answers about long-term goals in a job interview & example
Answers to long-term goals will usually be different based on the career you are applying for. The question is all about commitment and aspirations. If you don't have a goal, your employer might think you are not ambitious enough for the job. But if you stretch your goal, your employer might think you are too ambitious or not a right fit. Be strategic when answering about long-term goals. Research the career path in advance and do some homework prior to the interview. Research websites and job descriptions about personal development. Check the LinkedIn profiles of hiring managers/ potential colleagues. How have they been promoted within the same company, it gives insights. Sometimes we might not have a long-term goal and it is completely fine. Here are the safe answers if you don't have an idea about where you see yourself in 3-5 years from now my interview at HuffPost.
As a hiring manager, I have asked this question before, and I understand how difficult it can be to answer if candidates are not well-prepared. I'll also share why I ask this question and how I answered it when I was a job seeker after being laid off. I have seen both sides of the job search process. My go-to answer was to be a mentor, and subject matter expert, take on complex tasks, and train and teach new hires. I hinted towards being the right hand for my manager and seeing myself as the next person to lead when they get promoted. The manager's job is to create the next leaders and create the talent pool.
Why do hiring managers ask long-term goal questions?
Now, let's dive into the topic of why managers ask about long-term goals and why it is important for you to know your own goals. It's essential for managers to understand if a candidate is the right fit for the role and whether their long-term goals align with the company's career path. As a manager, I wanted to support my team members and help them develop their careers. So, when I asked this question, I was genuinely interested in their aspirations to move up in careers. I would note down the goal in the interview answers to calibrate with HR and other leaders. If the candidate is fit for another role, I might drop their name to others in the team/ department. This is why sometimes; a candidate could be contacted later for another role as the rejection is documented on the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or hiring system. Employers have an internal career ladder for promotion and long-term goal questions identify the talent pool for the future. Instead of sourcing and headhunting outside, managers could create the talent pool for promotion using long-term goal answers. Some people might not want to be promoted, and that is fine too. As a manager, there is a career development plan that gets created for direct reports during one-on-one coaching in top companies. This is where the long-term goal becomes part of the conversation too. Some companies have a formal process for promotion where managers will fill out the internal promotion form based on meeting current targets and KPIs. Understanding the measurable goals for the job you are applying for helps you customize the answers. Here are do's and don't for answering the questions about long-term goals.
Tips for Job Seekers on long-term goal answers
As a candidate, it's important to note that not everyone wants to be a manager, or a leader and your answer needs to be strategic. You shouldn't feel guilty about not wanting additional responsibilities. In an interview, you need to strategize your answer to present your goals in a positive light. Research is key. Before an interview, make sure to research the company and understand its career development opportunities. If the job description mentions personal development or growth, you can leverage that information in your answer. For example, if you're applying for an entry-level role, you can talk about becoming a subject matter expert, learning tools, mentoring new hires, working on complex projects, and building relationships outside your department.
If you haven't done enough research, you can turn the interview into a conversation. Ask the hiring manager about the career path for the role you're applying for and where people in that position typically branch out in the future. This shows your interest in growth and development within the company. Companies usually have budgets allocated for personal development which could include internal/external courses. Courses are delivered on LMS/ Learning and development team/ HR/vendors. Asking the right question helps you understand the career path or courses you could take to be successful as a new hire or for internal promotions in future. The worst thing you can do is to expect the promotion without understanding the expectation/ladder to get to a long-term goal.
For example, in the banking industry, if you are applying to be a teller, and want to go to a financial advisor role in the future, understand how long you have to be a teller first. Do you have to exceed KPIs before getting promoted?. Most banks reimburse the fees for compliance courses after you pass. Wait until you get into the role then explore the courses. let's say, if your career path is project work then there are PMP certifications paid by companies, this is why asking these questions makes sense depending on the type of role/industry. Would having PMP will meet your long-term goal of managing a team or will leadership courses will help you with the goal? Sometimes the long-term goal is based on experience/license/certification which could take years.
Questions to ask during interviews as candidates to identify alignment:
Do you have a formal internal career path for this role?
What kind of courses/ certifications/training/experience in this role will be helpful to be successful at day-to-day tasks and meet long-term goals in xx areas?
Do you offer in-house or outsourced personal career development?
Do you have budgets for personal development? how much? what is the process of getting this approved?
How often does the career development plan conversation happen?
Where do employees from this role branch out to or get promoted?
How are the people promoted usually? what KPIs are used during internal recommendation/ promotion?
20+ questions to ask during the interview, read here.
Interviews are about getting to know each other and determining if you're the right fit. Don't forget to ask about the courses or learning opportunities available within the company that can help you achieve your long-term goals. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on the industry, role, and company you're applying to. Tailor your response based on your research and the specific context.
I hope these tips help you navigate the question about long-term goals in your next job interview. Remember to practice and prepare beforehand.
Sweta Regmi is a hiring manager from award-winning companies turned Founder and CEO at Teachndo, a Certified Career & Résumé Strategist, LinkedIn's Top Voice for Career development Coaching, Job Search Strategies, and Interviews and was named the Top 25 Job Search Expert to follow on LinkedIn. Her insights have been featured in CBC National News, Global National, City News, CTV, National Post, Yahoo, MSN, HuffPost, The Globe and Mail, Forbes, LinkedIn News, indeed, Colleges, Career Conferences, and over 100+ top media. She is the Amazon Best Seller of 21 Resilient Women.