What are your long-term career goals?

Have you ever been asked this question in an interview?

It’s a basic interview question employers and hiring managers love to ask.

This may seem like an easy question, but in reality, the right answer might be tougher than you think.

Don’t walk into an interview unprepared.

In this article, we will break down the do’s and don’ts when answering what your long-term career goals are.

When you think about your life goals, you may recall your 2nd-grade teacher telling you, “Reach for the stars!”

Everything was possible whether you were to become a professional athlete, movie star, musician, or the next man on the moon.

In what seems to be a blink of an eye, life progresses, and our goals begin to narrow.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s just life.

Be Realistic: Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

Dialing in your aspirations is something that everyone should do, but for most, little effort is put forth.

The reason you are being asked, “What are your career goals?” in an interview is partly that this is an indicator of your sense of reality.

Some job applicants might respond with something like:

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Well, I plan to use this entry-level position to display my talents and become CEO in a couple years.

This is very ambitious.

It’s also highly unlikely that you will get the CEO job.

And definitely not in only a couple of years.

In other words, it is not very realistic.

The other reason you are being asked this question is so the interviewer can make sure the job is a good fit for you.

If your long-term career goal is to become a mechanical engineer and you are applying for a sales position, it probably isn’t the best fit.

Let me put you in the mind of a sales manager or employer who hears you say you want to become an engineer in the future:

  • Is this guy serious? Does he even know this is a sales interview?
  • Hmm, if he wants to become an engineer, I wonder how long he will actually work here before he quits?
  • I really need a new employee, but I kind of feel bad hiring someone who really doesn’t even enjoy sales. 

Yes, this article has some pretty extreme examples, but I do not want to make light of how serious this is.

Maybe you are joining an inside sales team, but you want to work in outside sales.

Or maybe you are joining a design team when you want to become a developer.

Even though they are similar, these are still huge differences that can be roadblocks to landing the job.

For more interview help check out the 50 Top Job Interview Questions And Answers.

Be Professional: How Do You Answer This Question?

The best strategy is to align your goals and dreams with the position in which you are applying.

That is if you actually want the job.

Now, I am not saying that you should lie.

However, you probably shouldn’t tell the truth if you really do not see yourself being at the company long-term.

Unfortunately, about 10 million recruiters and hiring managers are trying to figure out who wrote this article so that they can send me hate-mail.

But it’s the truth.

Do you want a job or not?

There’s no point in going to the interview if you plan to say the wrong things.

Here is an example of how you should answer when the sales manager or employer asks, “What are your career goals?”

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My entire life I have aspired to become an enterprise level account executive at ABC Company. I understand that in order to become an account executive I would need to spend years as a sales rep learning about and mastering the product you offer. The reason I am so passionate about becoming an account executive is because of the lifestyle that it offers. I intend to absolutely crush my sales quotas every month and bring in the big bucks for our company. I also love traveling and have always enjoyed a long sales cycle that involves tons of nurturing and dedication. Wining and dining potential clients on the company dime sounds pretty sweet to me! Of course, I know that I have to prove myself before I can have the job of my dreams.


Mic dropped.

Job offered.

Be Strategic: How Do You Prepare for This Question?

If you are truly interested in the position you are interviewing for, this question should be very simple to answer!

If it is not something you are interested in, you may stumble or pause through your response.

And being excited about the job is only half the battle.

You can be super pumped-up about this position and still fumble with your answer.

This is why it is so important to prepare before the actual interview.

So what makes the above interview response so well-rounded?

First off, the job applicant clearly thought about their response to this question before the interview.

Some big questions you can meditate on and consider to prepare your answer include:

  • Why are you so excited about this job?
  • What do you plan to accomplish if you are put in this role?
  • Why do you think you would be a good fit?

Another often overlooked question is: How does this role/job fit into your career plan?

We mentioned earlier that too much ambition can be a problem.

But the right amount of ambition can go a long way.

Depending on the job position, chances are you won’t be doing the same thing forever.

What’s even more likely is that you’ll be at this job position for a while and work your way up.

It’s okay to tell hiring managers and interviewers that you see the job role you are interviewing for as a crucial part of your overall career plan.

Emphasize that you hope to grow within the company.

This tells the hiring manager that you are interested in what the job and company have to teach you.

It also implies you will be sticking around for a while.

It’s important to remember that a company invests time and money in new employees.

Remember, if you want to be an engineer and you are applying for a sales role, this implies you won’t be around for long and therefore are not a good risk!

You must be strategic!