“What is your dream job?”
Employers ask this opinion-based question fairly frequently, and it can put you on the spot if you’re not prepared for it.
Fortunately, you’re preparing for it by reading this article! We’ll go through the dos and don’ts of how to answer this interview question.
Variations of This Question
Your interviewer might use different words to ask this question. Here are a few variations you may encounter:
- Can you describe your dream job?
- How would you describe your ideal position?
- What does your ideal career look like?
- What is your dream occupation?
- What is your dream career?
- What is your perfect job?
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
This question is ultimately about motivation. What makes you tick? What makes you feel fulfilled at work?
Employers want people who will be satisfied with the job because they’re likely to work hard, remain in the position longer, and be loyal to the company. Someone who’s unfulfilled might look elsewhere or avoid putting in the same effort.
It’s also a way to gauge your inclination for leadership and teamwork. Are you more of a leader or a follower? Do you prefer working alone or on a team?
Your interviewer wants to see if you’re a good fit for the position. If your dream job has you working in an environment vastly different from the one you’re interviewing for, you’re probably not a suitable candidate.
How to Answer: “What Is Your Dream Job?”
There are many ways to answer a question like this, but using the 3-point structure outlined below will help you develop an answer that ticks all the right boxes.
Let’s get into it:
1. Describe the Characteristics of Your Dream Job
Start by talking about the characteristics of your dream job without focusing on a specific job title.
Later, you’ll refer back to these characteristics and relate them to the job you’re applying for. Focusing on a specific dream job risks pigeonholing yourself into a role that might be mismatched.
Discuss the types of tasks, responsibilities, environments, or other aspects of your dream job that line up with the role you’re interviewing for. This will be important later on in your answer.
To give you some ideas:
- If you know you’ll be expected to work with customers, you might say you enjoy greeting and interacting with customers on the shop floor.
- If you know you’ll be expected to work well with others, you might say you want to be working as part of a team.
- If you know you’ll be expected to work alone, you might say your dream job involves a lot of independence and autonomy.
Here’s an example:
“My dream job would involve working with animals in a setting where I also get to interact with people. I’d like to be in a busy setting where I’m able to do a variety of tasks throughout the day and week.”
2. Talk About Why You Value Those Job Characteristics
Talk about the personal values, beliefs, or preferences behind your dream job characteristics.
You want to show the interviewer that your values align with those in the workplace and, depending on the type of work it is, with those perceived by the public.
To give you some ideas, if you mentioned:
- Interacting with customers, maybe you value helping others, seeing smiles, and making a difference in people’s day.
- Working as part of a team, maybe you enjoy learning about others’ viewpoints and using those to improve your own skills.
- Having independence at work, maybe you value the sense of accomplishment that comes with problem-solving on your own.
Here’s an example:
“I believe that by caring for animals, I’m also caring for the people who love them. I like to stay busy and productive while at work, and a variety of tasks will allow me to keep learning and growing.”
3. Explain How the Job You’re Interviewing For Fits Into It
Finally, you’ll need to point out the similarities between your dream job and the job you’re applying for.
Your interviewer wants to know the job they’re offering aligns with your dream job. If your answer is far from the reality of the position, they might feel you won’t be happy there. Remember that employers want productive, satisfied employees.
You don’t need to make the job seem like a perfect match, but you should draw some parallels between what you’ve described as your dream job and the job you’re hoping to get.
If your dream job entails dealing with customers, working in a team, or having autonomy at work, talk about aspects of this job that will involve customer service, teamwork, or the freedom to make decisions.
This is where studying the job description will make all the difference.
Here’s an example:
“This role as a veterinarian’s assistant would allow me to work closely with animals, which is my passion. It also seems like a job that would keep me busy throughout the day.”
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
Sample answers are the best way to see a templated answer in action, so let’s cover a few unique responses using what we’ve outlined above.
Example #1: Lots of Interaction
“The perfect job for me would entail a lot of interaction with customers, as well as the ability to have guidance and function on a team.
I’m a sociable person and I like helping others with their problems. At the same time, I feel most comfortable when I can follow directions and don’t have to make a lot of decisions on my own. I like having documents to refer to so I know I’m doing what’s expected.
I see a lot of overlap with this job because I’d spend my day working with people who need my help. I also like that there are policies and scripts available, so I wouldn’t have to guess at what I should say next.”
Example #2: Working With Food
“My dream job would be in the restaurant industry, where I can work with food and create new recipes.
I’m a very creative person who’s always enjoyed cooking. I feel I’m caring for others when I develop new recipes and offer my food. It’s truly my passion. I also enjoy working in the busy food-service environment where there are always new things to try.
This job as a restaurant cook would allow me to have input on the menu. Your restaurant uses high-quality ingredients and changes its menu often, so I know I’d find it challenging and inspiring to work here.”
Example #3: Applying Skills
“The right job for me would be one where I could use my landscaping and design skills. I’d also like to have a lot of independence and do my best working alone or with a small team.
I enjoy working with plants, and it’s my belief that outdoor areas are a vital extension of indoor living spaces. It’s important to me that I put my degree in landscaping design to good use.
The job description says landscapers at the company work alone or on a two-person crew, which suits me very well. It would also give me the opportunity to further develop and practice my skills.”
How NOT to Answer
Few interview questions beg a wrong answer as much as this one, so you need to be extra careful about how you decide to approach it.
These are the worst offenders:
Don’t Say Your Dream Job Is “This Job”
Unless the job you’re interviewing for is truly your dream job, don’t try to make it look like a perfect match.
This will appear too convenient and ultimately disingenuous, which, shockingly, isn’t a trait employers value very much. It can also come across as desperate, which implies you don’t really want this job, you want any job.
Instead, focus on the overlapping characteristics of your dream job and the job you’re interviewing for, as this will appear far more genuine despite having the same outcome.
Don’t Give an Irrelevant Response
If your dream is to live on a boat and write novels but you’re applying for a front desk position, it’s best to not mention that particular dream.
The employer doesn’t want to hire someone whose perfect job is the opposite of the job being offered. They know you won’t be happy there, and that can cause you to be less focused, less productive, and leave the job sooner.
Even if it’s far from your dream job, try to find something about it that does check off some of your “dream job” boxes. There’s almost always some overlap.
Don’t Grossly Overshoot
Your dream job might be CEO of the company, but sometimes you can dream too big.
Your interviewer wants to see realistic and reasonable expectations. Saying you want to take over the company is neither if you’re interviewing for an entry-level or even mid-level position.
Instead, stick to how the job you’re interviewing for has some of the characteristics of your dream position. If you want to set an ambitious goal later, that’s fine, but this isn’t the time to talk about it.
- Learn the different ways the question might be framed
- Talk about the characteristics of your dream job
- Discuss why those characteristics appeal to you
- Explain how this position fits into your idea of the perfect job
- Don’t pretend that this role will be your dream job
- Don’t talk about unrelated goals and dreams
- Don’t say you want to run the company