Interview Preparation

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Career Goals

When having an interview, an employer may ask you about your career goals in public health. This is so they can understand your ambitions and see if your expected career path aligns with their organisation. When answering, they can tell if you plan to stay with them for an extended period of time or whether you see this job as a stepping stone in your career. That's why it's essential to consider a well thought out response before the interview.

In this article, we outline why employers ask 'What are your career goals?' and give tips for formulating the ideal answer.

Why employers ask about your career goals

Employers will ask you to describe your career goals to learn your intentions for applying to their organisation. They want to know if your career path will work with what they can offer. This question also demonstrates to employers if you have taken the time researching the organisation and the job role you’re applying to. If your goals are way out of alignment with theirs, this could be an indicator that you not genuinely invested in this job role. That’s why it’s vital to understand what you want from this job and determine if it can help you reach your goals.

How to answer 'What are your career goals?'

The steps below outline how to answer this question about your career goals:

1. Reflect on your long-term goals

Before the interview, develop your response, take a minute to think about your career goals and develop a career map. Consider where you want to be in the next few years and how your current situation can help you get there. Think about your values and interests and how they can align with a job.

2. Explain how the job role can get you there

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want out of a public health career, think of how this role you’re applying for can help. As the employer wants to know whether you’re worth investing time and resources in, you want to show them that you plan to stay with the organisation for a reasonable amount of time to make an impact. 

3. Avoid talking about personal details

When discussing your career goals, concentrate on your skillset and what you hope to learn. Avoid talking about personal (non-job related details), such as where you expect to live or plans that relate to your family. Aspects such as salary may be career-related, they aren’t suitable for this answer to the question. Alternatively, focus on how this job can help you professionally and create new opportunities.

Example answers to 'What are your career goals?'

Here are some sample answers to help guide you when planning your response:

1. I’m hoping to find a way to apply my public health analyst skills in a fulfilling way. Throughout my career so far, I’ve been able to work with some fantastic colleagues on interesting projects. Although these have been great experiences, I am ready to take my skills to the next level and work on more extensive public health issues. That’s why this role is so exciting to me. I noticed your organisation has previously worked on some crucial public health projects. Through this role, I think I could add some meaningful insights and move forward with your organisation’s programme of work.

2. Helping others has always been my passion of mine. I have always dreamed of translating this passion into a career. For the past three years, I have volunteered at my local food bank. Throughout this experience, I learned there is much more to managing a food bank than most people would realise. Now that I have this potential job opportunity, I hope to take this experience and apply the skills I have learnt to this role. If I were to get this role, my main goal would be to work my way up to a senior manager one day.

3. During my Public Health Master’s Degree studies, one of the unit’s was to take on work experience at a local authority. Throughout my experience, I learned how much I enjoy working with stakeholders and people from different backgrounds. When I saw that this position has an opportunity to work with lots of different people, I applied straight away. Meeting with lots of stakeholders is very fulfilling to me, and my experience at the local authority would help me adapt to the position well and hit the ground running.

4. Working as a researcher has always been a dream of mine, which is why I think this role is an excellent opportunity for me. Applying my aptitude for research and my love for nutrition is an ideal working situation for me. I also find that collaborating with other researchers is really fulfilling for me, which is another bonus for this role. Within three years, I want to work my way up to win grant money and be a lead researcher.

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