Interview Questions About Your Career Plans and Aspirations

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When you’re interviewing for a new job, recruiters will generally try to figure out if the job will be a good fit given your projected career path. You may encounter questions about how a particular position fits in with your career plan. This kind of question will also help a recruiter see whether or not you plan to stay at the company long-term or hope to move on quickly.

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Career Aspirations

The interviewer may simply ask why you are interested in the job or why you want to work at the company to extract this information, or they might ask a direct question like "How does this job fit in with your career plan?" Other ways this question may be phrased include: 

Again, your interviewer's main goal with this question is to determine if you're a good fit — does this job make sense given your long-term career strategy? Will you stick around in the position for a reasonable amount of time? Are your ambitions reasonable, and in line with the company/industry? Develop your answer accordingly. 

Illustration by J.R. Bee. © The Balance, 2018

Consider Why You Want the Job

Before the interview, think carefully about your career aspirations. Even if you do not have a specific career goal, you may have an industry you are interested in working in or a set of skills you hope to develop. Then, reread the job listing, and think of ways in which the requirements and responsibilities of the job will prepare you for those goals. You will need to make a strong case for what appeals to you about the job for which you are interviewing, while also addressing your future aspirations.

Be careful how you frame your response if you are using this job as a stepping-stone to a higher level job within your career path. Make sure your time frame for occupying the initial job is sufficient to add value in that role. Generally, three to five years will make sense for most jobs.

What to Avoid

This type of question presents some potential pitfalls for candidates if they are not careful.

Avoid answers that place emphasis on salary, location, and even the company, since employers typically want a candidate who is well qualified for and motivated to pursue the job itself. Keep the focus on your career — now is not the time to share ambitions related to your family or personal life. 

Perhaps you're unsure of your precise career plans. That can make forming an answer challenging. If that's the case, focus on the skills you hope to use as part of your career. 

Examples of the Best Answers

  • I am looking for a way to transfer my writing, media relations, event planning skills, and public relations expertise to a position within healthcare. I am fascinated by the trends in healthcare and have a family background in medicine so the prospect of working for a hospital is very appealing to me. Ultimately, I have an interest in managing a communications operation at a hospital but I see that as a few years down the road after I have further honed my skills.
  • I have always loved sales and thrived on the excitement of landing new clients and competing with my peers. Your position is attractive since it would provide the opportunity for me to enhance relationships with current major clients while also pursuing new customers. I want to stay in sales for the foreseeable future. My goal will be to become one of the leading account managers on your staff, recognized as a product expert with a strong track record for satisfying customers.
  • As you can see from my background, I have spent the past three years since graduate school as an HR generalist. During this time, I have enjoyed my work in recruiting the most, so I am looking to specialize in the employment arena with a company like yours that has a large recruitment operation. Ultimately, maybe 3 - 5 years down the road, I would love to direct a recruiting operation at a major company, as long as I could keep my hands in some of the activities I enjoy, like interviewing candidates.