Career Goals Interview Questions

joseph cole

Updated on February 28, 2023

Use these "career goal" questions and tips when interviewing job candidates to learn if their professional goals align with your business objectives and open positions.

Why ask a candidate's career goals in interviews?

Interview questions about candidates’ career goals help you to:

  • Prepare a talent acquisition strategy: Find candidates who would be a potential fit for other positions within your organization, at present or in the future.
  • Create complete candidate profiles: Try to know candidates better by collecting information about their training requirements, motives and aspirations.
  • Improve job offer acceptance rates: Candidates look for companies that are interested in their long-term objectives and invest in their development.
  • Take better recruitment decisions: It is best to choose candidates whose long-term objectives match your business goals.

In most cases, candidates avoid sharing their career objectives that are unrelated to the role they are recruited for. Ask targeted interview questions to know about their objectives and their plans to achieve them.

Job-related goals could be about:

  • Brush up the skills and gain more experience Example: “As I am starting my career as a Web Developer, I would like to learn more designing tools, gain more experience and eventually work on challenging projects.”
  • Learn new things Example: “Being a Sales Executive, I am interested in learning more about promotional methods and customer psychology to better understand my clients.”
  • Develop new skills Example: “I want to develop public-speaking skills, as I will be soon representing my company in the public events.”
  • Building a career path Example, “In the next three years, I want to get more knowledge of X technology and improve the quality of my work.”

Career goals interview questions

  • How important is this position for you?
  • What do you do to achieve your professional goals?
  • If given a choice to choose between two projects: one that is relevant to your current knowledge and skills and allows you to lead a team, or one where you get to learn new tools and technology by working under a senior?
  • Do you have any plan of learning about tools or technology of different disciplines? What and why?
  • How do you think this role aligns with your career goals?
  • What are your expectations from the next job?
  • Why are you looking for a new job?
  • Which technology or skills would make you improve your current work?
  • Tell me about your future career goals and what do you plan to achieve in the next three years?
  • Do you have any plans for further studies? If yes, what are you planning to do?
  • What do you want to learn more about in your area of specialization?

How to assess candidates’ answers in career goals interview questions?

  • Remember that careers are not linear. If candidates’ professional objectives seem irrelevant to their education or experience, don’t reject them. Instead, ask questions to know more about their goals. Employees with mixed education and work experience are usually great employees: they are risk-takers, adaptive and curious.
  • Don’t disqualify a candidate just because they want to pursue studies. Instead, ask them to follow questions to find out why they are interested in a particular area of study.
  • Don’t confuse career goals with moving ahead in the career: Some professionals consider cultivating skills or learning new tools to improve what they are already doing. Make sure these goals are relevant to the open position.
  • Discuss career goals during interviews and use them as a base for building employee learning and development programs.

Red flags

  • They provide unrealistic or vague career goals: While it is common for fresher candidates to have an unclear idea of what they want to do in future, it might be a red flag for more experienced professionals. Also, if their plans are not realistic that is a sign they might not have a clear knowledge of their industry or their skills.
  • They give canned answers: Questions like “Where do you see yourself in three years” are very common and candidates give prepared, canned answers. Ask more specific questions and look for people who confidently share their objectives, instead of saying what you want to hear.
  • They are not ambitious: Good employees want to develop themselves, irrespective of their level of experience and knowledge. Candidates who don’t have clear goals, whether short-term or long-term, are likely to be disinterested in their role.
  • Their answers don’t align with business objectives: If the candidates want to take their career in a different direction and that doesn’t align with the role you are recruiting for, you might have a tough time retaining them in the long run.

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