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The Best Ways to Answer "What Are Your Goals?" in an Interview

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

"What are your goals?" is one of the most commonly asked interview questions. Understanding the motives behind the question and planning your response ahead of time put you in the best position to answer effectively. In general, the hiring manager wants to know whether you have a goal orientation and how the organization and job might fit into your plans.

Goal Orientation

Employers often connect the dots that if you have a goal orientation, you also likely have self-motivation and a good work ethic. While not inherent, these are sensible correlations. You need to take time before the interview to map out a response to this question since some form of it is likely. The interviewer doesn't need to hear irrelevant goals or a whole list, but she does want to understand how the job in question fits in to them.

Making the Connection

The best response incorporates a connection between where you come from and where you plan to go, with the job taking center stage. You might say, "I spent four years learning about the role of a social worker because I have a passion to help people and want to build a career around that. This position is a great way for me to get started in that endeavor, while I can also learn from many of the veteran workers." This type of response helps the hiring manager better understand why you want the position and would work hard at it.


Turnover is expensive for companies, so managers also want to gauge your potential tenure with the organization from your goals response. This factor is often why the question is stated with five or 10 year specifics. You don't want to make a commitment you can't keep, such as "I'll be here for life," but you don't want to alarm the hiring manager with "I just take it one day at a time," either. Something like "I am just getting started in my career, but my hope is to develop a long, loyal relationship with the right employer where I can do this work that I am passionate about."

Growth and Development

Managers also like to hear that you have a desire to learn and grow. This trait reinforces your goal orientation and ambition. The interviewer also wants to hear whether your potential value as an employee will increase over time. You might say, "Marketing is my passion. While I've had a chance to get my feet wet in an analyst role, I really want to develop a broader base of skill and experience in this marketing coordinator position." This response shows professional ambition and a commitment to improve in your abilities.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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