How to answer "How do you approach setting and achieving goals?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

Employers often ask job candidates how they approach setting and achieving goals to determine whether they have the necessary skills and mindset to succeed in the position. Goal-setting is a crucial aspect of most jobs, and employers want to see if you have a strategic way of thinking and can develop actionable plans to achieve success. This question allows employers to evaluate your ability to manage and prioritize tasks, plan for the future, and stay motivated to achieve your objectives.

By answering this question, you can demonstrate your organizational, planning, and problem-solving skills—the abilities that all employers look for in candidates. It can also showcase your work ethic, determination, and resilience in the face of challenges and setbacks.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it is important to showcase your ability to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals. Here is a potential framework for your answer:

  1. Start by explaining your goal-setting process: Begin by explaining how you start the process of setting goals, such as building a list of objectives that you want to accomplish and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  2. Provide examples: Share examples of goals that you have set in the past, how you accomplished them, and the strategies you used to achieve your objectives.
  3. Explain how you track progress: Share your approach to tracking your progress towards your objectives, such as leveraging tools to monitor daily, weekly, or monthly progress and check-ins with stakeholders to receive feedback.
  4. Show how you adjust your approach as needed: Discuss ways in which you evaluate your progress, adjust your approach or pivot when necessary to stay focused on your goals, such as evaluating what went well and what could be improved upon.
  5. Showcase your motivation and resilience: Finally, explain how you stay motivated and persistent when faced with challenges or obstacles in the pursuit of your goals.

As always, be sure to tailor your answer to the specific position and company you are interviewing for. Use specific language and real-life examples to illustrate your approach to setting and achieving goalsand demonstrate your value to the employer.

Sample answers

1. Bad answer: "I don't usually set goals. I prefer to just go with the flow and see what happens."

This answer is a bad one because it indicates a lack of direction and motivation, which are essential qualities for any job. It is important for the interviewer to know that you have the ability to set and achieve your own goals.

2. Good answer: "I like to set SMART goals - that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Once I have set a goal, I break it down into smaller, more manageable steps and create a plan for achieving each one. I also track my progress regularly and adjust my approach if necessary."

This answer is a good one because it demonstrates that you have a structured approach to goal-setting and a willingness to adapt if things don't go according to plan.

3. Bad answer: "I always set really ambitious goals for myself because I like to push myself to the limit."

This answer is a bad one because while it is important to strive for excellence, setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. In addition, it may indicate a lack of realism and an inability to understand the resources required to achieve a goal.

4. Good answer: "I believe in setting both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals keep me focused and motivated on a day-to-day basis, while long-term goals help me stay aligned with my overall career aspirations. I also believe in rewarding myself when I achieve each goal."

This answer is a good one because it demonstrates that you have a healthy balance between being task-oriented and having a big-picture perspective. The mention of rewarding yourself also indicates good self-awareness, as well as positivity and optimism.

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