When a hiring manager or an employer asks, “What Is Your Dream Job?” how do you respond?
This question can be very tricky to answer—especially if your dream career has nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for.
Here are some of the best examples of how to answer this question.
Professional Career Coach | Podcast Host, Career Foresight
Focus on your strengths
The best way to answer the question, “What is your dream job?” is to focus on your strengths rather than on a specific role.
The downsides of describing a specific job, position, or focusing on the industry are that you’ll tend to answer what you think the interviewer wants to hear, which can come off as insincere or short-sighted.
However, when you talk about your strengths, you give yourself an extra opportunity to highlight what makes you unique. Paint a picture for your interviewer of what working in your strengths looks like. This will make you a very desirable hire. The best part is, you’ll be setting the stage to walk into your actual dream job.
My dream job is one where I get to lead projects and take on exciting initiatives. My strategic and initiating strengths lend themselves to this type of work. I thrive when I have the opportunity to supersede expectations.
And work is the most fun for me when I’m figuring out how to make things more efficient, communicate precisely or anticipate problems before they occur.
As you can see, this response highlights my leadership goals, but with a focus on what I can bring to the table for the company right now. It would give me a great footing in that company (if I were to take the job) and an opportunity to negotiate for a role I really want to take on.
CEO, Select One
What is your dream job” can seem like a frivolous question to be asked in an interview, but your answer really can be telling. When a hiring manager asks this question, they are hoping to determine a few things:
- How the job you are interviewing for fits into your longterm goals.
- Your interests, and how they can aid you in your performance in the role.
- Whether or not you’d be happy in the role.
- If their company has opportunities for you to grow toward your ultimate career goals.
Your interviewer is not looking to hear your fantasies of being an actor or an astronaut. Typically they are bridging the gap between ideals and reality. They want to know where you want your career to take you if you had the choice.
If you’ve already covered your 5- and 10-year plans in the interview, you have more liberty to get creative with your answer, but even so, your interviewer is looking for honesty. Is the role you are interviewing for going to get you to where you want to be?
The role you are interviewing for should be one that could develop you towards achieving your dream job someday.
Otherwise, it isn’t worth your time. So the question is, what is your real dream job? If the answer isn’t spilling out of you, spend some time thinking on these points:
- What are you passionate about?
- How much do you want to work, and what schedule suits you?
- Do you enjoy working in a team or on your own?
- Is working from home important to you, or do you enjoy an office environment? How much time in the field or “hands-on” would satisfy you?
- How much money do you want to make?
You don’t need to name a specific job title to give your interviewer an idea of what your ideal job looks like. Knowing your answer to these five questions can help you both understand if the role in question is the right fit for you at this time.
Founder and Managing Director, The Recruitment Lab
Think big and have some fun with the idea
I think if you are sat in an interview for a specific role and you are asked ‘what is your dream job?’, you can answer it in several ways, but my advice is to go crazy, think big and have some fun with it. This is your dream job, why would you sell yourself short!
For example; my dream job (among many) is I would love to be a candidate in the American Presidential election…to be clear I do not want to be President, I just want the election fun.
The important thing though is to relate why I want my dream job to the details of the job being offered.
So, I see being on the campaign trail as being a mix of proactive and reactive actions to all the noise generated. I have to make things happen, I have to meet new people (on every level imaginable) and I have to win them over.
I have to have my eye on the budget and I need to keep the campaign donations coming in or things grind to a halt. I need to make sure I keep everything on message and consistent and I absolutely have to work with my team and get the very best out of them.
Now, imagine if I give that answer and I am actually being interviewed for my current job – Managing Director of a recruitment agency. Suddenly you see lots of crossovers and common ground.
Before you start sharing your hidden dreams though, a word of warning; I have seen candidates go completely off at a tangent with this question. If you are being interviewed for an accountancy role, do not tell me you want to be an artist unless you can actually link the two roles together.
Certified Executive Coach | Owner, The Showup Coach
Focus on your vision
How often have you been asked in an interview, “What is your Dream Job?” As you start speaking you wonder if your words are resonating; are they enough to get you the job? Did you say the right thing?
When you focus on words, you disengage from the most important part of an interview process, the vision. Words create a vision, and vision creates alignment, motivation and eventually a collaborative outcome.
While both you and the interviewer are listening to the words you each exchange, what’s happening in the background is that each of you is forming a vision of what it might be like if you were to join the company.
The words on your resume get you in the door. How you communicate and articulate your vision of how you might fit within their company culture is what is going to get you the job.
Before you even begin to head into your interview, it’s important to ponder a few questions:
- What is the companies’ vision for how they want to affect change?
- What is the vision this company has for its employees?
- What is the vision for how this company wants to grow?
For some, you might be thinking “there’s no way I can know all of this before the interview,” and you may be right. Employ some active listening or open-ended questions at the start of the interviewing process to gather their vision.
Your understanding of their vision combined with your vision of what you want from a job and how you want to work to achieve it will be the best answer you can give.
Just like you, your future employer wants to be inspired. They want to feel as though you connect with the vision of where they want to take the business and what they want to achieve.
Your past accomplishments are but a single indicator as to how you can work with them to make this happen. Your vision, however, will ink the deal.
Related: How to Nail a Job Interview
Vice President and General Manager of Military Division, Lucas Group
If you are early in your career, let me break something to you: you don’t know enough about yourself or what opportunities are out there to know the answer to that question yourself.
The best way to handle it is to say something like:
At this point in my professional life, I realize that I don’t know what I don’t know. Having said that, I imagine I’ll have a better idea of what my ‘dream job’ might be a few more years down the road.
At this point, I am focused on applying what I have learned and seeking opportunities for professional growth. Based on the research I have done on your company, it appears that this may be a great place for me to do just that.
HR Expert | Co-Founder, What To Become
Answers that explain the nature of work that the candidate aspires to do can shed the best light on the candidate’s personality and ambition
Personally, I appreciate it when the candidate doesn’t spit out an answer that is essentially a title. For example, a person who wants to work in a sales department at your company will say something along these lines:
My dream job encompasses the responsibility to deliver results by handling a whole team. I’m a team person, and one day, I aspire to have the job of a team leader.
My dream job would leave me enough room for personal and the development of my team while relying on my competences to bring significant value to the company.
For now, my dream job is the one that keeps me learning and growing, and which will allow me to become a true expert worthy of leadership.
The person has managed to avoid the direct answer and naming a title while explaining the nature of a job they would find the most satisfying.
Co-founder, Authority Hacker
We are often on the lookout for top talent and we ask all potential recruits this question. There are a few things we look out for when they answer.
Many people get tied up trying to pick an actual job title out of thin air, for example, “CEO of a big company”. However, we find that our most successful candidates take a much more skill-based approach to this question.
Rather than picking a job role, describe the job and work environment your skills are best suited to and you would find most motivating
I would love to be in a role where I can use my analytical thinking skills on a daily basis. It’s something I really enjoy doing so any role where I could use that on a daily basis would be my perfect match.”
“For me, the most important part of my dream job would be ensuring I have daily customer interaction. I thrive when talking to people and having conversations, so that would definitely be a key component of my dream job!
This helps us paint a much better picture of the things you’re passionate about without necessarily implying the job you’re applying for isn’t your dream job.
Partner | HR Manager, WinterWyman
Reflect on what was your favorite job and the reason behind it
Before you can answer that question, you need to ask yourself “of all the jobs I have ever worked, what was my favorite job?” Once you’ve determined which one it was, think about why.
Did you work at a summer camp as a young adult and love getting to help the kids? Did you work at a tech startup and love the variety of work and excitement, even if it meant things got hectic?
It might not be that you want the exact job you have already had but it might help you pinpoint things like wanting mission-driven work, a certain industry or a boss who really pushes you to develop more and advocates for you.
Once you’ve drilled down to the type of work/environment that you thrive in and enjoy most, you can use those attributes to answer the question about your dream job.
Career Counselor, Resume Genius
Every year, turnover can cost companies millions in recruitment. That’s why employers frequently ask candidates what their dream job is: to see whether they’d be happy working long-term in the post they’re offering.
When an employer asks you this question, you don’t have to be totally honest since your primary focus is landing the job — not creating a profound connection with the hiring manager over your hopes and dreams.
Of course, you shouldn’t name a completely different job from the one you’re interviewing for. If you’re interviewing for a marketing position, don’t talk about how you’d love to return to nature and become a gardener. Also, don’t say you’d like to be the CEO since this makes you look full of yourself rather than just ambitious.
Your answer should ideally reflect the job description
If it emphasizes the ability to work independently for hours at a time without much interaction with others, you should say that your dream job would be one in which you would be able to stand on your own two feet and prove yourself.
You should also talk about what got you interested in the field in question in the first place. Maybe you’ve been interested in law since an injustice affected a friend or relative, or maybe you’ve been hooked by cosmetology since you gave your friend a make-over for prom night. Doing this gives the interviewer an insight into your personality and shows your personal connection to the field.
Digital Marketing Executive, High Speed Training
A good answer to this question would be something ambitious that reflects who you are and what you value
It will be different for everyone and might vary from company to company. I would personally want to see an answer that shows the person has creativity, empathy, and passion.
Something other than ‘CEO of a company’ or another generic answer like that. It’s your dream job. It should be something almost unattainable and amazing – being paid to travel the world, being a rockstar, an astronaut, etc. Anything that’s wild but gives me an insight into what that person values from life and what they’re passionate about is a great answer as far as I’m concerned.
The worst answer is ‘this job’. Unless I’m offering you a headline slot at Glastonbury, I’d rather not be lied to in an interview.
Insurance Consultant, Life Settlement Option
Think about human instincts and what makes us feel good
When an interviewer asks you what your dream job is, they’re giving you an opportunity to demonstrate your working style, ambitions, and ways of thinking. They want to know if you get it, and by it, I mean modern work ethics, motivation, and corporate culture.
Anyone might consider their dream job to be one where you didn’t have to work hard and made a lot of money, but that’s not going to fly for an answer in this situation. Instead, think about human instincts and what makes us feel good.
As humans, most of us want to learn and grow, and we also want to feel like we’re contributing. If we’re not producing, we’re somewhat useless in society, and if we’re not learning and growing, then we’re stuck and we’re not on our way to a better place.
It feels good to produce, contribute and accomplish goals, regardless of your paycheck. It also feels good when we can collaborate with others and work towards common goals.
At the end of the day, work is work, and the best kind of work is when you’re actively contributing, meeting goals, learning and collaborating with others, and being a key player in the greater good of the business.
If you can achieve these basic human desires, then you might just be in your dream job. Perhaps you can describe a job that demonstrates that you get it.
Mentor | Writer, Insurance Providers
When you’re at an interview, you need to be genuine and answer honestly, but you need to make sure your answers also promote yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Consider what your actual dream job is with no agenda
Let’s say your dream is to become a motivational speaker. But the job you’re interviewing for is an environmental scientist. It’s time to pull out the Venn Diagram and figure out what these two have in common.
Helping is a word that would fit both circles of the diagram. Motivating could also work. Improving the quality of life for others would also apply. Now, as you describe your dream to become a motivational speaker, include those words as your “why” that is your dream.
Don’t leave it there though. It may be too obtuse. Now tie in how those same desires that make your dream job what it is are what makes you the perfect person to become an environmental scientist for the company with whom you’re interviewing.
To know how to answer “what’s your dream job question,” we need to understand why recruiters are asking it in the first place. Employee motivation and retention are essential things every organization should be careful about. This is why they have to hire smart.
The best way to determine whether someone is the right fit for the job or not is to understand his/her motivations and passions. And dream job question should give a proper insight into this question.
I would suggest to answer it honestly
There’s no reason why should we spend our time on a job that’s not fulfilling. I would advise candidates to say their dream job is the one which makes them improve, allows them to learn, and where management treats them with respect and holds them accountable for what they do.
On top of that, they shouldn’t forget to mention how this particular company fits into their dream job and how they can benefit each other.