Unsurprisingly, interviewers want to hear where you think you are in your career and where you want to go next—hence you’re very likely to be asked a potential showstopper like Why do you want to work here?
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Within the broad requirement of wanting to know about your career goals, different interviewers have different reasons for asking:
- If you’re a recent graduate, interviewers want to know that you expect to start at the bottom and work up, rather than start at the top and see how it goes from there.
- If you’re in the middle of your career, interviewers want to know how you got there, where you want to go next and whether you have the energy and the ability to make the move up.
- If you’re hoping to move sideways or planning a fresh start in a new industry, the interviewer will expect you to be clear about why you think you should be given a shot, and that you know what will be expected of you in the unfamiliar environment.
- If you’re hoping for a job that’s significantly bigger and more taxing than the one you have, the interviewer will want to know that you’re motivated by something other than money—because money is usually not enough to keep most of us interested in a job we can’t do or that we don’t like, at least not for long.
- If you’ve had a large number of jobs recently, the interviewer will be keen to know why, and whether you’re likely to flee from them too.
It all adds up to the same thing: no interviewer wants to get you on-board if deep down you’d rather be somewhere else. Wrong hires are not just time-consuming and expensive to deal with—they can also be acutely embarrassing to the hirer’s reputation as a manager. Also, if you have no idea where you’re going in your career, chances are you won’t be in a position to inspire anyone else to travel with you—in which case you probably shouldn’t be trying out for anything resembling a leadership role.
For all these reasons and more, you need to prepare a strong picture of your professional outlook, and be in position to quickly relate it to the job specification and to the culture of the hiring company.
If the job is consistent with the career path you have envisaged for yourself, show them. If, deep down, you’d rather be somewhere else, then you should be.
Please describe the job you’ve applied for
The Real Question: We know you know, else you wouldn’t be here—but how well can you sum it up?
Top-line Tactic: Have the confidence to give them the briefest of answers.
At interview, the difference between success and failure often comes down to knowing when to stop talking, and, when that time comes, actually having the confidence to stop too.
Most jobs require at least forty hours a week of activity, and there’s probably something you could say about each hour. Therefore, this question truly does separate the gabblers from the strong and silent types.
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