Some interviewers are guaranteed to ask you this question- why do they do this? IBecause it’s a sneaky question that reveals more than you think. As an interviewer I would ask this question to see whether you tick my three special boxes;
- Whether or not you have a solid career plan;
- To gain an insight into how well you understand the role you’ve applied for;
- How you define success.
It’s tough to answer without resorting to typical clichés that reveal nothing about your ability to plan for your future, like “I’m not really sure” or “I want to do something I enjoy”.
Be ambitious – but realistic
Employers like ambition; but you also need to be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you know that being a team manager in a company usually takes an average of five years’ experience; don’t try and convince the employer you will do this in a year. This will make you sound as though you’ve not done your research and you weren’t aware of how much experience was needed for that role. Search the company’s webpage and LinkedIn profile to find out progression routes and the time frame it usually takes to get there.
Talk in terms of achievements and responsibilities
Don’t be more interested in the perks that come with the job rather the job itself. Your answer should focus on professional development; this means that you should speak in terms of skills that you want to gain, qualifications you would like to acquire or responsibilities you would like to undertake.
Be specific – but also be flexible
Employers ask this question to find out whether you actually know what you want. Investing in an employee is costly for the organisation, and if you’re planning to leave after a few months, it’s not in the employer’s interest to invest in you. That’s not to say you should lie about your future plans, but you don’t have to disclose everything either. Try to outline one or two goals you’d like to achieve within the job you’re going for.
Talk about professional, rather than personal ambitions
Unless the interviewer asks about your personal ambitions (and it’s worth noting that it’s against the law for them to do this), it’s best just to avoid them altogether. Telling the employer that you want to be married and have three children in five years’ time is irrelevant to the job and will not benefit the employer in any way. Employers want to hear about your career aspirations and mentioning anything else can come across as unprofessional and leave the employer disinterested.
Emphasise the value you can bring to the organisation
Although this question seems as though it is probing your ambitions and wants, don’t miss out on the chance to bring light to what you can do for the company. It can be shrewd to end your answer with something along the lines of; ‘Overall I want to be making a difference to your company, helping to add to its current reputation as leaders, and play an active part towards the company’s continuing success.’