Talking about future goals and career interests is a key component of almost every interview. But the questions“Tell me a little bit about why you want this position” and “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” regularly spark a sense of dread.
Admitting that you’re only there because you need money or because your school requires you to have an internship is honest but uninspiring. It is never wise to lie in an interview, but blatantly stating that you don’t care about what this organization does or stands for isn’t a great alternative.
Fortunately, there is another option for answering this question that communicates interest without lying. And that’s by explaining what you hope to gain in this role that would, ultimately, connect to your career interests. It doesn’t have to be an exact match to your long-term goals to teach you the skills you’ll need for that future.
Use these three tips to portray those career interests in a positive light:
We all pick and choose which positions we want to go for, in part, by what will make our resume look great. Regardless of all the other factors involved in deciding where to apply, buffing up the resume is always a consideration.
And there’s so shame in admitting so to an interviewer as long as you do it tactfully.
For example, Paul is a communications student hoping to go into broadcast journalism. However, he sees an internship for digital media writing open up at a renowned company. Of course, he goes for it.
He’s not going to tell the interviewer that he wants the internship because future employers will be impressed that he worked there. But he can say, “This company is an industry leader for a reason: you all know how to capture the audience’s attention, keep them engaged throughout a story, and fact-check all the research you use. If I am lucky enough to intern here and learn as much as I can, I will be better prepared to enter the workforce in any communications capacity.”
Paul identified which skills would transfer from this media writing internship to a broadcast journalism position. So even though this job title on a resume wouldn’t seem super relevant to future employers in broadcasting, the description of responsibilities and achievements from that internship will stand out.
By communicating these details with a recruiter like Paul did, you show that you’ve thought out what you find desirable about the position and how it connects to your career interests. So even if it’s not an exact match to your goals, the recruiter trusts that you want to be there and will feel more confident extending a job offer.
Five-year plans are a great tool at the interviewing stage. Whether simple or detailed, they help you identify your priorities, and they show recruiters your initiative and ambition.
But rather than regurgitating the exact steps, you plan to take to get your dream job, customize your answer to the organization.
For example, Martha wants to run her own business someday, and she lands an interview at a non-profit. She could say, “I definitely see myself as a leader, and I hope to have my own company someday. I know leaders at your organization are excellent at valuing their mission and employees. So I’m eager to learn from them.”
This response works in a number of ways:
To adopt these techniques yourself, clearly define what the position would do to help you get from point A to point B before the interview. This way, you can walk in with the confidence that you’re a good fit for each other without needing to fake it to a recruiter.
Recruiters love to see candidates who are passionate about the position. After all, that enthusiasm indicates they’re likely to experience job satisfaction in the role. But that isn’t your cue to get all excited about elements of the job you couldn’t care less about. Recruiters can tell when candidates are lying, so they will see through it.
Instead, focus your energy on what legitimately excites you. For example, if the recruiter hints that the employees love Star Wars puns so much that they’ve become a part of the company culture, take a minute to nerd out about your love of Star Wars. If the office designer threw away cubicles, and the workspace looks like your dream environment, let that show.
Even if the position itself doesn’t thrill you, showing enthusiasm over these smaller details demonstrates that you’re engaged.
Additionally, don’t be embarrassed to get carried away when discussing your career interests and goals. Although the recruiter may recognize that their company isn’t the perfect match for goals, your attitude will be memorable. And it’s far better to leave a positive impression about your authentic personality than feign passion for the job description.