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The one question you might be answering totally wrong in interviews

As you’re preparing for interviews, you most likely look things up like common interview questions, how to answer them, and also research the company. These things are all good — and knowing yourself and coming prepared to an interview will help you present yourself as a strong candidate.

With on-campus interviews happening daily at Purdue, we are able to obtain a lot of feedback from recruiters on how students can better prepare for interviews. While recruiters are usually very impressed with Purdue students, there seems to be one question that stumps a lot of students preparing to enter the workforce.

“We have a set of standard questions that we ask each student. Every student we talk to should be prepared to answer these types of questions. Specifically, “Where do you want to be in a year, 3 years, and 10 years?” We are very hesitant to hire even well qualified candidates who have not thought about their future. Graduating college is not the end, but rather an important stepping stone. We are far more likely to hire a person who knows that in 10 years they want to be working in a different field unrelated to our work, than someone who has not thought it through.”

Even as you search for “good ways” to answer the question, it’s hard to find an answer that sits in the sweet spot between being overly scripted and robotic and being authentic. The Internet will tell you to answer things like, “I want to be a manager in the Operations department and build my skills in XYZ,” or “I will master my profession and become a leader within the company.” While these may be good answers for some, they can seem a little hasty and forced coming from a college student.

After all, we will most likely be completely different people 10 years from now, and we probably have little professional experience to back-up these lofty claims. Because of this, it can seem fine and sincere to resort to the “I don’t know yet” answer — but as you can see, recruiters prefer for you to show that you do have some ambitions, even if it means you won’t be working for them 10 years from now. As I thought of different situations a student might be in, I thought of some answers that would be closer to hitting that aforementioned sweet spot in your interview.

If you’re interviewing with your dream company:

“Well, it’s been my dream to work for XYZ company since _____, so I would really like to work my way up within the company and explore all the different aspects of this career so that I can be an impactful employee and contribute to the growth of the company.”

This works because you’re showing that you plan to stay with the company and that it is in line with exactly what you had been hoping for, and that you’ll continue to be dedicated to the job once you begin.

If you’re interviewing with a company you’re so-so about:

“Well, I really hope to continue building my skills in x, y, and z and would like to continue working in a position where I am able to grow in these skills and contribute to the growth of the company.”

A statement like this shows that you are interested in this particular job because it will set you on the right path to where you hope to be (which is building your skills and growing into a leadership position), but you don’t necessarily specify whether or not you plan to stay with the company long-term.

The most important thing to communicate in your answer to a question like this is that the position will help you meet your career goals. Whether it’s your dream company, a position that will help you build skills in something you’re interested in, or just something you’re passionate about — the interviewer just wants to know that you didn’t just haphazardly apply to the job and that you do have ambition.

If you’re still wanting to figure out the best way for YOU to answer the question, set up a peer mock interview with the CCO to practice interviewing.

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