We look at some of the do’s and don’ts of answering one of the most popular, and most difficult, interview questions.
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:
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.
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:
And it’s safe to assume that this isn’t your actual dream job, so let’s start with some things not to say:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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