“So, what’s your dream job?”
This question, unlike many other interview questions, actually has a right answer.
But if you respond to “what’s your dream job?” with any answer that resembles “this one,” then I can guarantee you two things:
- You are not the first person to think you’re that clever.
- You will look like a silly little goober
Instead, you should make an effort to connect your answer to the job you’re interviewing for.
Just like “where do you see yourself in five years?”, the interviewer wants to make sure that the job you’re interviewing for matches up with the one you really want — so you need to be sure that you don’t imply that it’s a temporary pitstop, but instead a checkpoint on the way to your fulfilling life.
And as nice as that may be, the interviewer isn’t necessarily trying to make sure you’ll reach the pinnacle of self-actualization.
Rather, they want satisfied employees who see a benefit from doing excellent work.
Your real goal in answering this question is to describe a position that the job you’re applying for could feasibly help you reach — and our goal is to show you how.
Figure out what you know first
By the time you’ve made it to the interview, the odds are that the interviewer at least suspects that you have some of the qualifications for this job — the interview serves to confirm it, clear up any questions, and — in the case of this question — see how motivated you are for the position in question.
So why do they bother asking? They’re more or less trying to do two things:
- Get a glimpse of your values and what motivates you as an employee, because hiring someone is expensive and they want to make sure you’ll stick around.
- Figure out if you have the skills necessary to do the job, and see what skills you mention and value gives some oblique insight into this.
And it’s safe to assume that this isn’t your actual dream job, so let’s start with some things not to say:
- Something too specific. If it seems like your goals are too narrow, the interviewer may think you’ll be unsatisfied with the path the position will put you on. As mentioned before, describe the responsibilities, not the job.
- THIS POSITION LOL. No one is charming enough to pull that bullsh*t off.
- Something exceedingly unrealistic. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not ever going to be an astronaut or novelist. Sorry to squish your dreams.
- Something unrelated. Again, this question isn’t really to learn about your private passions but instead what you as an employee value. So what good is it going to do you in an interview for an entry-level accounting position in Milwaukee to announce that being a restaurant critic for the New York Times is your passion?
- CEO. For starters, it’s vague, but it’s also off-putting. Don’t come across as overly ambitious or indicate that you don’t have a grasp of a realistic career path.
Of course, you don’t want to tell them that this isn’t that ideal job for you. But that doesn’t mean that this job and the dream don’t share some common qualities.
So what actually is your dream job?
“My dream job is to manage a team of online marketers that creates creative and valuable channels of user acquisition across various verticals.
I want to continue to grow my client facing skills while improving my understanding of SEO and content generation. I have worked on several campaigns and believe that I have the skills to manage a team after several more years of developing my skills and knowledge.”
You should really do yourself a favor, if you haven’t at this point, and figure out what it is that you value in the jobs you hunt for.
Do you want to work outside? Is it important to you that you are able to be creative? Would you feel confined if you weren’t able to socialize with others?
In addition to making your overall job search easier, identifying what you do and do not want in a job will allow you to be genuine when you answer not just this interview question, but all of them.
Tie it all back to this position
So we’ve already said not to just say that it isn’t your dream job, but we also said not to say that it is — what gives?
First, don’t be too specific here on the title of your job, unless your dream job is genuinely the one you’re interviewing for. Which it probably isn’t.
The smart play is to think about what that job is (don’t tell them) and what it is about the position that makes it your ideal career, and then describe those characteristics in terms that relate to the job you’re interviewing for.
Would you love to work as an NFL player’s agent but you’re interviewing for a customer service position in a bank? Talk about how your ideal position would involve acting as the spokesman for your clients while operating within strict rules.
Do you wish you could sell (and sample) wine to restaurants? Discuss how you would love to put a product that you personally love and believe in in the hands of others, thereby helping them.
Be a little general
Your profile can also include skills you enjoy using and the type of company culture you thrive in. Describe what it is about this dream job that you love, and then back it up with personal professional examples that lead you to believe this is your dream job.
The job itself isn’t really important, it’s what about this job that you love that matters. You want to analyze what qualities the dream job as in common with the position you’re applying for.
- Is problem-solving your thing?
- Are you more engaged when there’s pressure?
- Are you a self-described people person who feels most effective when interfacing with the public?
Take a look at the job listing and the company’s page, looking for skills, qualities and responsibilities that are line with the ones that you listed on your resume — because that’s probably why they asked you to interview anyway.
Talk about the workplace, not the job
Once you’ve figured out what it is that you genuinely care about in both your dream job and the job you’re applying for, it’s an easy next step to just describe a workplace that’s similar — and oh my goodness guess what, it’s where you’re applying!
And the best thing about this answer is that it can be true. Your work environment is probably the single most important factor in your day-to-day happiness, unless you’re in crippling poverty and starving because your paycheck is so low.
Even if you love video games and your ideal job is as a video game tester, it’d likely be more enjoyable if you were testing games for a company you respected from the comfort of your home, rather than, say, any Walmart in America.
For this reason, answers that focus on the company and its mission rather than the position may be the best route.
In closing, remember to do these things
So when you are asked about your dream job, it’s important that you put the emphasis on the challenges and type of work environment you are looking for rather than any specific job, and that you make your answer relevant and tailored to the position you’re applying for.
- Be able to state clearly why that is your dream job
- Draw parallels to the job you’re applying for
- Talk more about the type of company