5 Tips for Answering Interview Questions Regarding Your Career Goals

It’s a predictable part of just about every interview, yet it can leave a job candidate in a cold sweat: “So, where do you see yourself in five years?” 

As you’re preparing for an interview, it pays to prepare for the questions that might come up, including why you’re looking to leave your current job and to details challenges or good experiences you’ve learned from during your working life. But the question about your career goals seems both massive and stressful and, at the same time, really vague and hard to answer. 

Take a few moments to think about the question before it’s asked, and you’ll be better prepared to answer it. 

Here are some tips on how to address the question of how you see the rest of your work-life playing out. 

  • Start with the short-term vision.

    It’s great if you’re someone who has always had, and is always updating, a five-year path for your life. But not everyone is like that, and that’s ok! Especially if you’re just starting out in your career, knowing what you want in the future can be a tricky thing to figure out. Start small and start with a shorter view: Do you want something that can help you build your skills and gain work experience so you can become a great team member? Say that. If you want to build on the knowledge you already have and want to improve yourself to maybe, one day, lead a team, talk about why you’d like to do that. If you’re still figuring out what your career might be, but this job sounds like it can help you take a passion and use it to pay the bills, explain that you’d love to learn more about this industry because you’ve always been curious about it and you’d like to apply your existing skills. 

  • Align your goals with the company’s.

    This takes a little homework, but it can pay off. If you see that the company is expanding in a new product or line, talk about how you’d like to be part of a growing company to help them expand into a new market. You’d like the challenge of learning how that works and happens successfully from the inside. Drop a few nuggets of knowledge about that new venture for the company and show that you’re not just paying lip service; you’re prepared and invested in the idea and ready to get to work. That’ll impress the hiring manager. Bring some ideas on new practices or techniques that might pay dividends for the company, too, to show that you’re a creative, forward-thinking person who wants to build on success, not rest on it. 

  • Talk in specifics when possible.

    If you’ve set any kind of goal for yourself in your job, outline it. What are the goals, and why did you pick them? What are you doing to achieve them, and how are you going to go about it? When and how will you know when those goals are achieved, and what will come next? This gives the hiring manager a sense of how you view the future in general and whether you’re working toward something, not just working for a paycheck. 

  • Relate your goals to the position.

    If you’re looking to gain experience to become a team leader someday, explain how the position for which you’re interviewing can help you achieve that goal. If you’re applying for a managerial position, explain why the experience you’ve had so far has prepared you for this challenge and how you’d apply what you’ve learned to help others. Did you have a good experience mentoring someone or being mentored, and now you’d like to share that with others and help them advance their careers as well? Make it personal and professional at the same time — work is a big part of life, but it’s not the only part of your life. Companies hire people, not worker drones, and who you are outside work can benefit who you are while at work. 

  • Focus on the positive.

    We’ve all looked for jobs while employed somewhere else, and it can be tempting to say you’re looking to change careers because the current employer isn’t working out. Instead of trash talking your current boss, which might leave a bad impression with the hiring manager, talk about the positives: You’ve learned so much and expanded your skills in your current position, but you’d like a new opportunity to learn more and challenge yourself to become a better worker. Getting comfortable or being bored in a position means you’re ready for something new and letting the hiring manager know you’re ready to commit to this particular job because it will energize and revive your attitude toward work; it’s an honest answer without insulting the past. 

Preparing for an interview is something not every candidate does, but it can help you stand out when trying to make a good impression. Know who you are and what you want, and do your best to make the connections between who you are now and how this job will help you become who you want to be. It just takes a little thought and consideration before the meeting to make that happen. 

Ready to make a change but aren’t sure where to start? Contact Debbie’s Staffing today. We’ve worked with some of the top companies in the country for more than two decades and can help you find a great new job that will expand your skills and advance your career. Contact us today, and let’s get started!