Interview Questions About Achieving Your Goals
Whether you're looking for an entry-level position or interviewing for a senior role, a question about achieving your goals is bound to arise. The most common way this is phrased is, "How do you plan to achieve your career goals?" This is often a follow-up to general questions about your career goals, such as "What are your career goals?" or "Where do you see yourself in five years?" With these types of queries, interviewers are trying to get a sense of your ambitions and also your ability to form and implement a strategic plan.
What separates a good answer from an exceptional one is a description of the active strategy and steps you're taking to achieve those goals, which also speaks to your motivation and call to action.
Elements to Emphasize About Achieving Your Goals
While you don't need to be incredibly specific with this answer, demonstrate your understanding of the company and industry and clearly communicate the path you're on:
- Details your accomplishments to date to show that you have already been able to effectively achieve goals.
- Delineate the ways in which your goals align with the job at hand.
- Describe any tangible achievements on the horizon.
- Convince the interviewer that this position is key to your plan for success.
- Describe your personal qualities that will enable you to achieve your goals.
Avoid answering in a way that puts the focus on salary (raises, bonuses, commission) or job titles. While you want to avoid a vague response, it's best to stay away from goals that may or may not be something you can achieve at the company.
You wouldn't, for instance, want to lay out your strategy for being promoted to a management-level position while interviewing at a company that doesn't have that role available.
Your Path to Achievement
Here are some personal characteristics to draw on to show how you plan to make your goals a reality:
- Accepting criticism. Describe how you learn from critique to improve rather than taking negative feedback to heart or letting it get you down.
- Following your passion. If you truly love what you're doing, it's easier to achieve those goals, as opposed to being driven by financial motive.
- Learning continuously. Someone who's constantly learning and staying updated on industry changes is in a better position to capitalize on success.
- Setting deadlines. Putting a date down on paper to achieve a goal helps keep you on track to meet it. Once you've met it, create your next goal and set another hard for that one.
Sample Answers on Achieving Your Goals
A handy approach to answering this question is to use the STAR approach. With this technique, you'll talk about a Situation or Task (S -T), the Action you took (A), and the Results achieved (R). This will help shape your answer while composing one that's uniquely yours. The technique also helps keep your answer focused, so you don't stray off-topic or speak for too long. Review these sample responses:
- I plan on gaining additional skills by taking related classes and continuing my involvement with a variety of professional associations.
- I noticed that your company provides in-house training for employees and I would certainly be interested in taking classes that would be relevant.
- I will continue my professional development by participating in conferences, attending seminars, and continuing my education.
- Over the next five years, I want to gain a deeper understanding of the stock market, build a list of clients, and start my own investment firm in the next decade. However, first I want to gain experience as an account manager with a large company like yours.
- I have a plan in place for getting my certification in the next two years. I have already completed the first exam and will be scheduling the second in six months. My completed certification will put me on the path to the larger goal of becoming a Senior Investment Analyst to take on higher level market analyses.
- After graduating in the top 15 percent of my class, my summer internship in marketing gave me solid experience from which to look for my first position. I look forward to working as a marketing assistant to develop my skills in the industry and advance internally from my role in the next several years.
More Job Interview Questions and Answers
Interview Questions and Answers
Typical job interview questions and sample answers.
Interview Questions to Ask
Questions for candidates for employment to ask the interviewer.
Many MBA application essay sets include a career goals essay question in one form or another, questions like:
- Chicago Booth: “What are your short-term and long-term career goals?”
- Wharton: “What are your professional objectives?”
- Kellogg: “Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.”
- Stanford GSB: “What do you want to do—REALLY?”
In this article, we examine the different elements that comprise an effective career goals essay and provide excerpts from a sample essay to illustrate lessons that you can apply when writing your own career goals statement. We would never want to want to suggest that there is only one structure that works when writing your career goals essay. Rather, the example and lessons are to help you to develop an approach to writing the essay and to evaluate whether or not your drafts are achieving the desired effect.
Lesson 1: Articulate your career goals clearly and directly in the introductory paragraph.
One effective way to begin an MBA career goals essay is to begin with a clear summary of short-term and long-term career goals. The sample essay was written by a private equity analyst who intends to work in private equity in the former Soviet Union after graduation. He opens his essay as follows:
Directly out of business school, I want to move to Moscow to work for a leading private equity group, such as Baring Vostok. Long-term, my goal is to start my own fund in the former Soviet Union, ideally based in Kiev, where I was born and where most of my extended family still lives.
Lesson 2: Summarize the connection between your career history and career goals.
You want to establish that your career goals are realistic by explaining how your career so far has prepared you for the future roles you plan to pursue. When possible specify relevant skills and experiences that have prepared you for your future professional objectives. The key is to be brief, especially if you have not been asked explicitly about your career progress.
In the example essay, our applicant emphasizes his private equity experience:
Although I was honored to be offered a 3rd year analyst position at Deutsche Bank, I decided to join Astrix partners, a private equity fund with $2 billion in assets. At Astrix, I have excelled by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of target companies and by building effective, trusting relationships with the management teams of our portfolio companies.
Lesson 3: Explain your motivations and why these career goals matter to you.
MBA programs were founded on the belief that business leaders can and do play a powerful role in contributing to the prosperity of society. Consequently, MBA programs are looking for future leaders who have a strong desire to make a positive impact in the world. Schools also want to know that the career goals are meaningful to you.
Later in his goals essay, our case study candidate reveals his motivations and sense of purpose:
We moved from Kiev to the U.S. when I was eight, but I have managed to maintain strong ties to my native country. On frequent trips to the former Soviet Union, I have seen first hand that there is a tremendous need for the kind of investment fund I envision starting.
Lesson 4: Summarize your career action plan.
Another important building block of an effective career goals statement is your career action plan – it includes the jobs and organizations you plan to work for along the way toward your long-term career goal. For each job on your path, explain briefly how the position and role will move you a step closer to your long-term aspirations in terms of things like additional skills, essential experiences, and a stronger network.
In his career action plan, our example candidate emphasizes his plan to work for an established fund in the part of the world in which he intends to start his private fund:
By working for a firm in Moscow like Baring Vostok for five to seven years, I will gain regional private equity experience and key business relationships in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (“CIS”).
Lesson 5: Share your career vision.
Ending the essay with a career vision statement can be powerful. Admissions officers at top business schools welcome grand ambitions, some even expect them. The statement should describe your vision for fulfilling what you believe to be the underlying purpose of your career.
In the later stages of his career, the writer of the example essay explains that he want to spur economic growth in the former Soviet Union both as an investor and eventually an economic advisor to the government:
Eventually, I want to serve as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian government. New energy and optimism not to mention capital are critically needed in the former Soviet Union. I want to be an investor who provides all three.
Sharing your excitement about your future career path with admissions officers via your MBA application essays is an important step toward earning an acceptance letter from a top MBA program. The coherence and clarity of your career goals essay can serve as an elegant proof of your desire to be a leader of consequence once you finish your MBA studies.
The lessons we’ve shared in this article can help you to ask yourself the right questions at the outlining phase and afterwards to gauge of the quality of the essay you write to answer those questions. Ultimately, the goal of your career goals essay is to convince admissions officers that you are a candidate who will use your MBA education to make a positive difference in the world. If you succeed, you will almost certainly increase your chances of being accepted by one of the top business schools.