Employers like to ask, “what is your dream job?” or “describe your dream job” for a few reasons… and there are some critical mistakes to avoid when answering this question in your job search.
You don’t need to tell a hiring manager that their position is your exact dream job in the job interview, but you do need to show that your dream job involves responsibilities that their work environment can offer.
Employers aren’t going to hire you if it seems like your dream job is completely opposite to what they offer.
That’s why it’s critical to answer this interview question correctly.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the best ways to answer this interview question, plus word-for-word sample answers that will impress a potential employer.
What hiring managers really want to find out is what you’re passionate about and what you enjoy. That’s why they ask you to describe your ideal job.
They want to make sure they’re hiring a job seeker who will be interested/engaged in this new job.
And the last thing they want is to hire someone who won’t be satisfied or interested in performing the duties in the job posting, since that person is likely to leave the role quickly.
So, employers ask you about your dream job or dream career to learn about your long-term career goals and what motivates you. They want to determine whether you’ll be happy in this job or not.
Companies don’t expect or need to hear that their job is your dream position. However, they’d ideally like to hear that there are some similarities.
For example, if you say your dream job would involve never stepping into an office again, and you’ve applied for an office job, it’s going to cause some concerns and probably cost you the job offer!
Don’t worry if this sounds tough to navigate… we’ll talk about how to answer, “tell me about your dream job” step-by-step now…
The first trick to answering this question without raising any red flags is to NEVER give a job title. Instead, tell them about your dream job’s characteristics.
Characteristics are things like this: a job that involves helping people, a job that will let you work with cutting edge technology, a job that is meaningful to you, etc. And you want to combine multiple characteristics, at least two.
I’ll give you a full example answer coming up soon if you’re still not sure exactly what I mean. But for now, the important thing to understand is that you do not want to name a job title when describing your dream job. So don’t say things like “Pilot, Doctor, Director of Sales, etc.”
Let’s continue with the next step to answering this question.
The next step when answering, “what is your dream job?” is to adjust your answer to make sure you’re showing some overlap between the qualities you want in a “dream job”, and the characteristics of the position you’re interviewing for.
Study the job description and know about the company before your interview. That way, you can name a few things that your dream job would have, that also seem to exist in THIS job.
That’s how to give an honest, upfront answer that also shows the hiring manager why you want this particular job.
This step is very important, and not showing some overlap between your dream job and this job can cost you the offer!
If the job you’re interviewing for is focused on managing a team and you talk about how your dream job would involve working independently and only being responsible for your own goals, that’s going to kill your chances of getting hired.
So if you’re interviewing for a leadership job, talk about what type of leadership your dream job would involve.
If you’re interviewing for a highly technical role, talk about what types of technical challenges you enjoy.
Hiring managers get excited when you show them some overlap between their job and what you enjoy doing… because that means you’re more likely to be motivated and stick around longer if they hire you.
To wrap up your answer, tell the interviewer exactly what you read or saw about their company that excited you. That’s how to put their mind at ease in terms of why you wanted this job.
For example, you might say:
“So that’s why I applied for this position. I saw the job description mentioned that this team is working to create life-saving medicines, and that’s something I’m really passionate about and motivated to work on.”
We’ll look at more sample answers in the next section, so keep reading.
Now that we’ve looked at the three key steps to follow when answering, “what is your dream job?”, I also want to give you a couple of word-for-word answer samples to help you create your own answer.
“My dream job would be a combination of creating products that are making a difference in the world and getting a chance to share them with as many people as possible. I was excited about this position because I read that millions of people use your company’s products each day and it seems like the work you’re doing is having a big impact in the world.”
Notice you’re not telling them your dream job in terms of a job title… like I mentioned earlier. You’re only sharing characteristics to describe your dream job, like your desire to make a difference and your interest in having a large number of people see and use your work.
And then you’re completing your answer by relating it back to what the company is offering, and showing you did a bit of research about them!
Let’s look at three more sample answers now…
“My dream job would be leading a team that’s creating cutting-edge technologies that are used by millions. I read on your job description that this Supervisor role has a chance to grow into a Manager in the next 1-2 years, and it seems like the apps your company is building are having a big impact on the business world already, so I knew I should apply!”
“I would describe my dream job as a mix of my last two positions. In my last role, I had the chance to lead a couple of challenging projects and coordinate across multiple teams, but I didn’t get to do as much hands-on work as I would have liked. In my prior role, I was doing the type of hands-on work that I enjoy most: product design and development. However, at that point in my career, I wasn’t doing any leadership tasks. I’m looking for a chance to combine those two areas now and I was excited to see this type of mix mentioned on the job description, which is one reason I applied for the position here.”
“My dream job is a position that combines my customer service skills but also places me in a leadership position where I can facilitate the career growth of others. I enjoy leading and began to take on some training and mentorship duties in my last two jobs.
I applied to this specific job because it seems like it’d provide an ideal career step, allowing me to keep working in customer service while also leading a small team and providing a positive impact as a leader.
In general, I like a challenge, too. So I’m looking for a position that gives me the opportunity to take on more or different responsibilities than my last job. I don’t like to stay stagnant and not be growing. I love that this position builds on my existing skills but also would allow me to hone new skills.”
Note how the example answer above shows the employer quite clearly why you’re interested in the job you’re applying for.
You can pick and choose which aspects of the position to discuss, but it’s always a good idea to spend time sharing why their specific position interests you when interviewing. You can do this in response to a variety of interview questions.
And you can talk about a range of job features/aspects, from company culture to day-to-day duties.
Always do something to show that you truly understand and want this job, though. That’s one of the more important final thoughts that I want to leave you with.
Now that we’ve looked at word-for-word example answers, here’s a quick recap of the method I recommend:
If you follow these guidelines, you will keep your answer relevant to the job you’re applying for and deliver a convincing response to, “what is your dream job?”
Just make sure you practice your answer a few times, too (with a peer/friend, or by recording yourself talking with your phone’s sound recorder app). That way, you’ll be sure you sound confident and clear when you describe your dream job.
If you want more tips, here are three other great interview resources to help you win more job offers:
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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