"Tell me about your dream job" can be a tricky interview question. Even though your dream job might have nothing to do with the job you're interviewing for, don't mention this if it's not related. Instead, make an effort to connect your answer to the position you're interviewing for.
Learn more about what information interviewers hope to discover through your response, along with some do's and don'ts for answering this question.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
In the interview, your potential employer will likely focus on figuring out whether or not you have the right skills to be successful in the job.
However, they'll also be interested in how motivated you are to perform the job, and whether or not you will be satisfied with the position. This interview question helps interviewers assess your motivation. Your response may also offer a glimpse into your values, passions, and priorities as an employee.
What to Mention in Your Response
Ideally, your response to the question should reference some elements of the job at hand. For example, if the position is a customer service job, you might say that your dream job would have a high level of interaction with customers.
You can also focus on the industry in your response to this question: If you are applying for a job at an environmental nonprofit, you can mention your passion for environmentalism. Another option is to frame your answer around your ideal company culture and work environment. For instance, you might say you're eager to work in a collaborative environment or to be a part of a passionate team. Just make sure the environment you mention is a match for the culture in the position's workplace.
In order to prepare your answer, brainstorm what appeals to you about the job:
- Do you enjoy solving problems, or mediating conflicts?
- Do you thrive under pressure?
- Do you consider yourself a “people person” who likes to engage with clients or with the larger community?
Go back to the job listing, and look through the job description and requirements to find what most excites and interests you about the position. In your answer, you can refer both to skills you currently have and want to use, and ones that you think you'll be able to develop in the position.
Create a Job Profile to Help Solidify Your Answer
Think of what you want in a job, and create a “profile” of your ideal job that includes some of those functions.
Your “dream job” doesn’t have to be a specific position, like “Account Executive” or “Public Relations Director,” but can instead include different responsibilities you would enjoy having as part of your position. Your profile can also include skills you enjoy using and the type of company culture you thrive in.
Make sure some of those elements match the description of the job for which you are applying.
Share Examples With the Interviewer
Your answer will be more convincing if you reflect on why you found these types of activities rewarding in the past, and how your skill set matches the type of job you're after. Be ready to share some examples of how you have enjoyed utilizing those skills in the past.
Focus on the Present and the Future
Another way to answer the question is to mention a certain goal you would like to reach through your “dream job.” For example, if you're applying for a job with a non-profit environmental organization, you might mention that an essential element of your dream career would be a role that advances the green agenda.
Ultimately, the key to answering, “Tell me about your dream job?" is to convey your long-term interest in a high-level position, without overshadowing your interest in the job you’re applying for.
What Not to Mention in Your Response
As with any open-ended questions, it's easy to feel like anything goes. But you're still in a job interview, and your responses will be closely examined. Answers that are overly grandiose — “My dream job is CEO,” for instance — are off-putting. And if your dream job is to write novels professionally or become a sommelier, that's information best kept to yourself during an interview for a staff accountant position. Here are some other things to avoid in your response:
- Specific job titles: Keep the focus on the skills aspect of roles, and do not name specific job titles.
- Ambitious functions: Tread carefully here. If your dream job involves responsibilities that are far from achievable in the position you're applying for, it could make you seem like you wouldn't be happy for long in the position. Interviewers are more eager to hire applicants who will stick around than ones who will have a short tenure.
- This job: There's something a bit insincere about saying the job you're applying for is your dream job. Avoid this.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are three examples of responses you could give during an interview when the interviewer has asked you the question, “Tell me about your dream job.” Use these as models to create your own answer.
What I look for in a job, and what I love about this customer service representative position, is the ability to utilize my communication and customer service skills. I love interacting with customers and quickly and effectively problem-solving with them. Down the road, after becoming an expert in your product line and developing strong relationships with your customers, I would love to work in sales.
Why It Works: This answer works well because the candidate both showcases the customer service skills he would bring to the position and also alludes to a relevant career trajectory. He makes it clear that he is enthusiastic about the primary job responsibilities and would be likely to stick around for a while.
My dream job involves an extensive amount of teamwork, such as regular staff meetings and group projects. I love that this job emphasizes communication among colleagues and between management and staff. My previous job was 50% team projects, and I am excited to continue that kind of teamwork and open communication here.
Why It Works: This candidate does an excellent job of connecting her answer to the job she is applying for, offering good examples of how she is well-versed in the collaborative teamwork skills the position will demand.
My dream job would allow me to develop web content for a variety of companies. I love getting to know different clients and developing content to suit their unique needs. For example, in my last job, I worked for clients in industries ranging from healthcare to education and received praise for my work with a variety of companies. I love that this job would allow me to work with a range of clients.
Why It Works: This candidate, too, has researched the employer and has a solid grasp of what his new job will entail: client relations skills, multi-tasking, and flexibility. He thus is able to leverage his previous client relations experience as a persuasive “selling point” for his candidacy.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Describe your work style - Best Answers
- What are your salary expectations? - Best Answers
- How are you different than the competition? - Best Answers
KEEP YOUR RESPONSE RELEVANT: Make sure that the elements you list as part of your “dream job” are work conditions and functions relevant to the job you are interviewing for.
SHOWCASE YOUR SKILLSET: Use your response as an opportunity to emphasize the key skills and experience that you would bring to the employer. Align these skills to the most important “preferred qualifications” listed in the job posting.
EXPRESS YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Keep your tone of voice and your facial expression upbeat and positive as you describe your “dream job.” Your interviewer will be gauging the amount of interest and dedication you can offer their organization.