Top questions about your career goals and how to answer them

4 minute read

In order to ace an interview, it helps to understand some of the most common interview questions you could be faced with and how to answer them. And this is particularly true when it comes to questions about your career goals, which come up most often.   

Recruiters will often ask you about your long- and short-term goals, and they do this in order to establish several things:  

  • Whether you’re planning on staying with the organisation for a long time.  
  • If you have realistic goals that this role can help you to meet. 
  • Whether or not you have a realistic view of the position and your future within the charity. 
  • How ambitious, passionate and motivated you are about the role and the cause. When applying for a role in the third sector, it’s particularly important that you display a genuine passion for your prospective employer’s work.  

Now, this can feel a little daunting, especially if you haven’t had an interview in a while. The good news is, we’ve pulled together a list of four common questions about your career goals below, and we’re going to tell you how best to answer these. 

1. What is your dream job?

It’s important to be as focused as possible when answering this question. Note that despite the word ‘dream,’ you should refer to something achievable and relevant to the role for which you’re applying. So mentioning that you’ve always wanted to publish a best-selling novel, or to become a well-known restaurant critic, won’t be the right answer (even if it’s true).  

Instead, the recruiter wants to know more about a real-world job that you aspire to, what kind of people you would like to help when you get there, and the kind of impact you would make. 

The best way to win the interviewer over is to explain the type of job you would like to have in 10 or 20 years’ time, referring to your personal career aspirations and the actual job title you’d like. To make yourself seem perfect for the job, you should choose a future role that can be reached from the position you will be starting in if you are successful in the interview. 

For example, “My dream job would allow me to make a positive impact on young people in need, which is why I’d one day like to be a Head of Fundraising for a youth charity.” 

questions to ask at a charity job interview

2. Why did you choose to apply to this role?

There are two main reasons why a recruiter will ask you why you’ve applied to their role specifically. Firstly, they want to see if you’ve done your research about the charity and what the role entails.  

And secondly, they want to see if you’ve thought about your own career and aspirations and how their organisation fits into your plans.  

So, if you want to answer the question in the best way possible, you need to explain very specifically what you’re looking for on your job search and how their role ticks those boxes. You can also mention anything unique about their charity, which particularly attracted you to it.  

Finally, for extra points, recap your existing skills and how these make you right for the role, thereby highlighting why you applied in the first place. 

You might say: “I saw that your ideal candidate is a natural relationship builder as the role requires regularly communicating with high-profile donors. I have extensive experience of speaking to supporters during my time at X past employer. I love forming long-term bonds with donors.” 

3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

 One of the key reasons that a recruiter will ask you this question is to determine if you’re planning on sticking around at the charity and if your goals/aspirations match what they can offer you.  

After all, a job interview is not just about an employer figuring out if you’re right for them, but you need to also decide if your charity of choice can offer you the training, development and progression you want. To answer this question, you should outline some of your career goals for the next few years. Try to be as specific as you can.  

For example, are there any specific skills you want to work on? Are there projects or campaigns which you’ve heard about and which you’d like to become a part of?   

Be sure to think about these before the interview so you have some goals and aspirations ready to share should the question arise.  

This might be something like, “In five years, I’d like to be running my own digital marketing campaigns to support x cause”. 

remote working in charity sector

4. If we were to offer you the role today, what would you do first?

 Recruiters will ask you this question as a way of seeing how quickly you’ll adjust to the new role and what goals and standards you’ve set for yourself in terms of getting started and contributing to the charity’s mission.  

So, in order to answer this question, you need to think about what you can realistically accomplish during your first few weeks and if there is anything that you should focus on as a priority. This is also an opportunity to outline which specific projects or campaigns you’re excited to work on or if you have any good ideas that you want to implement straight away.  

For example, if you’re interviewing for a UX Designer role, you might say, “I’ve spent a little time going through the donor journeys on your website, and I can see a few immediate quick fixes which I feel could bring about a significant improvement in conversions.” 

Preparation is key  

No matter what the recruiter asks you, remember, they’re not trying to catch you out, so try to be honest whilst also showing why you’d be a good match for the role. Take some time before the interview to compose your answer to these common questions and have a few go-to examples and ideas in mind to help you answer them confidently during the interview. Good luck! 

Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and founder of CV and careers advice websites StandOut CV and Job description library, as well as being a regular contributor to sites such as CV Library, The Guardian and Business Insider.

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