Five career goal questions you should ask at your next interview


Finding out about your candidates’ future plans (and actually making sure they have some) is essential to finding the best fit for your vacancy…

Asking questions about an individual’s long term career goals is a great way to see where their motivation lies, and how serious they are about pursuing a role within your company.

Here are five of our favourite career goal questions courtesy of James Reed’s bestselling book, ‘Why You: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again’, and how they can help you find your next hire:


Please describe the job you’ve applied for

The difference between success and failure at an interview often comes down to whether a candidate knows when to stop talking.

This question is a perfect example. Your interviewee’s first reaction could be to say as much as they possibly can about the role, in the hope that a large amount of memorised facts will impress.

Or instead, they might take the chance to demonstrate their ability to summarise information. The best candidates will accurately be able to sum up the ‘essence’ of the job, rather than each individual duty it involves.

A short, succinct answer, which shows you that they’ve not only done their research, but they’ve also developed an understanding of the most important aspects of the role, is the perfect answer.

Good answer: “As an Airline Pilot, my job involves flying passengers safely, on time, in comfort, and at a profit to the employer”

Bad answer: “Why don’t you describe it for me? You’d probably be better at it.”


Why do you want to work at this company?

In other words, are they a genuine fan of your company, or have they just re-read your ‘About Us’ page 17 times directly before the interview?

Candidates that can demonstrate that they have a real interest in your business are the ones that’ll really impress. If they can show they’ve done their homework, and can provide relevant examples to back their reasons for wanting to work for your company, you’re probably onto a winner.

For extra points, the best candidates may even reference subjects such as recent news stories, press releases, and expansion plans on their site, as relevant areas for discussion in interview.

Steer clear of those who focus on what your company could do for them, and look for the candidates who can explain what they can do for you instead.

If they can prove how their contribution could add to your success, then you’re going in the right direction to finding the perfect fit for the job.

Good answer: “Aside from your company’s reputation as an industry-leader in your field, the thing that excites me most about working here is your expansion plans over the next two years. I’d love to work for such an ambitious business, and I think that my [quantifiable expertise] would be a beneficial addition to help it continue to succeed.”

Bad answer: “Two words: Employee. Discount.”


What is your dream job?

When candidates hear this question, they may automatically feel the need to refer back to some unobtainable childhood dream that has no relation to the job they’re applying for. Needless to say, this isn’t going to help you figure out their true career goals.

Look for candidates that bring it back to reality by opting for a real-world job, which results in a dream-like outcome. The top answers will involve candidates explaining how their job role would create the best impact possible, whilst relating back to their personal aspirations or the job title itself.

Just lookout for clichés. It’s highly doubtful that the job  you’re advertising is exactly the same as the one they’ve dreamed about since they were five years old.

As nice as that would be for everyone involved…

Good answer:  “My dream job would be one where I communicate with customers, use my expertise to solve their problems and make everyone who meets me go home happy.”

Bad answer: “I’ve always wanted to own my own boat and just sail around the ocean for a while. I know it’s not technically a job, but I could fish for my food so I’d be a… Professional travelling fisherman?”


What motivates you?

Translation: are they here because they’re passionate about the position, or are they just in it for the paycheque?

A good candidate will be able to explain what kind of tasks they’re enthusiastic about, and link back them back to the job. They’ll also have a solid idea about what they want out of their next career move.

However, be wary of candidates who opt for more trivial motivations, such as an intense dislike for their current job. These answers are always unlikely to be offered by motivated workers.

And don’t be fooled by anyone who gets unnecessarily excited over every detail – they’re almost always faking it.

Good answer: “I went straight into IT after University, and my true motivation was realised when I got to work on a project that assessed software tools against our own needs. I found that I really loved translating people’s requirements into technical solutions. I felt I was helping to make people’s lives easier, and at the same time I got a sense of fulfilment from working out the answer to a puzzle. That’s what interests me about this role…”

Bad answer: “This job pays the most out of all of the ones I applied to. Which company is this again?”


Why do you want to leave your current job?

There are many reasons why a candidate might be leaving their current job, and chances are the reasoning won’t be massively positive.

This is understandable. But as long as the candidate is honest and doesn’t appear to be hiding something, in theory, they should be able to do well at answering this question.

And it’s not all about them. They need to accurately demonstrate that they can solve your problem – in this case, your job vacancy. Those that focus on this above their individual needs indicate that they realise the importance of task at hand; an ideal answer would be linked to the job they’re interviewing for and highlight what would be expected of them.

It’s also a good sign if candidates choose to use pros of the job they’re interviewing for as reasons to leave their current job. Positive comparisons indicate they’re able to look on the bright side, and are ready to move on in their career and leave any negativity behind.

Remember: the most desirable candidates are always running towards something – not running away.

Good answer: “You’re doing a lot of biotechnology investments here. I think biotechnology is the future, and I find it fun too. I do like what I’m doing now; but it’s not quite biotechnology, although it’s closely related. On a personal note, I’ve always thought it best to change roles before reaching a plateau. I’ve decided now feels like the right time for a move.”

Bad answer: “I probably shouldn’t talk about it. But basically, my boss had it in for me from the beginning…”


Need more interview questions? Don’t panic. We’ve got plenty more…

Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again and start loving Mondays now.


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