The Secret Formula to Answering "What's Your Dream Job?" in an Interview
It’s important to be able to articulate your dream job. Not just for personal reasons, but also for when you’re asked about it in interviews. But, how can you even begin to describe your ideal job, especially to someone who’s clearly going to be judging your response? Just picking a place to start is a head-scratcher.
Here’s a hint. Career counselors like to think about good jobs as the intersection of your skills, interests, and values. That’s a good way for you to approach it as well. Talking about your skills will give you an opportunity to sell them a bit—after all, it is an interview. Your interests will show your investment, and your values can help illustrate your fit with the company.
Break it down into three parts, like this.
1. What Skills Do You Want to Use?
First, let’s talk about what you’re good at doing. It’s likely you’ve already had the chance to talk about this topic a bit during the interview, so it makes for a nice transition. Highlight the skills that you enjoy using most, not just the ones you’re a superstar at. This is about your dream job, so don’t shy away from mentioning any that you want to grow as well.
Here are a couple of ways you can begin your response:
- I’ve mentioned my experience with __. My dream job would definitely have to relate to that. I’d also love to grow my skills in __.
- I’ve thought about this before, and I know I would want to keep honing my skills in __ as well as learn more about __.
2. What Interests You?
Next, it’s time to talk about what interests you. Think big picture for this. What drew you to your industry? What’s something you did as a kid that’s actually found its way into your work? What is it about your career that keeps you engaged? Weave that in.
Build on your answer like this:
- I’ve been interested in the __ industry ever since I first discovered __. That combined with my interest in __ and __ means I’ve been hooked ever since.
- In terms of job content, I’m interested in work that involves __ and __. I’ve been curious about things like this ever since __, so I would definitely want that to be part of my dream job.
3. What Are Your Values?
Giving a sense of what your career values are will give the interviewer an idea about what motivates you; it’s a good way to bring the focus back to the company you’re interviewing for (assuming, of course, that your values align with the company culture). It also adds some extra complexity to your answer. You’re not just saying, “I want an interesting job that I’m good at.” I mean, that’s nice, but this is your dream job we’re talking about!
Wrap up your response with something like this:
- Based on my skills and interests, in my dream job, I would want to __ as related to __, ideally in a company where I could __ and __. These are both really important to me, and I’m excited to see that they seem to be equally important to this company.
- Basically, my dream job would be to __ for __ in a position that would allow me to __ and __. I value this last point in particular—it’s the reason I’m so excited to be interviewing for this position.
Notice how none of this included an actual job title? It’s not necessary. Don’t pigeonhole yourself with anything that official. Instead, give the hiring manager a more nuanced response by covering your skills, interests, and values. He or she will get the chance to learn more about you—and you have more flexibility to line up your career goals and the position you’re applying for. That’s a win-win.
Photo of dreamcatcher courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author