I constantly make hiring decisions. One of the critical questions I ask as the closure of the interview is – “What are your career goals?”
The answer to this question reveals a lot about a candidate. For example, one time I was hiring for the position of a trainer for one of my technical training roles. The whole interview was focused on technical or hard skills. When I asked him what his career goals were, he replied that his career goal was to master the techniques to develop soft skills like leadership. Superficially, there was no connection with the job I was interviewing him for. The experience and skills one could gain in this job may not be entirely or partially transferable towards a soft skill or leadership role, which I believe he was aware of. He could have manufactured a response that would sound more passionate about his technical skills. But instead, he was honest and showed his passion for people during the interview. I hired him. Today, the same individual is serving a higher grade than me in another organization, following his passion.
Why hiring managers ask about your career goals
There are two main reasons why I ask this question and why some of the industry leaders like to ask these questions when hiring talent.
To be honest with the candidate.
The first reason is to be fair and honest with the candidate. I need to know if the person is looking for a job or a career. We can be upfront with the candidate for specific roles and whether the position offers a long-term career or not. Additionally, it is vital as a hiring manager to keep our selfish interests like hiring the best candidate aside and be fair to the candidate.
There were moments in my hiring journey when candidates would share their career goals, and I had to be honest with them, making them aware that the job they were applying for wouldn’t lead to those goals. You would not want a candidate to be hired with false hopes about how the job will support their long-term dreams. Not only that, it will only lead to having to start the hiring process all over again.
To understand the inner drivers of a candidate.
The second reason is to understand what drives the candidates. It is essential to know where they want to see themselves in the near future. If I find their career goals are tangent to the job they are applying for, I would be interested to know what made them decide to take up that particular position. Perhaps they do not understand the role fully yet, or maybe there is a side of their personality that could shed more light on him or her as a person.
As hiring managers, we want people who work for their goals and not just for gaining income. Such individuals who are focused on their goals will have an innate motivation to perform better, stay goal-directed, and thereby will produce better results.
Why should hiring managers ask this question?
This is a crucial question to express your true personality and attitude towards the person who is hiring you. You will never know if the individual you are hiring could be your peer or even your manager someday. So be open, and seek openness.
How should job seekers answer this question?
The reasonable answer to this question is only one – Truth, Truth, and Truth. If the candidate does not articulate their answers clearly and honestly, they are taking a significant risk of steering their career path towards something they don’t want or in a direction from where they can’t revert back. I would not recommend a ‘template’ answer.
If you are looking for a change and someone asks you this question, then I recommend exposing your true or honest personality here because this is a crucial moment to be who you are, and it’s a golden opportunity to show your energy, passion, and vision.