Every responsible person has some goals. Each ambitious man or woman wants to achieve something, either in their private or professional life. But do your goals correspond with the goals of your future employer? Would your new employment allow you to pursue your goals and dreams? And do you think only about yourself, or do you have the success of your employer on your mind?

HR managers try to understand all these things while asking about your goals and dreams. They want to see if they can count with you in a long run, and if you can achieve your goals while helping them to achieve their goals. Hence they will almost always ask you one of the following questions:

  • What are your goals? What support do you need to achieve them?
  • What is your objective in life? (Or “What is your aim in life?”)
  • How do you plan to achieve your goals in life?

As you can imagine, hiring managers can put it in many ways, and they often will, just to confuse you a bit. At the end of the day though, regardless of the exact question, they are always looking for the same thing: trying to understand more about your goals and aspirations in life and work.


What goals should you mention, and what goals should you avoid talking about

The answer to this question depends on the position you apply for. The possibilities of career growth it offers, the plan they have with you, and the type of work you’ll do–all of that has some impact on the aims and objectives you should refer to in your interview answer, as well as as the level of ambition you should show while talking to them.

We will have a look at different scenarios, and offer some guidance on how to answer this question in all of them. Because as you can likely imagine, mentioning the same goal can be a great idea in one job interview and a terrible one in another :).


Companies do not like to hire someone for one year

Unless you apply for an interim or temporary position, companies will always want to hire you for a long time. Recruitment is expensive, and they do not want to repeat the entire process again and again, just because new hires leave them after three months of employment while trying to pursue some other objectives. Try to avoid the following answers:

I want to start my own business one day (in a few years).
I plan to go abroad soon, trying to do something with my life.
I want to work for XY company, but it is not possible right now, so I seek employment somewhere else.

* Special Tip: this is not the only difficult question you will face in your interview. Read also how to answer “What are your weaknesses?


Better answers for your interview

If you plan to start your own business, or want to go abroad, do not reveal your plans in an interview. You can have such a dream (and many of us nurse such a dream, and a few already live it :)), but it is better to keep it secret. You should rather go with one of the following answers.

I would like to have a good career in an international company (like this one), and grow both personally and professionally. My goal is to become an excellent financial analyst, and to pursue a career in this field.

My goal is to be a part of a successful team, and to play a vital role in the success story of my employer. And I also want to quit smoking.


Personal goals can also resonate with the interviewers

Not every employment offers career growth options. If you apply for a job of a secretary, a receptionist, or let’s say for a job of a firefighter, it is pointless to talk about promotion, or about a better position in the company that you want to have in five years time (if everything goes well), or any similar ambition. It is pointless because there’s no such position waiting for you, and the goal is completely unrealistic.

Personal goals will resonate better in this case, and goals that show your determination and will are your best choice. Goals that show that you care about society and family, or about your health, are also a good pick…

My goal is to quit smoking. I’ve been smoking for ten years, and now I am in the process of quitting. It isn’t easy, but with a good support from my friends and family I can reach this goal. New job will help me as well.

My biggest goal is to lose twenty pounds in twelve months time. I’ve been overweight for some time, and I understand it limits me in work. I really want to get fitter and healthier. This is currently my greatest ambition in life.

I try to run marathon under three hours. I am training hard and I hope to achieve my goal next year.

I want to become a better mother and wife. I am aware of the mistakes I make, and I try to improve in the most important role of my life.

* Special Tip: Interview question about your goals is just one of many questions you will face in the interview, and for sure it’s not the most difficult one. If you want to prepare for the tricky questions, such as “Why shouldn’t we hire you?”, “Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve the problem”, or “If you were an animal, what would you be?” have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 sample answers to 104 interview questions will make things much easier for you in the interviews…

Small goals can often beat big goals in the interviews

Not everyone can become a CEO, a professional athlete, or a rock star. Many people are happy in their simple jobs, and all they want to do is having a job, earning money, and enjoying their life outside of work, mostly on weekends.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of thinking. What’s more, many interviewers will appreciate hearing an honest answer from the applicant. This is true especially if you apply for a job that does not offer many options of realization of your intellect or of your creative spirit. Let’s have a look at some sample answers for this type of situation:

I just want to have a good job, a job I enjoy doing, and be happy in my life outside of work. I do not have any big goals really.

I want to do a good work in this store, help customers to be happy, and enjoy myself in work. In my opinion, it is good to be ambitions but we should also keep it realistic.

My goal is to be a good colleague and employee, and to earn a decent salary that will allow me to support my family and the people I love.

Special Tip: Download all sample answers in a one page long PDF, and use it for your reference anytime later, when preparing for your job interview:

what are your goals sample answers, PDF

Conclusion and next steps

While it is true that responsible people have goals in their life, you do not necessarily have to dream big to impress the employer in a job interview. Whenever possible, you should relate to their business, and things they want to achieve for them. Try to convince them that they can count on you in a long run, that you do not plan to leave them soon, to start your own business or pursue your traveling dreams.

Goals you have in your private life, or a simple honest desire to enjoy your job and earn a good salary as your sole objective, can also work well in an interview–depending on your situation, and a job you try to get. Hopefully after reading this article you know what you should say, and I wish you good luck in your interview!


This isn’t the only difficult question you will face in your interview. Check also sample answers to other tricky questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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