Interview Question: "What Are Your Long-Term Goals?"

Updated February 24, 2023

A long-term goal is an ultimate objective that is meant to be achieved through a series of smaller goals over a long period, covering five to 10 years or more. Many professionals set long-term goals to establish a clear path of smaller goals and opportunities that lead to their success and fulfillment. In an interview, you may be asked to discuss your long-term goals and how they align with the company you’re interviewing with. You can review your long-term goals before an interview to prepare for this question.

In this article, we discuss the reasons potential employers are interested in knowing your long-term goals and explore some effective ways to answer the question.

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Why employers ask about your long-term goals

Many potential employers may be looking for a candidate who is committed to advancing within an organization and gaining valuable skills to become a future leader in their field. They may ask this question to determine the likelihood of you successfully working at the company for a long period of time. Understanding the roles, responsibilities and skills you want to have in the next five to 10 years can help employers determine your suitability for a role.

This question also allows employers to assess a potential employee’s goal-setting abilities, such as their skills in identifying achievable objectives, anticipating obstacles and setting smaller goals relevant to the overall objective. When you showcase that you have good long-term goals, you can better show your qualifications.

Related: Goals vs. Objectives: What's the Difference?

How to answer the question, “What are your long-term goals?”

Your answer needs to describe your long-term goals, the steps you already took to achieve them and the steps you are planning on taking. You will also have to describe how the role you’re interviewing for can help you achieve those goals. Here are the steps needed to formulate an answer.

1. State your long-term professional goal

The first thing you need to do is accurately describe your long-term professional goals. The most effective way to do so is by using the SMART goals framework. This strategy involves being specific with your targets, setting measurable milestones along the way to track your progress and making sure your goals are achievable and realistic. You can also use this method to ensure that your goals apply to your career.

2. Describe the steps you’ve already taken to reach it

To prove that you are determined and realistic with your long-term goals, you will need to describe what you have done to achieve them up to that point. Discuss some of the resume items that have helped you reach your long-term goals, including your education or early roles. This step enhances your credibility by showing your commitment and determination in planning and selecting appropriate steps for your long-term objectives.

Related: 70+ Resume Objective Examples

3. Outline the steps you’ll be taking

After properly describing the previous steps you took to achieve your long-term goals, you will need to outline your future strategy and how you plan to successfully reach your targets. Consider discussing your ideal next role or some of the career steps you plan to take soon. This step provides context and shows you have a well-thought-of long-term plan that you are fully committed to following until you reach the desired outcome.

Related: Effective Goal Setting: 7-Step Process for Success

4. Discuss how this role or company helps you achieve your long-term goal

After describing your long-term ambitions and going over both your past achievements and plans, you can help the interviewer understand that the organization they represent provides the ideal platform for you to fulfill your objectives. Perhaps your next ideal role is the very one you are interviewing for or is the next step after working in this specific position. This step will show that your long-term progress will not only benefit you individually but will also benefit the company.

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

Tips for discussing long-term goals in an interview

Besides specific steps to craft your answer, you can also consider the following tips to help you optimize your answer and interviewing experience:

Show that your personality matches the company culture

Wanting to stay with a company for a long time is the first step, but the potential employer must see that you are the person who can do that. Your long-term career goals should show that you have the character traits and work ethic that fit that organization, proving that you are a long-term match. Research the company beforehand, see what kind of personality they prefer their employees to have and highlight the ways you match that profile.

Related: What Is Company Culture? (With Definition and Examples)

Be ambitious, but realistic

Ambition is definitely one quality a potential employer is looking for in your answer, but you should also show that you are level-headed and realistic. If you portray your ambitions as being realistic and achievable, you can prove that you know what goals you can achieve in the near future and the long term.

Show a passion for the role

Employers are looking for people who find personal and professional motivations for their job. When discussing your long-term goals, it’s important to let the potential employer know that you have a desire to work to grow and refine your skills within the company. This tip can help you show your commitment should you be hired.

Read more: Interview Question: “What Can You Bring to the Company?”

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Example answers

Here are a few sample answers to help you craft your own:

Example 1

“My long-term goal is to manage the sales department at a company. I hope to achieve that by first getting to manage a smaller team within the next two to three years and generate enough results to be considered for department manager after another two years. I have prepared for this in the past year by taking sales courses, and I plan on taking up a management class in the near future. Your company’s sales department is very well-organized, and I feel would be the ideal place for me to achieve my goals.”

Related: Guide To Long-Term Goals (With Examples)

Example 2:

“My long-term goal is to become the head writer for a television show. This involves me gaining experience on a writing team in the next two years and producing work that gets me considered for higher-level roles when new shows go into development. This is the reason I earned my degree in creative writing, and I am planning on starting my master’s courses in screenwriting this fall. Your TV station is the ideal platform for me to succeed, as you have a long history of giving chances to young writers.”

Related: FAQ: Why Is Career Goal Setting Important? (Plus Examples)

Example 3:

“My long-term objectives are to become a full stack developer and work on a major social media platform. I know that to achieve that goal, I need to fully master both back-end and front-end development, and I am planning on learning both within the next three years by getting direct professional experience and completing various learning modules. I already studied back-end development in college and my previous role. In the next year, I plan on focusing on front end development so I can become equally skilled in both. Working as a junior front-end developer for your company will help me achieve that and set me on my way to becoming a full stack developer.”

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