Toughest interview questions: What are your career goals?

“What are your career goals?” is one of the toughest interview questions for engineering and IT jobs.

So, what is your prospective employer looking for in your answer?

How should you talk about your career goals? And what should you definitely not say?

Why ask interview questions about your career goals?

For a results-focused answer, we should consider why your interviewer is bothering to ask you about your career goals in the first place.

This classic interview question should tell your potential new boss a few things about you:

*Why you want to work for them

*How motivated you are (in general and in the workplace)

*What motivates you

*How long you might be motivated to stay with them

In short, it’s some idea of whether you’re going to be with them long enough to be worth investing in.

You can understand why. Onboarding and training a new team member costs companies thousands of pounds. They want to know if you’re going to be worth it.

Why set career goals?

So, what are your career goals? If you haven’t thought about them already, it will stand you in good stead to give them a little consideration, interview or not.

Well-thought-out career goals will:

*Help you in your engineering or IT recruitment journey

*Assist you in making decisions that are right for you

*Give you direction, motivation, and inform your career strategy

What are examples of career goals?

Some common examples of career goals include:

*Professional development – you might want to grow your skills, earn a new qualification, or work towards a promotion.

*Personal development – you might want to work on your soft skills, perhaps expand your role or responsibilities (there may be some overlap with professional development).

*Leadership development – you may want to become a leader in your team or field, start mentoring a colleague, or rise to management.

*Career change – you may be coming from outside of the IT sector, looking to get your first job in this lucrative and engaging field.

*Career stability or long-term position – you may be looking for a stable, long-term position perhaps because of other commitments or simply from preference.

How do you answer “what are your career goals” in an interview?

1) Bear your employer in mind

We know what your interviewer is looking to find out by asking you what your career goals are.

They need a clear indication that there’s a reason you want to work for them, that you want the job for a reason, and plan to stay for a reasonable amount of time.

2) Consider the short and long-term

Asking you about your career goals is an alternative to the classic difficult interview question “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”

It’s this kind of timeframe we want to have in mind when we’re talking about career goals. Unfortunately, five years is somewhere in between the short and long term.

This means we need to mention both. You can:

*Start with a long-term goal and in-fill short-term stepping stones afterwards

*Build your short-term goals up towards one long-term conclusion

3) Mention your plan for achieving your goals

More importantly, how is getting your new IT job with this company going to help your plan to achieve your goals?

Relevance is important. Explain how your new job assists you in working towards your goal over the short or long term (preferably both).

4) Make your employer care

It sounds selfish, but your interviewer will care a lot more about how your goals fit in with their needs than your own.

Make it clear why this move makes sense for your goals and how they will help motivate you to succeed here.

5) Practice makes perfect

Take the time to practice your answer – preferably in a mock interview with a friend or family member – at least a few times before you go in.

What to avoid when discussing career goals

On the flip side, there are some things you should never say when talking about your career goals in an interview:

*You don’t have any goals – people who say they’re actually pretty happy where they are thanks don’t tend to answer this question well.

*You’re in it for the money – everyone understands it’s a factor, but do be sure to point to additional attractions of the role.

*Something irrelevant – always dreamed of being a superstar DJ? Applying for a machine learning job? That goal may not be relevant.

*Something too specific – this can make it seem like you’ve been thinking about it too much.

*Something unprofessional – this is a job interview, so don’t get too personal with your answer.

What are your career goals and aspirations?

Figuring out how to answer the toughest interview questions like “What are your career goals?” ensures you proceed to the next phase of the recruitment process.

If you haven’t thought much about your goals before though, it can also help you start working towards a happier place in your career as a whole.

Want to take the first step to your ideal career?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and IT recruitment agency. We match you with ideal opportunities and exclusive jobs you won’t find elsewhere.

We’ll always treat you openly and honestly. Reach out to us today to talk about your career goals in person.