Questions about career aspirations are common during interviews. Recruiters want to know whether you are the right candidate and be a good fit for the role for the long-term. Before you go into an interview, it's important to prepare a well-structured answer to this question. In this article, we discuss why interviewers ask this question and outline how you should approach your answer.
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Why do interviewers ask about your career aspirations?
Interviewers, recruiters or employers usually ask this question to find out whether your long-term career goals and aspirations align with the vision and mission of the organisation. They also want to establish how long you intend to stay on the job. Even though staying in one job for decades is increasingly becoming uncommon, most employers prefer candidates who want to invest back into the growth of their company.
Employers may also ask about your career aspirations to test your passion and ambition for the vacant position. Both qualities are an indicator of how you would fit into the company culture. The question also seeks to help recruiters assess and understand your level of motivation other than the expected salary and benefits tied to the job. The answer you provide can help you stand out and set you apart from other candidates.
Examples of career aspirations
A career aspiration refers to the path you want your career to follow. You may want to be a manager of a company someday or start your own consultancy in the future. Whatever your preference, develop your career aspirations based on your skills, knowledge, talents, interests, values and lifestyle. This can make it easier for you to answer questions about your career goals during an interview. Here are examples of career aspirations you can consider:
Starting your own business
Starting a business is great for people seeking individualism, personal freedom and financial independence. It shows your drive and offers you the chance to become your own boss in your area of expertise. If this is one of your career aspirations, make sure to express that you're still interested in working for the company you're interviewing for.
Becoming an expert in your field
If you are looking for a position in a scientific or academic field, prioritise becoming an expert as one of your career aspirations. Employers regard experts as critical and innovative thinkers. They are people who focus on and devote to what they do. Becoming an expert does not happen overnight, though. You must put in the effort and work hard to improve your current skills and knowledge. Depending on your field of expertise, it might take up to 10 years of deliberate practice and education to improve and master your skills.
Earning a managerial role
A career aspiration to become a manager shows drive and good leadership skills. You may head large departments and supervise several teams. Even though managerial jobs come with many responsibilities, the expected remuneration and benefits are often highly lucrative. For these reasons, many people aspire to take up managerial roles. If you're applying for an entry-level position, you can express your desire to grow in the company and take on additional responsibilities over time.
Executive career track
Executives are the top decision-makers in a company. They hold a high level of power and authority over all business operations. Aspiring to hold an executive position shows a recruiting manager that you want dedicate your time to moving up the ranks of their company. Your high ambition demonstrates your focus and motivation to take the company to the next level.
Finding stable job security
To some people, career goals are all about finding a stable job where they can build their abilities, network with other like-minded professionals and acquire leadership skills. Seeking job security means you are stable, predictable and ready to learn. Employers often prefer candidates who are looking for solid jobs since they are more likely to stay with the company as they build their skills and knowledge.
Finding recognition through dedication
Your career aspirations may also be about gaining recognition within your area of expertise or earning acclaim and prestige. People who aspire to climb the career ladder have to dedicate time to their work and take risks to achieve their goals. You must have the motivation to enhance your skills and earn the status that you desire in the company's hierarchy.
How to answer questions about your career aspirations
Answering questions about your aspirations can be a challenge, especially if you are still exploring your options in other careers. Then again, it is difficult to answer this question if you know nothing about the company's vision and mission. In any case, your career aspirations should align with the company's long-term goals.
Here are a few steps to help you answer questions about your career aspirations:
1. Align your aspirations with the company's mission and culture
To increase your chances of getting hired, find out more about the company's mission and culture so your aspirations meet the objectives of the organisation. Relating your aspirations to the vacant role can help you stand out from other candidates.
2. Focus on your career
When answering questions regarding your aspirations, focus on goals that relate to your career. Reflect on your long-term career goals and explain how they can help the company achieve its objectives. While a salary is always an important consideration when searching for a job, do not mention it when answering questions concerning your aspirations. Instead, focus on the type of position you'd like to be in or the duties you would like to perform in your long-term career plan.
3. Explain how the role helps you to achieve your career goals
Find a way to explain how the advertised position can help you achieve your career aspirations. You want to reassure a recruiter that you are willing to stay with the organisation for a long time. This is a win-win situation for both you and the employer, as it affords you job stability to achieve your goals while the company has the benefit of a workforce that is familiar with the organizational mission. If you can, find other positions at the company that you could aim for after you spend some time in the position you're applying for.
4. Highlight your positive qualities
When discussing your career goals, talk about your positive qualities and how they can help move the company forward. Even if the interviewer asks a negative question, reframe it into something positive. Employers prefer candidates who are optimistic and enthusiastic about their careers, so use this method to your benefit.
5. Give focused answers
Interviews are all about being honest. However, this does not mean that you should provide more information than requested. Focus on your skill set and other career-related topics that can help you and the company grow professionally. Make sure you answer each question with confidence, but try to avoid going off on a tangent or discussing something completely unrelated.
Read more: Interview Question: 'Tell Me About Yourself'
Example answers to “what are your career aspirations?”
When attending an interview, remember that you need to convince the hiring manager why you're the best candidate for the job. This means you must personalise your answers about your career aspirations to the position you want. Make sure your answers line up with the job description. Here are a few examples that you can use as inspiration when answering questions about your career aspirations:
Example 1: Research associate
"My dream has always been to work as a research associate in a top institution like this. That is why I strongly believe this role is a great opportunity for me to apply my skills and help build the reputation of this institution as a leading destination for researchers. In the next 10 years, I see myself as a top research professor at your institution, and I hope to win the Nobel Peace Prize on research to this organization."
Example 2: Sales representative
"After completing my undergraduate degree in sales and marketing, I became specifically interested in how companies reach out to potential customers. With the emergence of digital marketing, customer engagement has gone beyond the traditional marketing strategies. I aspire to create a system that will make it easier for your company to reach more customers quickly and easily."