Interview Question: What Are Your Long Term Career Goals?

Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: March 07, 2024

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During the interview process interviewers tend to ask questions that may seem simple on the surface; however, they often possess a deeper meaning. It is important that you understand this concept and that you are able to decipher the underlying questions so that you are prepared to properly address them. Other candidates who are not aware of this fact might not provide full answers, leaving room for you to shine and stand out among the other applicants.

The question ‘What are your long term career goals?’ and similar interview questions, such as ‘where do you see yourself in [number] years’ or ‘how do you see yourself progressing in your job’ are commonly asked for a few reasons. With these questions, the interviewer is looking to gauge your mindset and determine if you have realistic goals and ambitions.

The questions may also be used to determine whether or not you are looking to maintain the position in the long run or if you are just seeking a job. If it does not seem that your goals line up with what the company can offer, then you may not be viewed as a proper candidate. Understanding these things can help you to know how to best answer the question.

Examples of long term career goals

Examples of goals when it comes to careers could be:

  • Learn a new skill or technology
  • Achieve a promotion
  • Gain management experience
  • Improve communication skills
  • Improve leadership skills
  • Develop a career plan
  • Improve efficiency rates with completing projects
  • Acquire a new job

Before we get to talking about long term career goals, you might be wondering about short-term goals. An example of a short-term goal would be learning a new skill or technology, achieving a promotion, or gaining management experience within a near-future period of time; that is, sometime sooner than later. A short-term goal should be something you want to achieve sooner than later.

And finally, what are the three types of goals? The three types of goals (when it comes to both life and career) are:

  1. Lifetime: Goals to achieve over the course of your lifetime
  2. Short term: Goals to achieve sooner than later; typically, within the course of one year
  3. Long term: Goals to achieve over a longer period of time — typically, between two years to five years
Pro Tip: Once you’ve achieved a goal, make sure to update your resume with your new experience/credential using our online resume maker.

Strategies for answering: your long term career goals

1. Show progression

Do not just dive into the ‘What are your long term career goals?’ question headfirst by rattling off your ultimate goal in life; rather, take time to paint a full picture. If the question has not already been asked, first share your short-term aims, then talk about your progression to your ultimate goal. This shows strong forethought and gives a positive impression that you are determined in reaching your goal, which will read as favorable with an interviewer. Be sure to give some detail where appropriate, but do not go too in-depth. Aim to keep your answer complete but concise.

2. Make sure it is related

If it does not seem like your long-term goals can be satisfied through the company, the interviewer may believe you are just looking for an “in-between job” and may not view you as a strong candidate for the position. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you take time to truly think through your goals and find a way to verbalize them so that it is apparent that the job you seek fits your plans. Reviewing the job description before the interview can help you in this endeavor.

3. Highlight your skills

You should try to highlight your skills as much as possible in all interview questions, and especially when speaking about your future plans. The interviewer will be evaluating your goals to determine if they seem realistic, and the skills, characteristics and attributes that you have should help to validate your ability to achieve the ambitions that you have set. It may help to map out your goals and list the skills needed to achieve and maintain them, then use that information to formulate your answer to the question.

Pro Tip: See how experts in your field talk about industry specific skills on their resume on our examples of good resumes page. 

4. Be genuine

Do not formulate your answer according to what you feel will impress the interviewer, especially if it is not true. This can prove to be quite problematic if the interviewer asks questions to delve deeper into your goals and you cannot come up with a proper answer. If you are caught in a lie at any point, you will more than likely be automatically eliminated from the candidate pool. The best policy is to be completely honest about your goals. If you do not already have goals in mind, take time to develop some, which can help you during your interview as well as throughout your career.

Sample answers

1 ) In the near future my goal is to secure a personnel management position within a company so that I can apply my Human Resource training and further hone my managerial skills. After a few years, I plan to grow into an executive position, overseeing a department, then ultimately advance to a Chief Operations Officer position. With my strong entrepreneurial spirit and management experience, I am looking to obtain my goals in the next 12 to 15 years.

2 ) My current goal is to become a certified counselor so that I may offer excellent service to my clients. I understand the value of training and experience, so I am looking to grow with a company such as this one, applying my analytical skills and customer service experience in an entry-level position and advancing to a counselor position over time. Long-term I would look to either head a department or open up my own practice.

‘What are your long term career goals?’ and related interview questions can prove to be tricky to some individuals. However, if you heed the tips and examples given and take the time to prepare yourself, you can ensure that you nail them during your interview.

Make sure you get the interview with the help of a downloadable resume template that jives with your industry and the company to which you’re applying.

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