Career goals. Does it really make sense to have some? In the world of uncertain tomorrows, climate crises and pandemics? Should a job you try to get right now really be just a means to an end, a way of obtaining your dream occupation in five, or in ten years from now? I would not say so. Life happens now, and not in five or ten years. You should have a job you enjoy doing, or at least one you can tolerate, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your future plans–which are always uncertain. Most hiring managers do not share my views, however. They will ask you about your career goals, and how the job you try to get with them makes sense in the bigger picture. They may do so in different ways, using the question from the title of this article, or any of the following variations:
- How does this position align with your career aspirations?
- How does this role fit in with your career path?
They are always looking for the same thing, however. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. You will find both conventional and unconventional (rather philosophical) answers on my list. Try to pick an answer that fits your interview scenario, and the message you try to convey to the hiring managers.
At the end of the day, you do not necessarily have to tell them the truth. Maybe you just plan to work for a year or two, saving money, and then hit the road for travels and volunteering around the world. But they do not have to know you plans. Because corporations do not like such brave plans. They want you to sweat blood with them for years, until you cannot bear it any longer and someone else takes your place,, some other dreamer…. Let’s have a look at the sample answers.
7 sample answers to “How does this position fit with your career goals?” interview question
- It fits them perfectly. I’d love to lead an entire FP&A department one day, and hence an entry level financial analyst position with you is the best possible start to my professional career. I have heard a lot of things about your excellent training program and diverse team of employees. No doubt I can learn a lot in such an environment, improve on my skills, and step by step progress in my career. It would be great to get a chance to realize my ambitions in your company, and I find it the best possible fit to my career goals.
- I would say that everyone has to start somewhere. My dream is to work in journalism, but it is close to impossible getting a job in the field without any previous experience. Working for your publishing house as an editor, I should get a chance to prove my skills, and perhaps I will also meet some people from the industry, make some connections, shake the right hands. It should help me realize my ambition later on. Having said that, my career goal isn’t set in stone. Maybe I like it here a lot, enjoy my time in the office, and will eventually decide to stay with you for a good part of my professional career.
- It does not align with my career aspirations, because I do not have clear career goals at the moment. Look, we live in an uncertain world. I am concerned about the development with the pandemic, with the climate crisis, and the ever-growing difference between the rich and poor. The entire economic system may collapse in five years from now, and with AI making grounds in all sectors of economy, many jobs may not even exist in ten years from now. Hence I think it doesn’t make much sense dreaming about the future. I like the job description, and what I’ve learned about your place. That’s what matters to me, and not what I will or may do in ten years from now.
- One day I’d like to run my own restaurant. What can be better than working in one of the most beloved restaurants in the city, learning from other staff members, experiencing the daily life of a restaurant owner and manager? I take this job with you as a learning experience. Sure enough, many things may change in life, and it isn’t guaranteed that I will actually open my own place one day. But I dream about it, and the job in a good restaurant is one of the steps I have to take, if I want to own an amazing restaurant one day.
- I want to stress that I do not see this job with you as a means to an end. Sure enough, I do not want to be a marketing trainee for ten years. I hope to progress to a position of a marketing manager and perhaps one day to a role of a creative director. But it is not something that gets me up in the morning. I like everything about your company. Your campaigns, the working environment, the team you have in place. I have no doubts I will enjoy my time here, and I will learn a lot during the first year. It will be great if I can stay with you afterwards, but even if I can’t, I won’t be disappointed.
- Speaking honestly, this is the best job I can get at the moment, with my education, level of experience, and with other commitments I have at the moment. I am not twenty years old anymore, and do not dream of meeting a prince on a white horse, or of traveling the world with a backpack. I have a son, bills to pay, and a lot on my plate. It would be great to work in your retail store, because fashion is my hobby, I know all the brands you sell here, the salary offer is good, and the shift patterns fit me perfectly. But I do not see it as a means to perhaps one day become a store manager here. It just isn’t my way of looking at life…
- Career goals? I can hardly have them in my late forties. I’ve been over a lot in life, successes and failures, earning 100K a year, and experiencing bankruptcy. That’s how it is. Now, more than anything else, I seek stability. I do not look for a job where I can dream of getting promotion every year, step by step climbing the career ladder, working my ass off for 80 hours a week. What I want is a solid job, something I am good at, something I at least somehow enjoy doing, and stress levels aren’t particularly high. The job I try to get with you meets all my criteria, and I am glad to get a chance to interview for it with you today.
If possible, try to connect your career path with their company
Hiring staff is an expensive endeavor, and corporations do not want to see you leave them after a year or two, so they have to repeat the entire process of hiring and training again, with a new employee. Try to connect your career goals with their business.
It doesn’t necessarily mean to have a certain position in sight within their corporation, for example some leadership role you’d love to have in five or ten years time. It is also fine saying that you would love to have the same job in ten years from now, and do not dream of career progress. As long as you convince them that you plan to stay with them, they will be satisfied with your answer.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the most difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, solving problems, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Do not be afraid of unconventional answers
I’ve led enough interviews in my life to know that most job seekers will repeat the same answers over and again. Sure enough, applying for an entry level job with the company, they want to have a managerial role in five years time. Earning bigger, getting more recognition, working harder, running the rat race, and vainly trying to win in such a race.
And while it is exactly what the corporations dream of–to have you onboard for years to come, to squeeze you dry (metaphorically speaking), they also appreciate to hear an unconventional interview answer from time to time, so they do not fall asleep in the interviews.
If you like to experiment, or have nothing to lose in your next interview, or if you fail to make any breakthrough with conventional answers in the interviews, why not opting for something different? A brutal honesty perhaps (check sample answers no. 6 or no. 7 on my list), or for a bit of philosophy and brave prophecy (check sample answer no. 3 on my list).
More often than not, you will compete with many other people for any good job, especially in a big corporation. Saying exactly the same things your competitors will say isn’t the way to succeed. Keep it on your mind, and try to surprise the hiring managers with something.
Just a means to an end
At the end of the day, any job you try to get shouldn’t be just a means to an end. Because it would make you unhappy in your daily life, and from Monday on you’ll be looking for one thing only–Friday afternoon.
Regardless of whether you have some career aspirations, or decide to tell them you have none, you should always say something positive about the job you try to get with them. For example that you like the list of working duties, or their brand, or a training program for new hires, anything. Sure enough, this isn’t your final career destination. But you will still enjoy the job (at least somehow), and do not see it just as a means to an end. That’s the message you should try to convey in your interviews…
Ready to answer this one? Great! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Tell me about a time you improved a process.
- Describe a situation when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
- In what areas do you believe to have the most potential to grow professionally?