Interview Question: "What Are Your Future Career Goals?"

By Hanne Keiling

Updated June 13, 2022 | Published May 10, 2018

Updated June 13, 2022

Published May 10, 2018


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Sometimes during a job interview, the hiring manager will ask you about your future career goals. Knowing how to answer this question will help you make a good impression during your interview.

In this article, we discuss why employers ask about your future career goals and we review sample answers that will help guide you in creating your own response.

Key takeaways:

  • Interviewers ask this question to determine whether your career goals align with the role and company.

  • Answer honestly and explain how the role fits into your long-term goals and aspirations.

  • Offer only professional aspirations such as leadership roles, expertise or business ownership.

Why do employers ask about your future career goals?

Along with your qualifications, background and professional experience, an interviewer will want to know your plans for the future. Employers may ask this question in different ways. Some of these include:

  • What are your future goals?

  • What are your career goals?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • What are your future plans if you get this job?

Your response to this kind of question will help recruiters and hiring managers to know you better and understand if your professional goals and expectations of the role match what they can provide. If things go well, this context enables them to put together a job offer that is exciting for you.

Related: Interview Question: “Do You Have Any Questions?”

How to answer when asked about your future career goals

The way you answer this question may vary depending on the company and position, but there are a few things you can consider as you decide how to respond in any situation:

Related: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years? Tips + Example Answer

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1. Define your career goals

An important practice for this interview question is to assess what you want in the next five years of your career. You can even plan further, thinking about the next decade, too. This is just one of a few key questions you should ask yourself before an interview. Set some time aside to write down your career goals, both short-term and long-term. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What are you good at?

  • What do you want to be good at?

  • What do you enjoy most about your current job?

  • What work are you most proud of?

  • What jobs or projects look appealing to you?

  • What skills or opportunities will be available in the next few years, or even decades?

Once you’ve identified your answers to the above questions, here are examples of more tangible goals that may emerge for you:

  • Managerial or leadership experience

  • Industry expertise

  • End-to-end project management

  • Project conception or leadership

  • Developing and streamlining new processes

  • Having strong relationships with clients

  • Providing excellent service or care

  • Becoming expert level at one specific skill or a set of skills

Related: Interview Question: "Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?"

2. Research the company and position you’re interviewing for

Your response to “What are your future career goals?” should be focused on how your long-term career goals match with how this company is growing and the opportunities this job provides. In your research, look for information about company structure, mission, expansion, focuses or new initiatives. Start by visiting their company website. Reading the “about” and “press” pages can uncover items like press releases that will highlight the company’s most important announcements.

Look for recent news stories or sites with company reviews like Indeed Company Pages that will list key information, even Q&A. You may find more nuanced information by reaching out to your network to find someone who works there or can connect you with an employee for a more intimate look into the company’s development and goals.

3. Develop an answer with relevant, career-focused goals

Often, our career goals are just one part of our larger life and personal aspirations. For this answer, focus on just your career goals. If some of your personal goals happen to align with attributes that will make you a stronger candidate (like being a better writer or learning a new language), you can certainly include those as well. While promotions or salary can also be related to your career goals, avoid including these in your answer and focus on the skills, abilities or experience you want to achieve instead.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

4. Give a broad but focused answer

Though there can be many details to your future plans, keep your answer short and at a high level. Making your goals too specific might limit you to certain opportunities or make you appear less well-rounded than other candidates. As in all interview questions, be conscious of how much time you’re taking to answer the question and avoid rambling.

Related: Interview Question: “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?”

Man posing a question, seated at a table

Example answers to “What are your future career goals?”

Understanding what you want out of your career in the future will help potential employers see your ambition, your competence and how you’re going to help their company grow. As you define what your professional goals are, use the following examples of career goals as a guide:

Example 1

“In five years, I’d love to be a true apparel industry expert with successful end-to-end project management experience under my belt as I look to grow into a more senior market analyst role. It’s exciting that your company has a strong focus on hands-on experience and continued learning opportunities.”

Example 2

“A few of my future goals include leading a finance team in some capacity. I’m excited about the prospect of working with teams like legal and procurement on developing streamlined processes—this is a natural fit with my business administration background. One reason this job stood out to me was that it calls for a candidate with organizational expertise. I’ve had inspirational managers that I really admired, and would love to manage my own team in a few years.”

Example 3

“In the short term, one of my goals is to continue developing my writing skills. I want to help brands become world-class publishers. In addition, I’ve been raising my hand for more public speaking assignments, since I know that written and verbal communication skills often work together. I would love to apply this skill set to establish your company as a thought leader in this industry.”

What not to say when asked about your future career goals

Planning an interview answer in case you’re asked about your future goals is a perfect opportunity to show why you’re a great fit for the position. Not planning ahead and saying the wrong thing can be a recipe for a missed career opportunity. Here are examples of not being prepared and what not to say:

  • Don’t answer with “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know.”

  • Don’t talk about money—leave direct talk about salary and benefits off the table.

  • Don’t wander into excess specificity—some details are best left unsaid.

  • Don’t set and express unreachable goals.

  • Don’t offer personal information not relevant to the question.

  • Don’t offer cliches—be yourself with an authentic vision of the future.

Related: How To Write a Great Career Goals Essay

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