Answering the “What Are Your Long-Term Goals?” Interview Question

Dana Guterman
Updated: July 24, 2020

If you’re gearing up for an interview, your current goal is pretty clear: You want to get that internship or job. But employers already know that. Now, they want to know your ambitions for two, five, or ten years from now. So, they ask the interview question, “What are your long-term goals?”

No one really knows where they’ll be in the future. And the interviewer doesn’t care if you want to have six teacup pigs and do community theater one day (which, honestly, sounds pretty great). The point of this question is to determine whether you’re a motivated candidate and, specifically, whether you see a future at the company. Additionally, the interviewer wants to see whether you’re able to plan, prepare, and prioritize, so that your goals are actually within reach.


How to answer “What are your long-term goals?”

Your career is just beginning, but right now, it’s all about proving prove that you know what you want—and it starts with this job. Use the following framework to structure your answer:

1. Share your long-term goal.

Your first move: State your goal. It should be something you want to achieve in the next 5–10 years, and it should be related to the internship or job at hand. It’s okay to be more general. If you know you want to hold a leadership position, but don’t know the specific title, that’s fine.

2. Connect it to your values and personality.

Your answer will pack more of a punch if you delve into why it’s important to you. And, of course, it will be even more impactful if you research the company ahead of time. Then, you can connect your personal goal to the company culture, assuring the interviewer that they’ve found a long-term partner.

3. Detail how you’ll plan, prepare, and prioritize to meet your goal.

To prove that you’ve actually given this some thought, you need to describe the steps you’ll be taking (as well as any you’ve already taken) to meet your goal. The best way to do this is by breaking your long-term goal into smaller, short-term ones.

Short-term goals might include:

  • Getting a certification.
  • Taking a class.
  • Attending an event or conference.
  • Networking with certain people.
  • Spending a certain amount of time per day/week reading, writing, coding, etc.

4. Conclude with how this role will help you achieve your goal.

Finally, tell the interviewer how this specific role is a perfect match for your long-term goal. If they hire you, they don’t just get an intern; they get an employee who will learn and grow with the company.


“What are your long-term goals?”: Example answers

Here are two example answers that hit all four points above.

Example 1: Entry-level administrative assistant

Ultimately, I’d love to be coaching C-suite executives across Fortune 500 companies one day. I believe change starts at the top, so I want to move leaders towards more effective, purpose-driven leadership that has a positive impact. To achieve that, I look forward to gaining project experience, and, eventually, pursuing my master’s degree and relevant coaching certifications. As an administrative assistant at your consulting firm, I’ll support top coaches and leaders, which means I’ll be learning from the best of the best. And I’ve already enrolled in a project management course online, so I’m on my way!

Example 2: Graphic design intern

My long-term goal is to be the creative director for an agency. As a graphic designer, I pride myself on creating out-of-the-box designs, but I thrive when working with different creative professionals. It’s inspirational. To focus on both the artistry and the impact of my design work, I’m double majoring in visual art and business administration. Going forward, I’m excited to build my portfolio and skill set as your intern, driving visibility for so many exciting local companies. Then, I hope to work my way up, complementing my graphic design work with knowledge of management, content strategy, and copywriting.


Figuring out your long-term goals

The long-term future can feel awfully far away. If you’re still figuring things out (like most of the population), that’s okay. Right now, you just need a long-term goal that’s ambitious, relevant, and realistic. To help you clarify your current long-term goals, consider the following:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you hope to learn one day?
  • Which skills do you wish you had?
  • What do you most enjoy doing?

Take some notes and do some research. Network. Do informational interviews. Write everything down. As certain skills, areas, or items appear multiple times, highlight them. When you start to notice recurrent themes, you’ll have your answer—at least for now.


In other words: “What are your long-term goals?”

Interviewers love to ask about your plans for the future. Other interview questions about your long-term aspirations might include:

Employers, just like employees, want to know that their investment will pay off in the end. Show that you’re someone who wants to stick around and grow, and you’ll be positioned for a successful long-term career.