How to Answer the Question “What are Your Long-Term Goals?”
Interviews are never the easiest of things to go through. You need the job and have little problem applying for it.
But the interview?
You would rather get the job having avoided it.
As much as you can prepare for it, you can never be too sure you have done enough. And the reality of many other candidates battling for the same vacancy makes it more difficult.
How did the other candidates perform? Were the interviewers pleased with them? Are their qualifications better than mine?
These and many other questions are likely to run through your mind.
Anyway, don’t worry much about them.
We are here to help you ease into the interview in a more relaxed and confident way. We do this through our guides on how to increase your chances of success during interviews.
In this guide, we will show you how to answer the question, “What are your long-term goals?”
You will know why you are asked the question in every interview so you understand the mind of the interviewer.
You will also learn the best way to answer it.
WHY DO INTERVIEWERS ASK THIS QUESTION?
No single interview question is asked in vain. Companies are busy and the amount of competition against them simply cannot allow them to waste time.
Still, they are willing to spend time in the hiring process to ensure they get the right person for the job.
With many people in need of the job, companies have to find ways of unearthing what candidates don’t readily show.
To do this, they will ask questions which have the ability to tell them more than the answer itself says.
The question of your long-term goals is one such question.
As you answer it, you will be unknowingly answering two other questions.
Are you likely to be loyal to the employer?
The real question is, “Are you willing to commit to us?”
If you were asked this question as it is, you would obviously say “Yes.”
But that’s exactly what all the candidates would do. All of them want the job.
But the company is not out to just provide a job. It is out to fill a vacancy with a person who will prove valuable to the company. Someone who will help the company achieve its goals.
When you are asked about your long-term goals, the interviewer is looking to see what can potentially reduce your commitment to the company.
If your goals are different from the company, then your commitment would quickly wane at the sight of another opportunity.
In such a situation, they would need to hire someone else after maybe 3 months.
This is because though you may be working, you will also be looking for another job.
Or, you may not be looking for another job, but your productivity will be low since you have no real self-motivation.
Consider the below statistics about employee turnover.
High employee turnover is not just an expense in terms of time but also money. There is money used in advertising the job vacancies.
There are costs incurred in calling and preparing for interviews. There might be training required for the hired candidate. The cost is high.
This is further aggravated when productivity has to suffer because of the vacancy.
All this happening when the competitor’s business is running smoothly.
Do you see why employers want to avoid this?
What are your personal ambitions?
Your personal ambitions have a lot to do with how you look at your work. If they are not in line with what you are currently doing, then your chances of being distracted from your work increase.
For example, you might want to become a leading engineer and inventor in the country. However, you have previously worked in a marketing position for 2 years.
Now you are applying for a manager’s position to improve marketing strategies.
Your experience and achievements make you a great pick for the job.
But how sure is this company that your desires won’t overrule your work commitment sooner than later?
For them to know this, they cannot ask you the question itself. You have prepared for the interview and obviously know what to say and what not to say. They therefore have to come up with a question that brings out the answer.
As you tell your interviewer that you want to be an engineer in the future, there is already a disconnect.
You already show that the job is not what you want to do for a long time.
That is a red flag for the company.
HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION “WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS?”
Though answering this question requires some tact, it’s not difficult. As with everything else in life, preparation is key.
There are ways of answering this question which will leave the interviewer sure that you are the best pick.
We have prepared a simple 7-step process which will take you through the question with relative ease.
An understanding of these steps will help you maneuver around any subsequent question coming after it.
This is because you already know what the target is.
Prepare in Advance
You can never undermine the place of preparation in anything you do. If you expect good results, then preparation is a must.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
You need to find out what are your long-term goals. This is both in life and career development. This will help you stay true to yourself.
As much as you can get the job, you want to ensure that your life is a happy one. This will happen if you’re doing what your heart is driving you towards.
Here is a very simple way of finding out your long-term goals. From this, you will also know what your short-term goals are or should be.
1. What life problems do you want to solve? – everyone has something in them that they would love to do to make life better.
You may have seen companies struggle with certain challenges, employees being mistreated, the elderly ignored, cost of living rising etc.
These issues in life usually drive people to want to make a difference.
If any issue is a problem you really want to solve, then that points you to your long-term goal.
It is the solution of that problem that will give you the satisfaction in life which you cannot derive even from money.
2. Is there currently a way of doing it? – there being a way of solving the problem does not necessarily mean that the problem is being solved.
This question seeks to find out how much work is needed for the situation to change.
If there is, then you know you are halfway there. If not, then you know that you have to start by making a way of solving the problem.
An example of this would be where people do not have an electricity connection. The way of getting them electricity is to have transformers nearby.
If none exist, then you know where to start. Alternatively come up with a solar solution to solve the problem.
With the answers to these questions, you have your long-term and short-term goals. Your long-term goal is to solve the identified problem.
Your short-term goal is to come up with a way of solving the problem.
Or put differently, position yourself where you will be able to come up with a means of solving the problem.
Answer That Question Only
An interview room is one in which tension can quickly build up. You can then find yourself answering questions you have not been asked.
It gets worse when you realize what you have just done and unsuccessfully try to make corrections.
All this time, your interviewer is looking at you wondering what is going on. According to the interviewer, you have just revealed something about yourself.
And it’s not the kind of thing that fits the job.
Will you be surprised if you don’t get called for the follow-up interview? You will probably be shocked if you get the call.
To avoid that mistake, stay focused and answer the question asked.
This is not the time to go into hobbies and leisure activities. Be careful that none of these get mixed with your answer.
It is also not the time to be detailed about your goals. You just need to be concise with your response.
Also look at the 2 questions you used to define your long and short-term goals. Compare them against the job you are applying for.
If the company looks like it is a means of you fulfilling your long-term goals, then mention your short-term goals too. Otherwise, stick to the long-term and show that you’re available for the long haul.
Prioritize Your Goals
You know your long-term goals. At this point, you probably have several, each touching on an aspect of your life. You may have goals in career, family, investment etc.
As good as these are, you need to know how to communicate them.
You cannot just list these and expect the answer to wow the panel. You will need to be strategic even in the order of mentioning them.
Start with the most relevant to the job and finish with the least relevant. And just to be sure, you don’t even have to mention the one not directly connected to the job.
This is because you are trying to align your goals to those of the company. Keep in mind that the company is not interested in just filling the vacancy.
It wants to fill it with the right candidate. It is therefore your responsibility at this stage to prove that you are the one.
For example, your goals may revolve around career development, setting up a school for autistic children and settling down in 5 years.
The organization’s vision and mission statements tell you that they work towards guaranteed education for all children.
In this case, the first goal you should mention is that of setting up a school. Do not start with career development.
You may need career development to get the school but this will not be the interpretation made by your interviewer.
To her, you will seem like the main thing is your career then the school is an afterthought.
Talk about your goals starting with the one closest to the heart of the company then the others. And do not mention more than three goals.
Connect Your Answer to the Company
Whatever goals you have, they have to be relevant to the organization. They are seeking to hire someone who will be with them for the long-term.
And for a long-term partnership, there must be something bringing you two together.
This is where the research you did about the company comes in handy.
The information you got will tell you a lot about the organization. This will help you know how to frame your response to this question about long-term goals. You need to show how you are connected with the company.
Show that you want to pursue the company goals because that way, you will build capacity for yourself. You might even be able to work with the company in your own project.
Below is an example of how to do this:
My long-term goals are to build a school for autistic children and help develop a suitable curriculum for them. This organization’s vision to see all children get educated marries well with what is in my heart. Pushing for this goal, I believe I will also get a foundation for what I desire to achieve later in life.
Indicate Willingness to Stay in the Company
Long-term goals are generally those which will take more than 5 years to be fully realized. This applies to both you and the company.
The company can be very pleased to work with you for a long time. Showing willingness to stay around can help increase your chances.
But just because you can stay, it doesn’t mean that you will stay. Your interviewer needs to hear it from you and not make an assumption.
You should therefore include it in your response. And as we pointed out in the above point, make it indirect but clear enough to be evident.
Make the point known without over-emphasizing it.
Here is an example of how you can communicate this:
My long-term goal is to build my own engineering company where highly-efficient microchips can be manufactured at a low cost. Since you produce raw materials for this process, I expect that sharing my ideas will increase the value of your product. In due time, I will also have gained relevant insight on how to go about my own goal.
This response does not say that you will spend the next 5 years in the company.
But it clearly shows your willingness to share ideas which will benefit the company in a big way.
Saying that you’ll gain insight in due time shows your understanding that the learning process will take some time.
Show Some Passion
If all employees could be passionate about their jobs, then businesses would flourish everywhere. Employers would be more than glad to give pay rises since profits would warrant it.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
It is very difficult to be passionate about something you don’t naturally love.
When you are passionate about something, you don’t need anyone to tell you to work at it. You might even try to create more time for it.
The drive to work towards it and accomplish the end goal will be naturally available.
Employers also look for naturally passionate people to hire. They know that such people will not need external motivations and constant reminders in order to work. They know that such people will guarantee the overall company productivity.
The question then is, are you passionate about the job you applied for? If you got the job, will you work at it with true passion?
When talking about your long-term goals, you need to show the passion you have for your goals. Mention your goals with emphasis on the satisfaction you will get from achieving them.
This will tell the interviewer the importance of those goals to you. She will know the value they carry.
If those goals are in line with the company’s goals, then it’s a guarantee that you will be a valuable employee.
That means your chances of being hired increase.
The worst thing you can do during an interview is to lie. You may think you are good at it but apart from the possibility of being found out, you are also being unethical.
Take note that HR officers and recruiting managers are quite experienced in sifting through answers given. They have worked with people and enjoy the benefit of understanding human behavior.
Lies can easily be spotted through small things which don’t add up. If a lie is spotted, you can be sure you’ll not proceed to the next stage.
Make sure your responses are true. The chances of you being hired are not hanging solely on the goals you have. There are many things being considered. Not being the best in one doesn’t disqualify you on the others.
HERE ARE SOME GREAT SAMPLE ANSWERS
What iѕ уоur long term саrееr gоаl?
“Tо bе hоnеѕt, I have always ѕееn thiѕ jоb аѕ аn answer tо mу career оbjесtivеѕ. It wоuld not be wrong tо say thаt I hаd ѕеt up gоаlѕ tо rеасh this роѕitiоn. Now thаt I have achieved thоѕе, I look fоrwаrd tо ѕеtting uр nеw оbjесtivеѕ. Aѕ a ѕhоrt-tеrm gоаl, I see myself gаining truѕt аnd сrеdibilitу. If I can bе rеliаblе within a ѕhоrt реriоd of timе, I саn bе truѕtеd with vаriоuѕ new tаѕkѕ. Whilе thе short-term gоаl саn bе асhiеvеd within thе initial уеаrѕ, my lоng tеrm gоаlѕ аrе rеlаtеd tо my dеvеlорmеnt in uрсоming уеаrѕ. I wаnt tо see myself tаking biggеr rеѕроnѕibilitiеѕ. Bigger rеѕроnѕibilitiеѕ mаturе уоur decision mаking. I undеrѕtаnd thiѕ can take ѕоmе timе but I am rеаdу tо work fоr thе саuѕе. Thеѕе gоаlѕ wоuld аlwауѕ bе mоtivаting mе to achieve nеw heights.”
“I have bееn in this fiеld fоr a few уеаrѕ nоw. I hаvе ѕеt uр аn оvеrаll short tеrm and lоng term gоаl fоr mу саrееr. Following a ѕimilаr раttеrn hеrе, I hаvе аddеd fеw роintѕ to thе goals. As a short-term targets, I wаnt myself tо utilizе thе еntirе ѕеt of ѕkillѕ I роѕѕеѕѕ. In thе раѕt years, I hаvеn’t bееn able tо use my full potential. Thiѕ jоb орроrtunitу has givеn mе the сhаnсе to tеѕt mу ѕkillѕ tо thе full. Elаbоrаting mу lоng-tеrm plans, I wаnt tо tаkе uр lеаdеrѕhiр rеѕроnѕibilitiеѕ. Likе, bеing in charge of a tеаm for a сеrtаin task. Whilе I will wоrk оn thе lоng-tеrm plans, thе ѕhоrt-tеrm gоаlѕ can pave thе wау fоr it. I аm соnfidеnt thаt I саn help myself to ассоmрliѕh thеѕе objectives.”
“I hаvе kept my ѕhоrt-tеrm goals fаirlу simple. Aѕ I went through the jоb dеѕсriрtiоn fоr thiѕ роѕitiоn, I ѕеt up thе goals tо асhiеvе thе rеԛuirеd targets mеntiоnеd in thе dеѕсriрtiоn. I want tо dеlivеr more than whаt iѕ expected of mе. As fоr the lоng-tеrm goal, I ѕееk bigger tаrgеtѕ ѕо that I саn соntinuоuѕlу tеѕt myself. Bigger tаrgеtѕ саn be tough. I nееd tо shape mуѕеlf during these initiаl уеаrѕ ѕо that whеn thе bigger tаrgеtѕ аrе ѕеt, I саn dеlivеr thе best оutсоmеѕ. I hаvе decided tо wоrk on thеѕе principles.”
“My take оn short tеrm аnd lоng term gоаlѕ is рrеttу сlеаr. Thе long-term gоаlѕ соnѕtitutе of ѕhоrt-tеrm gоаlѕ. Lеt mе explain this a bit. In ѕhоrt-tеrm gоаlѕ, I wаnt to learn multiрlе sets оf ѕkillѕ аnd master thеm. I саn dо thiѕ bу wоrking оn various tasks from diffеrеnt fiеldѕ with аn experienced team. Aѕ ѕооn as I fееl that I аm еffiсiеnt in multiрlе ѕkillѕ, my lоng-tеrm gоаl соmеѕ intо play. I wаnt tо be аѕѕignеd diffеrеnt rеѕроnѕibilitiеѕ whiсh suit my wide range оf ѕkillѕ. Tо be аblе to give rеѕultѕ in diffеrеnt sectors саn bе a fruitful wау to рrоgrеѕѕ in mу career. Yоu саn see thаt thе ѕhоrt tеrm аnd lоng term gоаlѕ are correlated. It is hоw I want thеm tо inѕрirе mе.”
“Fоr any career-oriented individual, ѕhоrt term аnd lоng tеrm gоаlѕ рlау a mаjоr rоlе. Wоrking in a соrроrаtе аtmоѕрhеrе can teach уоu to set uр targets. Fоr mе, the tаrgеtѕ are interrelated. Aѕ for nоw, I want tо wоrk with the team оffеring mу full cooperation. Cоntributing nеw ideas and ѕhаring my еxреriеnсе аrе my initial ѕtерѕ. In thе future, I wаnt tо guidе nеw rесruitѕ tо thе wоrk environment. Hеlрing them ѕеttlе dоwn in this fiеld саn bеnеfit thе оrgаnizаtiоn аѕ well as my аbilitiеѕ. Thеѕе аrе thе gоаlѕ I want tо асhiеvе in the nеаr futurе.”
“Whеn I rеаd аbоut an opening in this еѕtееmеd оrgаnizаtiоn, I рrераrеd a blueprint оf thingѕ I want tо ассоmрliѕh with thiѕ jоb. Lеt mе get thiѕ straight, I hаvе a littlе еxреriеnсе and a rооm for imрrоvеmеnt. Sо, my primary gоаl iѕ to obtain аѕ much knоwlеdgе about diffеrеnt circumstances аѕ I саn. “Nеvеr stop thе learning рrосеѕѕ” is my short-term goal. Mоving on tо thе biggеr objective, I аm аwаrе of thе орроrtunitiеѕ fоr аdvаnсеmеntѕ givеn in this оrgаnizаtiоn. I wаnt tо рrоgrеѕѕ thrоugh my hаrd work and аttаin a new ѕеt of ассоmрliѕhmеntѕ in thе coming уеаrѕ. I аm sure thеѕе two wоuld gо hand in hand tо bring оut the best in mе.”
You now have what you need to prepare and answer this question well. Develop an answer that fits your goals perfectly and practice saying it.
Do not cram the answer lest you sound mechanical while giving it. Just know it and understand how the pieces fall into place.