Interview Answers: What Are Your Career Expectations?

When an interviewer asks you about your career expectations, he’s looking for insight into how you want to grow as a professional and how ambitious you are. He may be seeking someone who aspires to a management position, and letting him know you’re dedicated to working your way up the corporate ladder may inspire confidence in your ability to tackle increasing responsibility. When elaborating on your career expectations, frame your answer in a way that demonstrates your skills, your goals, and your commitment to the company.

What You Want to Learn

Address the expectations question by describing what skills you hope to master. If you’re concerned more with increasing your skill set than with earning the corner office, explain to prospective employers how committed you are to career-related education. For example, reply with: “At my next job, I hope to have increased coaching and mentoring opportunities, so I can learn not only how to contribute more effectively to my organization, but also how to boost others’ productivity and job performance.”

Your Goals and Motivations

The University of Montana Career Services office cites “What are your long-range and short-range goals and objectives?” as one of the most commonly used interview questions. However, the office adds that employers take this question a step further by asking when and why you established those goals and how you’re preparing to achieve them. Instead of providing a laundry list of what you hope to accomplish in the next five years, help potential employers understand what you value and how you approach your career.


What Kind of Impact You Want to Make

Explain to potential employers that you’re not only committed to your own success but also to making a difference in the world. Answer the career expectations question by explaining how you hope to help others or how you’d like to contribute to your industry. For example, if you’re interviewing for a medical research position, instead of saying your career expectations include eventually leading your own research team, explain why you’re interested in that line of work and what kinds of conditions you hope to alleviate or what kinds of patients you hope to help.

How You Want to Advance

Career website WetFeet advises you to match your career expectations to the opportunities offered by the company you’re interviewing with. For example, in her WetFeet article “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” writer Liz Seasholtz warns you don’t want to talk about working your way up the corporate ladder when you’re interviewing for a position at a small nonprofit organization, where opportunities may be significantly more limited than at a multinational corporation.

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