You’re likely to hear interview questions like these whether you’re a recent grad or have decades of experience:
“Why did you choose this career?”
“Why did you choose this job?”
They might also ask you a more specific question, like, “why did you choose teaching as a profession?”… or, “why did you want to become a salesperson?”
So it’s a good idea to think about this when you begin your job search no matter what.
In this article, we’re going to look at good and bad answers for why you chose this job or career, and word-for-word sample answers for, “why did you choose this career?”
Let’s get started…
They’re honestly curious, first of all.
If you’re working as a lab scientist they’ll be curious how you got into it. Did your parents have scientific careers? Did you fall in love with the topic after an introductory course in college? Etc.
Then, they want to figure out whether you enjoy the field. Are you passionate about it, or at least interested?
Because if you seem like you care, you’ll work harder and overcome challenges. If you don’t seem to care at all, you’re more likely to quit when things get tough. Or come in late. Or slack off.
So you DO need to seem like this is a career that you care about it and want to be in.
But you DO NOT need to seem like you’re obsessed with it. I get it (and the hiring manager does too) – work is just one part of life. You just can’t seem like you’re miserable or have no interest whatsoever.
Now that you know why they ask why you chose this career or this type of job, let’s talk about how to answer.
You can give a wide range of reasons when they ask, “why did you choose this career?”… so there isn’t just one correct answer.
I’m going to give you 8 sample reasons for why you chose this career or job below. I suggest pick whatever’s the closest to the truth for you. That way, you’ll be more comfortable and confident when answering.
Don’t feel pressure to say this if it’s not true. But if it’s accurate, this is a great reason to give for why you chose this profession.
You never want to sound like someone else pushed you into a career. However, it’s perfectly fine to say a friend or family member recommended a certain job or profession, and you found you like it a lot. The key is to end your answer by saying you discovered you really enjoy this job.
The more you seem to like a job or career, the more employers will want to hire you!
Only use this if it’s relevant to your career- like teaching, science, medicine, etc. But if so, this is a great answer to give for “why did you choose this career?”
Maybe a past employer let you try a new job function and you found you like it a lot. Transferring within a company or taking on a new set of responsibilities in a past company is a great reason for how you discovered and chose your current career path.
Maybe you read about how software is changing the world, and you decided to major in Computer Science and become a programmer.
Or maybe you read about how environmental engineering is going to be an important field in the future, and decided it’s something you’re passionate about helping out in.
Those are perfectly good answers.
Maybe you saw a documentary or even an online video (like YouTube) that highlighted a certain career or profession, and got you interested. That’s fine!
There’s really no “bad” answer for how you initially heard about a career path, as long as you follow up by saying you’ve become more and more interested in it as you’ve learned more.
Maybe a professor told you that you’re really talented in a certain area and said you’d do well taking it up as a career. That’s a great reason for choosing a career or job.
I had a past professor who told me I should apply for an economics internship because I was doing well in his economics class. I didn’t end up doing it, but this would have been a great story to tell – it shows you performed well in your academic studies and earned the confidence of your professor.
Employers will love that type of story as an explanation for why you chose your career.
This last reason for why you chose this job or career is pretty open-ended. Any personal story can make a good explanation for choosing a field of work.
For example, maybe you had a loved one who battled with cancer, and you decided you wanted to become a cancer researcher.
Maybe a family member suffered from dementia and you knew you wanted to work to find a treatment.
It doesn’t have to be a health-related example, either. Any personal story for why you care about a topic or are fascinated by a topic will make a good answer for why you chose this job you’re interviewing for.
Don’t just explain how you originally found this career. Show you’re still glad to be doing it!
That will put the hiring manager’s mind at ease that you’re still motivated to do the work, and that you’ll be a big success if they hire you.
Now let’s look at some word-for-word sample answers for why you chose this career.
“My father was a biology professor and encouraged me to learn about science from a young age. We’d go to the museum and buy science kits and toys from the gift shop, so even when I was 8 or 9 years old I was experimenting and learning, and I ended up loving it. I chose to major in Biology in college and now that I’ve graduated, it’s still what I’m most excited about and interested in doing professionally.”
Note: I mentioned this earlier, but just to make it clear – you do not have to say you’ve loved this career forever.
You don’t need to be some child prodigy. It’s totally fine if you didn’t discover this career until age 20, 30 or higher. Don’t feel pressure on this and don’t lie. You just need to sound excited to be doing this work now.
“I entered college and was still undecided on my major. I took my first biology class my second year and fell in love with it. I had a great professor who made it really fun, and he had previously worked in Big Pharma so he had a lot of great stories of what it’s actually like to work as a Scientist. I decided to choose this major and graduated three years later. Since then I’ve worked for two different Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies in R&D and I’m looking to continue my career along this path.”
“I chose to work in IT because I’ve always been genuinely interested in technology, particularly how quickly technology is advancing. I also did quite a bit of research before choosing this career while I was in college, and it seemed to have high job satisfaction and great long-term prospects for career growth. So I felt that this career fits my personal interests and also my career goals.”
Earlier in this article, I gave you 8 good examples of reasons for choosing your career. While those aren’t the only good sample reasons, they’re some of the most common and safest reasons to give.
You can certainly come up with your own story, too. It’s best to tell the truth when answering interview questions about why you chose this job, why you’re passionate about this career, etc.
So if none of the sample reasons above are true, you can come up with your own.
However, there are some reasons you definitely want to AVOID. So to conclude, I’m going to give you some things you should NOT say…
For example don’t say, “I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in college so my father told me I should choose biology.” You need to sound like a self-starter, at the very least.
Why would a company hire you if you don’t sound excited about the work you’d be doing? If you’re unsure about the career you chose, you can go home and talk with friends or family and come up with a plan for what to do. But a job interview isn’t the time to figure it out. You’ll just cost yourself jobs. So sound excited!
Always prepare a real answer ahead of time. This isn’t an interview question you want to be caught off-guard by, or have no response for. Employers expect you to have specific reasons for choosing this career or job.
We all go to work for money – the hiring manager gets it. But if you say “I chose biology because my friend told me I’d make $100K in less than 4 years,” you’re not getting hired most likely. Come up with some other reasons for choosing this job and wanting to work in this industry.
Even if that’s true! While you might be interested in a company for these reasons, saying it to them will not get you hired. They want to see actual job-related reasons you’re excited to come work for them.
That’s how to answer, “why did you choose this career or job?” in your interviews.
If you want help preparing for other must-know interview questions, we have a detailed guide here.
Or practice these three similar questions below:
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked 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.
Get our free PDF with the top 30 interview questions and answers. Join 10,000+ job seekers in our email newsletter and we'll send you the 30 must-know questions, plus our best insider tips for turning interviews into job offers.