than each individual duty it involves.
Aim to give a short succinct answer as a starting point, which includes the job title and your primary outcome. Remember, you can always elaborate if you feel the interviewer wants more.
Right answer: “As an Airline Pilot, my job involves flying passengers safely, on time, in comfort, and at a profit to the employer”
Wrong answer: “Why don’t you describe it for me? You’d probably be better at it.”
In other words, are you a genuine fan of the company, or have you just re-read their ‘About Us’ page 17 times directly before the interview?
To impress your prospective employer, always aim to demonstrate that you have a real interest in their business. So do your homework, and make sure it’s relevant. Recent news stories, press releases, and expansion plans on their site, are all relevant areas for research.
And don’t just limit yourself to traditional methods. Following their social media accounts a few weeks before the interview, for example, is a great way keep you up-to-date with some of their recent successes and developments – and provide you with ready-made examples as reasons for wanting to join.
It’s all about shifting focus. Translation? It’s about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.
Focus on letting the interviewer know why they have such a great company, and how your contribution could add to their success, and you’re on the right lines.
Right answer: ‘Aside from your company’s reputation as an industry-leader in your field, the thing that excites me most about working here is your expansion plans over the next two years. I’d love to work for such an ambitious business, and think that my [quantifiable expertise] would be a beneficial addition to help the businesses
Wrong answer: “Two words: Employee. Discount.”
So you always dreamed of being an astronaut when you were younger? That’s cool.
Unfortunately, your interviewer probably won’t be interested in any slightly unrealistic dreams that have no relation to the job you’re interviewing for.
Instead, bring it back to reality by opting for a real-world job, which results in a dream-like outcome. Explaining what you’d do and what the perfect impact you’d have in an ideal world, with reference to your personal aspirations or the job title itself, will be most likely to win interviewers over.
Just try not to take the question too seriously, and stay away from cliché answers. No-one is expecting you to dream about the exact job you’re applying for.
Right answer: “My dream job would be one where I communicate with customers, use my expertise to solve their problems and make everyone who meets me go home happy.”
Wrong answer: “I’ve always wanted to own my own boat and just sail around the ocean for a while. I know it’s not technically a job, but I could fish for my food so I’d be a… Professional travelling fisherman?”
Translation: are you here because you’re passionate about the position, or are you just in it for the paycheque?
The best way to nail this question is to simply explain what kind of jobs and tasks you’re enthusiastic about (which will be the ones you excel at), and link back to how the opening you’re interviewing for relates to these. You should have a solid idea about what you want out of your next career move, so make this clear to the interviewer.
Trivial motivations like more convenient hours or dislike for your current job aren’t likely to wow the interviewer, so keep those to yourself.
Remember: aim to appear motivated, but don’t overdo it. Nobody likes a desperate fanboy/girl getting unnecessarily excited over every detail – and you won’t be fooling anyone.
Right answer: “I went straight into IT after University, and my true motivation was realised when I got to work on a project that assessed software tools against our own needs. I found that I really loved translating people’s requirements into technical solutions. I felt I was helping to make people’s lives easier, and at the same time I got a sense of fulfilment from working out the answer to a puzzle. That’s what interests me about this role…”
Wrong answer: “This job pays the most out of all of the ones I applied to. Which company is this again?”
There are many reasons why you might be leaving your current job, and chances are the reasoning won’t be massively positive. The most important thing to remember here is to be honest, and genuinely feel that you have nothing to hide.
As much as it may seem the opposite when you’re put under the spotlight, an interview isn’t just about you, but also about solving someone else’s problems – like filling an employer’s job vacancy.
Your answer should be linked to the job you’re interviewing for and what would be expected of you. Always show you’re running towards something, not running away. The research you’ve done previously can be put to good use when you’re answering this question, as the pros of the new company can be used as a positive comparison of your current job.
That way, no one is being bad-mouthed, and the reason for leaving is simply to seek improvement and move onto something more suitable for you.
Right answer: “You’re doing a lot of biotechnology investments here. I think biotechnology is the future, and I find it fun too. I do like what I’m doing now; but it’s not quite biotechnology, although it’s closely related. On a personal note, I’ve always thought it best to change roles before reaching a plateau. I’ve decided now feels like the right time for a move.”
Wrong answer: “I probably shouldn’t talk about it. But basically, my boss had it in for me from the beginning…”