What Are Your Career Goals?

How Do You Answer Interview Question: What Are Your Career Goals?

If you are a job seeker, you need to know that every stage of the recruitment process is very important. Starting from when you are submitting your Curriculum Vitae to the last interview process, you just need to get things right.

Many a time, I have seen candidates with very good grades scored very high marks in their aptitude tests and displayed a high level of intelligence during interviews. Still, they didn’t get the job. Maybe this has happened to you before and you keep wondering, what went wrong? Hmmm! It can be very painful to make it to the last stage of the recruitment process and still don’t get the job. You will feel the pain more than the person that didn’t even score enough mark to justify being called for an interview. You must have invested your time and resources. Your hope is high thinking that you have finally landed your dream job. But alas, you didn’t hear from the organization after the interview. It is even possible that you called the organization to follow up, but the answer you got is, “Sorry, we have taken someone for the job”. What a disappointment! The problem here is that you are not even sure what went wrong so that you won’t make the same mistake in your next interview.

Well, one of the mistakes that job seekers make is that they don’t have a well-defined career goal. A lot of people are just seeking jobs without a clear or specific profession they want to pursue. That is why some of them fail in giving impressive answers when asked “What are your career goals?”

Some interviewers may twist the question by asking, “Why do you want this job?” or “Why do you want to join the organization?” The three questions are the same. The interviewer is simply probing you to know whether you have a career goal.

Before you can answer this question correctly, you need to understand what a career goal is all about. Your career goal is simply your vision statement explaining the profession you want to pursue all through your career. You need to establish both your long-term and short-term career goals. Where do you want to be in ten or fifteen years? Once this is established, you can then break it down to short-term goals. Examine where you are now and determine what you need to do to achieve your long-term career goals.

For example, if you are an accountant, your long-term goal may be to have your own audit firm. You know that before you can practice as an accountant, you must be a Chartered Accountant with a minimum of three years of practical experience in an audit firm. So, in order for you to achieve that, you may need to look for a job in an audit firm. Though audit firms don’t pay as much salary, you will gain practical experience that you may not get elsewhere. Also, you need to enroll in professional examinations from a recognized professional accounting body such as The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). In summary, your career goal may look like this:

My Career Goal: Start a private audit practice in six years by completing professional examinations in three years and apprenticing at a practice for four years.

So, back to the question, what are your career goals? How do you answer this question when asked in an interview? Now, that you know what a career goal means, to answer this question correctly, especially in a way that will impress the interviewers, you should be able to align your career goals with that of the organization that you want to work in. The truth of the matter is that anytime an interviewer asks this type of question, he just wants to know whether you will be a good fit for the organization. They want to hire someone that will like to grow with the organization, and not the “hit and run” type. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how extra-ordinarily you performed in an interview, if the interviewer sensed that you would leave the organization at the slightest opportunity, the organization will not hire you. The reason is that hiring and training cost money. If you should leave the organization, it means that they will need to hire and train a new person to fill your position. Having career goals is good but that is not enough to secure a job. You need to be able to align your career goals with the organization’s objectives. It has to be a win-win affair.

You should note that there is no generic answer to the question. But the following will help you come up with an answer that is appropriate per time.

  • Have specific career goals. Break your goals into long and short-term goals.
  • Find out information about the organization. Find out about the organization’s structure, vision, mission, plan, and the reasons they are hiring. You can get useful information from the company’s website and social media pages. You can also use a search engine for possible press releases or news about the company.
  • Ensure your career goals are in alignment with that of the organization. Don’t share goals that are not related to the job you are being interviewed for.
  • Discuss your short-term goals before moving to your long-term know. You should be able to convince your interviewer that the job you are currently interviewing for will help you achieve your short-term goals.
  • Listing your goals is good but you should be able to explain the practical steps that you plan to take to achieve the goals. That is a good way to demonstrate that you are zealous about accomplishing your goals. Talk about the skills you plan to acquire and let the interviewers know how they will benefit and add value to the organization. In other words, your answers should be employer-centric.
  • Focus on the work you intend to accomplish rather than discussing salary expectations. If you are able to convince the interviewers that you are a good fit for the job, they will like to hire you even if it means offering you something extra.


Employers will likely hire you if they know that you really want the specific job. They believe that it is when you are hired for a job that fits your career goals that you can demonstrate a great attitude and be motivated. No employer will hire you for a job that will make you be bored and frustrated. They know that you will not likely stay long on the job. Therefore, you need to be strategic about what you will say when you are asked about your career goals.

Interview Questions

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