It’s a tough question to answer, particularly in today’s job market. Many job seekers are simply tempted to answer, “I’ll be glad to finally have a job.” But recruiters expect a more thorough, intelligent response. And you should have one ready—to answer both the short- and long-term career goals questions
Even if your goal is to simply use the company as a stepping-stone to a larger, more prestigious company, you should intimate that the company offering you the job will be your home for quite some time.
Know the Company
Recruiters and hiring managers will expect you to know about the company, its products and services. They want to know why you chose the company and how it meshes with your short- and long-term career goals. If the company has plans to launch a new product line or service, you should suggest by your answer that you would like to be part of that effort. If the company plans to expand geographically, you could suggest a willingness to move and be part of that strategy.
When interviewing for a job in this tough economy, you don’t want to close any doors, even if you don’t plan on moving. Circumstances could change for both you and the employer, so your answers at this point needn’t be cast in stone.
The other thing to keep in mind is that your answers should dovetail with the company’s goals. Your personal goals—buying a home, new car, being close to your parents or fiance, or paying back college loans—shouldn’t be brought up during the interview. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know what’s in it for them. For recruiters, it’s, is this a candidate I feel comfortable presenting to my client? For hiring managers, it’s, is this candidate a good long-term fit?
Short vs Long
It’s not uncommon for job candidates to be asked about both their short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals are essentially current goals, typically six months to a year. Long-term goals are those you expect to reach within five years. Sometimes, the question may be asked in more general terms, as in where do you see yourself in five years?
Short Term Goals
When answering the short-term goals question, you can address your desire to learn as much as you can from your supervisor, as well as through on-the-job training and mentoring programs. You want to telegraph your desire to be “brought up to speed” as soon as possible, to be a contributor, to be part of the working team. Don’t mention promotions or bonuses. Just stick to the job being offered and convey that you want to be the best at it.
Long Term Goals
The long term goals question is a a bit trickier to answer. Here, you want to shoot for increasing areas of responsibility—earned , of course. You should indicate your aspirations toward leadership, where you can impart what you’ve learned to inspire others. If you have a track record of leadership in school or at your previous job, this is the time to expand on it.
The career goals question can be a challenge, but preparation is the key. Learn about the company and practice your answers with a colleague.