Interview Questions About Achieving Your Goals

Business people talking in interview
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Whether you're looking for an entry-level position or interviewing for a senior role, a question about achieving your goals is bound to arise. The most common way this is phrased is, "How do you plan to achieve your career goals?" This is often a follow-up to general questions about your career goals, such as "What are your career goals?" or "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

With these types of queries, interviewers are trying to get a sense of both your ambitions and your ability to form and implement a strategic plan. 

The interviewer may also want to know how your goals relate to working at the company if you were to be hired. Do your goals mesh with a career path at the company, or will they take you to a different occupation or industry?

How should you respond? What separates a good answer from an exceptional one is a description of the active strategy and steps you're taking to achieve those goals, which also speaks to your motivation and call to action.

Elements to Emphasize About Achieving Your Goals

While you don't need to be incredibly specific with this answer, demonstrate your understanding of the company and industry and clearly communicate the path you're on:

  • Detail your accomplishments to date to show that you have already been able to effectively achieve goals.
  • Delineate the ways in which your goals align with the job at hand.
  • Describe any tangible achievements on the horizon. 
  • Convince the interviewer that this position is key to your plan for success.
  • Describe your personal qualities that will enable you to achieve your goals.

There are also some things you shouldn’t say or reference when you respond.

Avoid answering in a way that puts the focus on salary (raises, bonuses, commission), job titles, or promotions. These are not things to discuss before you have even been offered a job.

While you want to avoid a vague response, it's best to stay away from goals that may or may not be achievable at the company. You wouldn't, for instance, want to lay out your strategy for being promoted to a management-level position while interviewing at a company that doesn't have that role available.

Explain Your Path to Achieving Your Goals

Here are some personal characteristics to draw on to show how you plan to make your goals a reality:

  • Accepting criticism. Describe how you use critiques to learn to improve rather than taking negative feedback to heart or letting it get you down. 
  • Following your passion. If you truly love what you're doing, rather than being driven by financial motives, it's easier to achieve your goals.
  • Learning continuously. Someone who's constantly learning and staying updated on industry changes is in a better position to capitalize on success.
  • Setting deadlines. Putting a date down on paper to achieve a goal helps keep you on track to meet it. Once you've met one goal, create your next one and set another hard deadline.

    Prepare Responses Using the STAR Technique

    A handy approach to answering this question is to use the STAR approach. With this technique, you'll talk about a Situation or Task (S -T), the Action you took (A), and the Results achieved (R). This will help shape your answer while composing one that's uniquely yours. The technique also helps keep your answer focused, so you don't stray offtopic or speak for too long.

    Review Examples of the Best Answers

    Review these sample responses, but be sure to tailor your response to your unique professional background, accomplishments, and future plans.

    • I plan on gaining additional skills by taking related classes and continuing my involvement with a variety of professional associations.
    • I noticed that your company provides in-house training for employees, and I would certainly be interested in taking relevant classes.
    • I will continue my professional development by participating in conferences, attending seminars, and continuing my education.
    • Over the next five years, I want to gain a deeper understanding of the stock market and build a list of clients, and within the next decade, I want to start my own investment firm. However, first I want to gain experience as an account manager with a large company like yours.
    • I have a plan in place for getting my certification in the next two years. I have already completed the first exam and will be scheduling the second in six months. My completed certification will put me on the path to the larger goal of becoming a senior investment analyst, which will allow me to take on higher-level market analyses.
    • After graduating in the top 15 percent of my class, my summer internship in marketing gave me solid experience from which to look for my first full-time position. I look forward to working as a marketing assistant to develop my skills in the industry and advance internally from my role over the next several years.