Articulating Your Career Plans: A Guide to Impressing HR In Interviews

What are your career plans? Why did you choose this line of work? Tell us about your long- and short-term goals? 

During interviews, it's likely that you've been asked these questions about your career plans. Career planning is a common topic in interviews, and many candidates often struggle to provide a satisfactory answer. So, how can you tackle career planning questions without stumbling over your words? How can you answer in a way that resonates with HR professionals? 

In this blog post, we will break down the process into three key components: understanding the logic behind these questions, identifying the information interviewers seek, and crafting your response to perfection.

Gist Behind Asking the Question of Career Plans

Woman writing down her career plan in her notebook

Why are these questions so challenging? Career planning is a broad and complex subject, which might seem daunting, especially for newcomers. Are interviewers expecting you to sketch a detailed timeline of your career journey, outlining your grand achievements? Not quite. 

Interviewers ask this question with a dual purpose: to assess your alignment with the position and to determine your potential for long-term growth within the company. There's a calculated reasoning behind hiring decisions. No organization wishes to employ individuals with inconsistent career goals or those who appear distracted. When your objectives are unclear, your reasons for pursuing the job are unconvincing, or your commitment to long-term growth is uncertain, it raises turnover rates.

To answer effectively, consider what kind of person you'd like to be and the life situation you envision for yourself in 3-5 years. Reflect on the role you aim to attain in your chosen industry and profession. How do you plan to achieve these goals? And, why do you believe this company can aid you in reaching them?

Addressing Career Planning with Clarity

Now that you understand the motivation behind this question, let's explore the responses you should avoid. 

Responses like: 

  • "I hope to work hard and continuously improve my abilities" (You are already expected to do so)
  • "I aim to become a manager within three years" (Prompt the interviewer into thinking “I am not a manager even after 3 years”)
  • "I hope to settle down in this city, make money to buy a house and a car" (Irrelevant to the company)

So, how should you respond to career planning questions? Your answer should encompass self-awareness, intrinsic drive, and goal management.

1. Self-Awareness

Women journaling to understand her thoughts better

Begin by creating a profile for yourself that explains why you are a suitable fit for the job, taking into account your strengths, personality, interests, skills, and knowledge.

Skills and Specialties: If you possess exceptional skills or specialties, subtly highlight them. For instance, "I've been managing my sports club official account since my sophomore year in high school, honing my copywriting skills. I'm well-versed in new media's operations and playstyles, and I aspire to further develop in the new media industry."

Personality: Certain positions require specific personality traits. Emphasize your character strengths when applicable. "My personality leans more towards being calm and meticulous, making me adept at handling data and reports."

Interests and Hobbies: Showcase your enthusiasm for the job. For example, you can share about your passion for watching dramas and how it aligns with your job scope. "Operating video websites aligns perfectly with my passion for watching dramas and variety shows. I'm well-acquainted with the latest trends and the membership rules on various platforms."

2. Intrinsic Drive

Women climbing to reach her goals

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of "The Little Prince," once said, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." 

Companies value individuals with intrinsic motivation because they exhibit a strong commitment to self-improvement and resilience in the face of challenges. When discussing career planning, focus on your internal growth ambitions rather than external incentives like "aiming to become a manager" or "doubling your income in three years." Talk about your expectations for personal growth and describe your growth direction with higher-level skills.

For example, a UI designer might say, "I aspire to gain a deeper understanding of the project process, from product design to implementation. I aim to make strides in interaction design and creativity, becoming a UI designer well-versed in user experience." 

Similarly, an educator might express, "I plan to enhance my course design capabilities, refine my teaching style, and become an excellent teacher."

3. Goal Management 

Women separating her tasks so that she is clear on her career plan

After setting your goals, it's crucial to outline practical action plans, typically spanning 3-5 years. Tailor your response to suit your industry's requirements. For example, in industries or roles that demand certifications, you can mention the pursuit of specific certificates within three years. In creative fields, you can discuss the creation of self-designed works, representative projects, or an improvement in proficiency.

In summary, your career plan should encompass three key elements:

Self-awareness: Articulate why you're well-suited for the job based on your strengths, personality, interests, skills, and knowledge.

Intrinsic Drive: Highlight your aspirations, focusing on internal growth and improvement.

Goal Management: Present a clear, phased plan and specific goals to make your career plan more credible.

Drawing Inspiration from Job Descriptions

If you've just graduated and aren't yet well-versed in the industry's requirements, don't fret. Job descriptions, particularly those requiring 3-5 years or 5-10 years of experience, can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to these descriptions and use them as a reference for your own career plan.

For instance, if you're pursuing a human resources role, search for similar positions on platforms like LinkedIn. Extract key phrases and keywords to build a vocabulary that aligns with the expectations of the role. 

Here's an example: "I didn't major in human resources, but I've always been interested in this field. I've had internship experience in HR, giving me exposure to all facets of the HR landscape. This has allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of HR operations. I  want to be able to develop and hone my skills in the field of human resources as I aspire to be a Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP). Since I'm a recent graduate, I plan to learn extensively from my more experienced colleagues in the initial stages. Over the next 1-3 years, my goal is to become well-versed in all aspects of HR work, including labor law regulations, HR module operations, and especially organizational training and employee relationship management. These experiences will lay a strong foundation for me to support the business team's talent management activities."

In Conclusion

Career planning isn't just a question interviewers ask; it's a question you should ask yourself before embarking on a job search. Too often, people find themselves dissatisfied at work because they've failed to engage in meaningful self-reflection before applying. 

If you can't convince yourself of your career plan, how can you convince a prospective employer? Your choices are just as important as your hard work. If you don't position yourself correctly from the start, you may end up investing in low-quality effort, reaping no rewards for your hard work, and missing out on opportunities for growth.

We hope this blog helped you realize the importance of understanding and figuring out your career plan. If you need any help with finding a job, please do not hesitate to contact Recruitery today!