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Job Interview Q&A Tips: What Are Your Goals for the Future?

written by: Michael Elkins•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 4/24/2011

A guide for your job interview. Answer "goals for the future" questions with help from this article. This question, while seemingly an unfair trap, is simply a way for your potential employer to determine how well you match the present and future goals of the organization.

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    Job Interview Answering Tips: Future Goals

    Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years? 

    Now I don't want you to get paranoid, but think about this: When someone asks you what your goals are for the future at a family dinner, they probably have the best intentions and are actually interested in the direction you are moving in your life. When someone asks you this question during a job interview, they are trying to determine if you will meet the needs of the organization in the long term, and they will exclude you from consideration if they feel you do not meet their needs.

    "Plan for the Future" questions were always a little off-putting when I was being interviewed, usually because the job didn't match my long term goals, and I always felt like I was being coerced into saying something that wasn't going to help my job chances. But having been a hiring manager at the other side of the table, I now understand the importance of meeting the needs of the organization in the short term and the long term, which is ultimately what this question is designed to help accomplish.

    When it comes down to it, while the question is designed to screen out individuals who don't meet the needs of the organization, you should ask yourself if you really want to spend years performing tasks that aren't bringing you closer to your goals. If the job isn't going to move you toward your goals, than why are you pursuing it? Is it strictly for mercenary reasons? Consider weighing the advantages and disadvantages of taking a job that does not move you toward your long term goals and decide which way to go from there.

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    Answering the Big Question

    Round Table Conference Job Interview Answer: Goals for the Future

    First, one of the best job interview tips you can use is to give this question some thought prior to interviewing. If you don't have long term goals, how can you answer the question? Make a list of your long term goals and write them on a piece of paper. It might include things like traveling, writing a novel, paying off your debt, or going back to school.

    Next do some research on the organization that is interviewing you. Write down their stated or implied long term goals on another piece of paper. Compare the two lists, looking for areas that overlap. Do your long term goals directly match any of the company's long term goals? Are you able to fulfill a unique need within the organization while also moving toward your long term goals? Are the skills that you would learn on the job valuable to your life long career path? These are the areas that you want to focus on when answering your goals for the future.

    When answering questions about your goals or your plans for the future, you want to focus on how your personal long term and short term goals match those of the organization. You want to assure them that the relationship would be beneficial for both parties. Try to tell them how the position would allow you to move toward your long term goals, while also meeting the present and future needs of the organization.

    For instance, a young worker with aspirations of becoming a chef may be willing to take a job at a fast food restaurant to gain some experience in a kitchen. A computer science student might be willing to take an unpaid internship with a Web 2.0 company to gain some work experience in their field of study. Likewise, and older worker who is in the process of changing career might be willing to take a pay cut as long as the new position moves them toward their long term goals. These are all valid reasons for taking a job, and if you communicate your reasoning and goals clearly to your prospective employer, it is more likely that you will not get dinged by the "goals for the future" question.

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    Resources and References

    CV Tips: What are Your Goals for the Future: http://www.cvtips.com/interview/what-are-your-future-goals-.html

    Rat Trap image by Túrelio (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Round Table Conference Image By User Davidelit on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons