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Interview Time: What Are your Goals?

December 4th, 2020

When you sit down across from your potential employer at the interview table, you can expect to be asked about your abilities and qualifications. Above all else, your employer will want to know if you’re capable of taking on the job and doing it well. But that’s probably not all your employer will want to know. Hiring is expensive and complicated (more than you might realize) and the employer isn’t interested in taking on someone who will leave as soon as she finds out the job isn’t a fit for her preferences and goals.

So chances are, your interviewer will ask you about those goals. Specifically, what are your career plans and how well do those plans align with the needs of the company over the next two to five years?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you respond.

First, be honest with your interviewer… and with yourself.

It won’t do to frame your goals or plans inaccurately just to tell the interviewer what you think she wants to hear. This benefits no one. Before the interview session is scheduled, do an honest self-examination and determine your most optimistic, middle-of-the-road, and baseline expectations for the three years ahead. Where do want to go, and how do you hope this job will get you there? When the interviewer asks the question, tell the truth with as much or as little detail as you choose to share.

Do you view this job as a stepping-stone to another job with another company?

If so, share this diplomatically (or not at all). You may plan to step into a management role in three years, and if this company can’t offer that to you, you’ll seek it elsewhere. Choose your words carefully as you say this. Simply explain that your sites are set on management, and you hope to find relevant opportunities and openings here when the time comes to climb the ladder. Listen to the answer and keep an open mind.

Share your deal-breakers if asked about them specially.

If your interviewer states clearly that the company can’t help you reach your goals (it can’t provide the mentoring, exposure, or advancement that you’re looking for), don’t end the interview early, but do stand your ground. There may be a way for the company to make changes in order to keep you on the list. If these changes are simply not possible, accept that the job isn’t for you and thank the employer sincerely for their consideration. Don’t waste any time as you shift your attention the next opportunity.

For more on how to find the job you’re looking for—and turn away from potential mismatches—consult the experts at Merritt.

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