May 24, 2016
There you are trying to make a good impression as you discuss the job description you’ve been agonizing over, and the interviewer asks, “What’s your dream job?” If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: “Is this a trick question?”
Don’t worry. It’s not. This question is about preferences and aspirations. Those interviewing you are trying to get a sense of what you enjoy doing and in what type of professional environment you hope to someday find yourself.
If the opportunity at hand is truly your highest ambition, then go ahead and let the interview team know exactly why that’s the case. Otherwise, hopefully there are components of this job that jive with your ideal scenario.
Either way this question gives you three good opportunities. It gives you the chance to show your enthusiasm for the position at hand, to discuss how the skills the position requires fit into your ultimate career goal and to explain a bit about the environment in which you’d ultimately like to work.
Enthusiasm is usually regarded as an attractive quality in a potential hire. If the job for which you are interviewing is your dream job then you are probably totally excited. Sharing that vibe in an authentic way will likely win you points with the interview team.
Even if this job isn’t ideal, there must be a lot to relish about the opportunity, or you wouldn’t have thrown your hat in the ring. Talk about what direction you ultimately see yourself heading and how that attracts you to this particular job. Note that this job will strengthen skills and give you the experience you need as you pursue that path.
You don’t want to make it sound like you regard this job as just a stepping stone or that your tenure would be short-lived. So address that by touting a track record of longevity, if that’s the case for you. You may also mention that in past positions you have recognized that your career path can change as you learn new things and discover new passions.
You want to show that you harbor ambitious career plans, but that you are also flexible and open to the possibility that the job for which you are interviewing may yield unanticipated opportunities, should you get the position.
Review the job post and examine the skills the position requires. How have your previous roles honed your skills for this job? How will the position for which you are interviewing take that a step further and continue your professional growth towards your ultimate career ambition?
You want to show that you have been thorough in your review of the job post and that you understand what they are seeking and how that relates to your credentials and experience. If this position is your ideal job, you want to demonstrate that your skill set matches the institution’s needs.
Even if this is not your ideal job, it’s authentic to say that this job requires a bank of skills that are components of your dream scenario.
Another area you can focus on is professional environment. For example, “I have always wanted to work on a college campus, and here I am interviewing for a job in admissions.” Then you can mention the details regarding why this is appealing to you. “My parents were professors, and I grew up on a campus.” Again, focus on how this position fits into your dream scenario–whether it is a partial or complete fit.
This question can be intimidating because it’s complicated to talk about a future ambition beyond the interview in which you are currently participating. But try not to think about it in such a territorial way. Having professional dreams and ambitions is a positive, and pursuing a position that gets you there is also a good thing. Answering this question well takes preparation, reflection, clarity and confidence. Don’t worry. You got this.