How to Answer “What Is Your Dream Job?” + Examples

Some interview questions are so unusual (think: “What do you think of garden gnomes?”) that they’re bordering on loopy. Others, however, like “What is your dream job?”, are far simpler to answer (though, admittedly, a little less exciting to reflect on).

If you are, in fact, interviewing for your dream job, then answering this common interview question becomes easier. But what happens when your ideal profession differs from (or has nearly nothing in common with) the position you’re being interviewed for?

Let’s talk about the dos and don’ts of answering “What is your dream job?”, and look at why hiring managers ask this question in the first place.

Why hiring managers ask this question

Contrary to what you may be tempted to believe, hiring managers don’t ask this question to fish for compliments. They’re not expecting you to say that the role they’re interviewing you for is the role you’ve been dreaming of since you were a middle schooler.

Like all interview questions, this one is designed to reveal an aspect of your character. Specifically, what you consider important in the workplace and what you value in life more generally. For example, if you mention that your ideal profession incorporates lifelong learning and helping others, the interviewer can get a clear sense of what motivates you and what you’re aiming for.

5 tips for answering “What is your dream job?”

Keeping the following points in mind can help you structure your answer effectively, boosting your chances of being offered the role.

1. Be (fairly) honest

If you’re interviewing for a customer service role at an electronics store while dreaming of one day becoming the CEO of an environmental organization, you may be tempted to blurt out the truth. After all, honesty is the best policy, right? The answer is yes — but with a grain of salt.

A lot of the time, people are forced to work in professions they’re less than thrilled about while working on their own goals in parallel. While an unfiltered, honest answer could, in theory, show ambition, you still want to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the role you’re being interviewed.

2. Avoid naming a particular job title

As you can imagine, telling the hiring manager that there is another role you want, different from the one you’ve applied for, can bring up a lot of questions for them… Whether they share them with you or not.

“Why have you applied for this one, then?”, for example, or “How long are you planning on staying here?”. Naturally, the more they start to doubt your commitment and interest, the likelier they are to reject you.

So, while you can certainly describe your ideal profession in broader terms, you may want to avoid getting too specific.

3. Describe the nature of the profession

Now that we’ve looked at what should be avoided when answering this question, let’s look at some of the things you should include in your answer.

Consider your ideal job. Though you’re by no means expected to write a job description, on the spot, for your dream role, think about the duties and responsibilities it would come with, as well as the working conditions. Do any of those match some of the characteristics of the role you’re interviewing for? That should form the foundation for your response!

4. Mention specific skills you’d like to use

Talking about your strongest soft skills (or even some technical skills, if that applies) is a great way to show the hiring manager what you bring to the table.

Think about the knowledge, skills and abilities you possess, and how your ideal job would encourage you to put those to good use. Then, think about how it all overlaps with the job you’re being interviewed for; how many of those qualities would you be called to demonstrate if you were to land the job? How would your skill set make it possible to perform its essential functions with ease?

5. Relate your answer to the role at hand

When you avoid mentioning a specific job title and focus on discussing skills, duties and working environments instead, it’s easier to relate your answer to the role at hand.

If you enjoy working autonomously, you could say that your ideal job would be one where you’re trusted to make decisions and solve problems. Then, you could say that that was one of the requirements you saw on the job listing (for this role), and that you’re excited at the prospect of developing those leadership skills further.

Example answers

Below are some sample answers that can help you form your own response to this question, whether you’re at the beginning of your career path or have worked for some years.

Sample answer for graduates

Though it lies in the distant future, I dream of one day owning a startup. Whether we like it or not, technology will continue to play a big role in how we work, and services such as telehealth — still considered controversial by some — are here to stay.

I dream of improving these as much as possible, to preserve the aspect of human connection even where technology acts as the “middleman”.

That’s why the UI/UX designer role for your new healthcare platform appealed to me so much!

Sample answer for interns

My dream job would be one that allows me to make a positive impact in people’s lives. That’s what stood out to me about this internship opportunity and your NGO more broadly.

As a marketing intern here, I would be producing content that hopefully inspires our audience to form better habits and take better care of their health. That would be far more meaningful to me than interning at a company that promotes products which are, even indirectly, harmful to people’s wellbeing.

Sample answer for experienced professionals

A role I would find extremely rewarding would be that of team leader. In my opinion, a leader is someone who empathizes with others, inspires them to perform to the best of their abilities, and instills a sense of unity and support among team members.

That is why the role of assistant manager at ABC Inc stood out to me: I would be given the chance to strengthen my leadership ability, learn new things and develop my own leadership style.

Mistakes to avoid

In some cases, such as when answering certain behavioral interview questions, there is no wrong or right thing to say; the question is designed to assess your personal way of thinking. In other instances, though, the hiring manager does expect to hear (or not hear!) specific things.

When discussing your ideal profession, it’s best to avoid the following:

  • Making your answer extremely specific to the point of sounding uninterested in the role you’ve applied for.
  • Not relating your answer to the requirements and responsibilities of the role you’re currently interviewing for.
  • Failing to expand on your thoughts. For example, a short answer like “This role is my dream role” (though hypothetically flattering) provides no insights into how you think.
  • Being dishonest. It’s one thing to form a smart answer based on your aspirations, and another to say things just because you think the hiring manager wants to hear them.

Final thoughts

Making a great impression at a job interview relies heavily on your ability to present your skills, interests and experience in a way that relates to the job listing requirements as well as the company culture. After all, if you’re to work for a company and collaborate smoothly with its existing employees, your attitude plays just as big of a role as your level of expertise.

We hope our article has shed some light on why potential employers inquire about your dream job, as well as how to respond. Can you think of any other tips on answering this question? Let us know in the comments section!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on October 17, 2014.

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