How to Answer the Interview Question 'What Are Your Goals?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An interviewer may ask, ‘what are your goals?' to establish your short- and long-term career objectives and determine how long you may stay at the company. In response, you may focus on the employer, your personal attributes and career objectives.

Learning how to answer this interview question effectively could impress the hiring manager and increase your chances of getting hired. In this article, we outline how to answer ‘what are your goals?', discuss common goals and provide four samples answers you can refer to while preparing for an interview.

Related: How to Answer 'What Are Your Long Term Career Goals?'

How to answer the 'what are your goals?' interview question

Here are the steps you can follow while responding to the question 'what are your goals?':

1. Use goal-setting methods to define your objectives

Aim to define your goals for the next five years during this process. You may find it easier to visualise and meet your objectives during this time frame. It might also be simpler to communicate this timeline to an employer. These three methods may be useful in helping you define your goals:

  • Big, small and quick (BSQ): which involves thinking big, acting small and moving quickly.

  • Smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based (SMART): that involves defining goals that are measurable, realistic and achievable within the specific time.

  • Objectives, goals, tactics and metrics (OGTM): which involve subdividing your aims into broad objectives, fixed and measurable goals.

2. Establish short- and long-term goals

Short-term goals are those that take a few months or years to accomplish. Whatever short-term goals you set, ensure they complement the roadmap leading to your long-term goals. Long-term objectives are the primary motivators for your career and professional development. Consider asking yourself the following questions to evaluate your values and establish your goals:

  • What do you wish to do best?

  • What is the best thing about your present job?

  • What are you most proud of?

  • Which jobs appeal to you most?

  • What skills may still be relevant in the coming years?

Once you've brainstormed how to answer these questions, you may find the following goals to emerge for you:

  • industrial expertise

  • leadership or managerial experience

  • project management

  • providing excellent care

  • developing and nurturing meaningful relationships with clients

  • becoming an expert at a skill

3. Measure your attributes against your goals

The central focus of the interview question may be your career goals. If your personal goals align with positive attributes that would make you a stronger candidate for the job, you can include them. For example, personal attributes that could affect the achievement of your goals include persistence, focus, self-confidence, curiosity and responsibility. Although your career goals may relate to your salary and promotions, you may not refer to them in your first interview. Instead, focus on the experience, skills or abilities you wish to achieve.

4. Research on the position and company you're interviewing

Base your answer for this question on how your goals match the job's growth and opportunities. For this reason, it's important to do thorough research about the company to establish whether it resonates with your goals. During your research, look for information about the company's mission, structure, focuses, new initiatives or expansion.

5. Your answer could be broad and focused

You may have many details for your plans. Keep your answer as precise as possible while also focusing on the specific career description. Having specific goals could link you to specific opportunities or make you look well-rounded compared to other candidates.

6. Focus on the employer rather than yourself

While this question is about you, you may show the employer your commitment to the role. It could help to mention that you have always wanted to work for a company similar to the one you're discussing. You could focus on how you would add value to the company through the achievement of your individual goals. You could also inform the interviewer that bringing you on-board may help you and the company attain their goals.

Related: How to Sell Yourself in 25 Words or Less (With Tips)

Why an interviewer may ask you what your goals are

Interviewers may ask this question because of hiring and training expenses. Hiring and training employees can be expensive, so the interviewer may wish to determine your longevity with the company and decide whether to invest time and resources training you for the role. Companies with a low turnover can also represent higher job satisfaction, which may improve their reputation and also show that the company has loyal employees.

Common career goals

Apart from the two main classifications (short and long-term), career goals, you can also categorise objectives according to their focus. Here are the most common ones:

Goals focused on your professional advancement

These types of goals are about improving your efficiency and work performance. They motivate you to get better and faster at whatever you do and move up the ladder. An example of a short-term goal that focuses on your professional advancement is a sales agent increasing their sales by a certain percentage. A long-term goal might be to make senior partner at a top law firm:

  • Short-term example: Obtain a new certification or degree.

  • Long-term example: Apply for a promotion within your organisation.

Goals that focus on leadership advancement

On matters of leadership, there is a lot of room to advance your career. Leadership-focused goals are about elevating your management skills and aiming for higher positions with even more responsibilities. For example:

  • Short-term example: Working your way up to a managerial position in a restaurant.

  • Long-term example: Working as an executive at a company.

Goals focused on educational advancement

Whether you're a fresh graduate or an experienced professional, there is never an end to learning. Education-focused goals aim at keeping you up-to-date with any developments in your field or helping you learn new different things. For example:

  • Short-term example: Learning a new language (programming).

  • Long-term example: Finishing medical school, completing a medical residency program and earning a state license to practice medicine.

Goals focused on personal development

These are goals that emphasise self-improvement and skills such as teamwork or networking. Achieving these goals not only affects positively on your professional life but also shows that there is more to you than just work. For example:

  • Short-term example: Being more proactive while in your company.

  • Long-term example: Improving networking skills.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

Example answers to the question 'what are your goals?'

Here are some of the most suitable answers to this question:

Answer 1

One of my short-term goals is to pursue a marketing course and develop my digital marketing strategies in a similar job. With time, I hope to be a project manager to several digital marketing strategies and be in a position that gives me an opportunity to nurture and help other digital marketing specialists grow. To achieve my goals, I plan to take up project leadership roles and attend job fairs organised by your company. I also hope to get a mentor that may guide me in every step of my career.

Answer 2

Being a firm believer in the perpetual nature of learning, I want a job environment that enables me to continue learning and enhance my financial advisor skills. This is the reason I'm thrilled to join the team at PhoeD2 Insurance, a leading firm in financial matters and an equally natural fit for my accounting educational background. In five years, I wish to have advanced to a managerial position and work towards achieving the company's goals and objectives.

Answer 3

My short-term goal is to continue to develop my writing skills. I want to help brands create awareness worldwide, increase click-through rates, and build authority through detailed and relevant content. My broader aim is to ensure my skills and strategies improve customer conversion rates. To achieve this, I intend to follow the SEO industry webinars, most of whom work at PhoeD2. My long-term goal is to become an SEO industry expert and work hand-in-hand with the company to achieve its goals and maintain its dominance in the market.

Answer 4

Currently, I am striving to enhance my communication and leadership skills as I believe these two are key to landing a managerial position. This is the reason I'm thrilled to get on board. I hope to attain my short-term goals by taking up the roles of a leader, attending career fairs and networking with other individuals that hold positions like mine. I'm highly convinced that these skills are crucial to ensuring maximum effectiveness and productivity, thus general business improvement.

Eventually, I dream of becoming this company's chief operating officer (COO). This position may present an excellent opportunity to nurture several generations of young minds–something that may ensure the attainment of market dominance and competitive advantage.

Explore more articles