It’s a question most of us have considered at one point or another: what is your dream job? While it’s a good ice-breaker question and fun to daydream about, it’s also a query hiring managers frequently pose to job applicants during interviews.
Why do interviewers ask about your dream job, and what does the right answer look like? Read on to learn the motivations behind this question and how to formulate a response that helps you get the job.
Why do interviewers ask about your dream job?
Interviewers understand that candidates have professional ambitions beyond the role they’re applying for. They’re looking to see if those ambitions will motivate you in this job or if they’ll be something that holds you back. For example, if you ultimately want to have a hands-on role with customers, you might be frustrated by working a back office job.
Interviewers also want to learn what’s important to you in a job–work style, the opportunity for collaboration, and so on–to see if those things align with what it’s actually like to work at the company.
What a hiring manager is looking for in an answer about your dream career
When asking, “What is your dream job?” an interviewer is looking for authenticity. They want to hear you speak genuinely about your passions and values. This will help them understand whether the role is a good fit for you since employees who find meaning in their work tend to be happier and perform better at their jobs.
They also want to see if there’s a tangible path between this job and the one you ultimately want to have. If the two are totally unconnected, like a data entry clerk and a professional sculptor, you’re likely not the strongest candidate for the role.
How to answer the interview question “What is your dream job?”
Customize your answer for the job
The job you choose to mention should be something you could realistically attain down the road after holding the position you’re applying for. To get some ideas, it can help to Google ‘career path for [insert job here]’. Your dream job’s skills should be aligned with those listed in the job description.
Speak in general terms
Instead of naming one specific role, it’s usually a better idea to speak in more general terms about the qualities you’d like in your perfect position, like “a job that allows me to bring my creative ideas to life” or “a position where I get to help a large number of people.” Once again, you’ll want to make sure the aspects you mention are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Analyze your ideal job
To help formulate your answer, examining your preferences for an ideal job can be useful. Here are some things to consider:
- What does a regular day look like?
- What level of responsibility do you hold?
- What tools, applications, or skills do you use to do your job?
- What kind of people do you work with?
- What is the work environment like?
- What level of pressure is there?
These are all good aspects to incorporate into your answer.
How not to answer
Choosing an unrelated job
Even if you one day aspire to do something in a completely different field (or retire from work altogether), it’s best to pick a strategic answer for interview purposes that’s related to the position.
Choosing this job
A hiring manager wants to see that you have goals and ambitions for the future. If you say this role would be your ideal job, you risk coming off as cheesy at best and unmotivated at worst. The exception is if you’re far along in your career and have been working toward this position for a long time; in that case, it’s fine to say so and explain how you’ve specifically sought out experience that will position you for a role like this one.
Naming far-off goals
If the job you describe is too aspirational, the hiring manager might worry that you’ll be bored or unengaged in this role. So, be sure to pick something achievable but not unrealistic.
Sample answers to “What is your dream job?”
When talking about your dream position, deliver your answer in a positive tone, and don’t be afraid to show some emotion. While you can always learn new skills, you can’t fabricate passion. Letting your enthusiasm shine through is one of the best ways to help the hiring manager see that you have the drive to succeed and are the best candidate for the job.