Interview Question: "How Do You Plan To Achieve Your Career 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?"

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

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?

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. 

This question also reveals your long-term thinking and planning skills.

How to Answer "How Do You Plan To Achieve Your Career Goals?"

First, make sure you can name career goals beyond "getting hired." You want to show that you are a long-term thinker, with ambition for your future.

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.

A handy approach to answering this question is to use the STAR approach. With this technique, you'll talk about a Situation (S) or Task (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 off-topic or speak for too long.

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.

Why It Works: This answer provides a list of the steps the candidate will take to achieve his or her goal. Plus, the candidate made a connection to a perk offered by the hiring company.

I will continue my professional development by participating in conferences, attending seminars, and continuing my education.

Why It Works: This response shows that the candidate is eager to continue learning and growing, even after landing the job. 

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.

Why It Works: This candidate has big goals that will eventually take them to a new job. While displaying ambition, this candidate makes it clear that they want to stay at one company for an extended period of time.

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.

Why It Works: Here, the candidate is able to show the steps already taken toward the goal.

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.

Why It Works: Showing off an in-progress plan is always beneficial. Mentioning a desire to "advance internally" makes it clear that the candidate is not looking to hop from job to job.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Clearly communicate your path. Detail accomplishments to date as well as mention steps you plan to take in the future. If there are tangible achievements or goals on the horizon (e.g., earning a certification), make sure to mention them.

Show how the goal aligns with the job at hand. This will help show the interviewer that this position is key to your plan for success.

Mention personal qualities and skills. Describe your personal qualities that will enable you to achieve your goals.

What Not to Say

A financial focus: Your response should not be centered on your salary (or raises, bonuses, and commissions).

Title or promotion: As well, avoid framing your response around job titles and promotions. These are not things to discuss before you have even been offered a job.

Vagueness: Go ahead, name specific goals and share your plan. That's the kind of long-term thinking that interviews want to hear. Vague answers may make it seem like you do not have long-term ambitions.

Goals that can't be achieved at the company: Yes, you want to be specificand avoid vague responses,but stay away from goals that 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.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

You may hear other general questions about your career goals either before or after this question, such as:

Key Takeaways

  • Be specific. Share long-term career goals that are not focused on salary or job title.
  • Show how you'll get there. Lay out the steps you plan to take that will help you achieve your goals.
  • Mention accomplishments to date. As well, you can discuss successes you've already had en route to your goals.