How to Answer Questions About Your Career Path
Hcareers / APRIL 21 2021

A common question that candidates are asked during a job interview is where they see themselves professionally in three, five, or even 10 years. Hiring managers ask this question to determine if you’ll be a good fit for the position and for the company. 

In other words, does the role align with your career goals or could you jump ship if another more suitable position with another company comes along? Could the company play a part in your career trajectory, meaning you could be a prospective long-term employee? Or are your career objectives too ambitious to be realistic? The latter is a trait that typically translates to a new hire who will expect to be promoted very quickly and this can be an unrealistic expectation in many organizations.

The Future is Always Uncertain

Questions about your career path are also difficult to answer because who knows what will happen in three to five years? After all, no one expected the mass disruption that would be caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, least of all how it would interrupt many of our career paths.

Certainly, you can be honest about this point if an interviewer asks you about your career aspirations. But you should still be able to share details of your future career plans. Part of that response should include how the position for which you’re interviewing makes sense for your career path and even now working for the company could support your professional path.

Share a Carefully Crafted Narrative

No one’s career goals are set in stone. Our opinions, thought processes, and visions for the future evolve with age. Plus, life naturally brings about change that frequently alters our plans. 

Still, you’ll need to provide a response to this question, and the more detailed, the better. So before your next job interview, take the time to develop a list of career goals for yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Why am I passionate about the hospitality industry? Do you love guest service? Do you enjoy meeting new people? 
  • Where in this industry do I hope to gain professional experience in the future? Have you worked as a restaurant server and hope to bring your service experience to a hotel? Have you been employed as a front desk associate and hope to eventually work in hotel operations? Would you like to eventually work in a busy convention hotel? 
  • What existing experience and skills can I bring to my next employer? What about that experience and skillset sets you apart from other candidates? 
  • How would you like to build upon those existing skills? What is the time frame you would need to enhance those skills and to develop additional skills that could complement those you already have?
  • How would you like to put newly acquired skills to use and how will that bring value to an employer?  

Answer these questions for yourself and you should have at least an outline of your future career path that you can talk about in job interviews. 

Focus on Your Skill Set

Whatever your vision is for the future of your career, you’ll want to highlight how the role will help you enhance or possibly acquire a certain skill set that will serve you well going forward. But be careful. You don’t want to admit to not having the skills necessary for the position. Instead, you should talk about how the role will allow you to further develop those skills. 

For example, if you have a revenue management background that you acquired by working in select-service hotels, you can build upon your existing skills with a similar position at a full-service or convention hotel. 

This is also an opportunity to highlight your knowledge of the company. So if you previously worked in a marketing role at an independent hotel and are now interviewing for a marketing job with a branded hotel, you can talk about how you hope to expand your marketing expertise by working for a brand with a local or even global marketing presence. 

Long Term Commitment

One of the main reasons why hiring managers ask questions about your career goals is to determine how long they could reasonably expect you to stay with the organization. Again, these questions are a chance to demonstrate your insight into the company. 

That is, if you know they have a mentorship or management training program, this is a perfect time to bring up your interest in those offerings and even asking detailed questions about how employees qualify for the programs and what the curriculums entail. You can even ask if the hiring manager has participated in the program either to undergo training or as a program instructor. 

Even if the company does not have a formal management training program, you can still ask if any current employees have been promoted into management roles and what that path was like for them.

However, this is not the moment to bring up any tuition reimbursement programs that the company may offer. Like responses about salary aspirations, telling a potential employer during a job interview that you’d hope to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement offering is a telltale sign that the benefits are more important to you than developing as a professional. 

Don’t Say This

Never answer questions about your career goals with responses about your personal life, salary goals, or interest or disinterest in relocating. These types of answers tell the interviewer that you do not prioritize growing as a professional. Instead, they sign that you view work as a means to an end. So answers like these will work against you.

Similarly, if you hope to accrue more of the many perks that the hospitality industry offers to its employees –complimentary meals, business travel opportunities, the chance to interact with some very high-end and possibly well-known guests—you should not share this with a potential employer. This will not come across as a passion for the industry, but rather opportunistic.