“Why did you choose this career?” …
You’re likely to hear this interview question whether you’re a recent graduate or have decades of experience. Employers want to know how you got into your field and why you want to be in this career.
So it’s a good idea to think about this when you begin your job search no matter what situation. Here’s exactly what interviewers look for and how to answer perfectly…
How To Answer “Why Did You Choose This Career?”
First… why do they ask this?
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.
Best Answers For “Why Did You Choose This Career?”
Now you know why they ask. Let’s talk about how to answer.
You can give a wide range of reasons for how you chose your career. These are all great examples of stories you can tell. My suggestion is pick whatever’s closest to the truth from the list below:
- You’ve always had an interest in this career or field from a young age
- You have a parent, friend or family member who encouraged you to get into it, and you found that you like it a lot
- You care about helping people and making an impact and this career allows you to do that (only use this if it’s relevant to your career- like teaching, science, medicine, etc.)
- You started your career in a different field but transferred within a previous company and ended up liking this new area more
- You read a book that turned you onto the topic
- You watched a film that turned you onto the topic
- You had a university professor or other teacher who encouraged you to get into this career field
- You have a personal story or reason for caring about the career or field you’re in
Whatever you choose, try to end your answer by showing you’re still interested in this career you chose. Don’t just explain how you originally found this career. Show you’re still glad to be doing it!
Example Answer For Recent Graduates:
“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.
Example Answer For Experienced Job Seekers:
“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.”
Things You Shouldn’t Say:
I gave you a lot of bullet points earlier in this article of good stories you can tell for why you chose your career. To conclude, I’m going to give you some things you should NOT say.
- Don’t sound like you stumbled on this career via someone else’s actions, and took no initiative. 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.
- Don’t sound like you’re unsure if this is the right career, or that you don’t like it. 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!
- Don’t say you’re not sure or don’t remember
- Don’t say you chose it for money or something that isn’t work-related (unless you’re working in sales. Than it’s okay as part of your reason). 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.
- Don’t say you chose your field because it allows remote work, flexible schedules, good working hours, etc. Even if that’s true! I’ve definitely gone on interviews for positions because I thought they’d allow me to work from home. But you can’t say that!
That’s it. That’s how I’d answer the question and the mistakes I’d avoid. Review this before you have an interview, and if you want more help, here are a couple of other similar questions and resources you can use to practice and prepare with:
If you have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I’ve created a new guide where you can copy my exact step-by-step method for getting job offers. You can get more details here.
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Choosing a career path can help you set professional goals and develop a strategy for getting where you want to be. Part of choosing an appropriate career path involves making an honest self-evaluation of your talents, abilities and interests. While elements of your path may change over time due to choice or circumstance, having an overall professional objective with which to guide yourself will help you make critical decisions with greater clarity.
When you have an idea of the career path you want to pursue, it can help you make the best decisions about your training and education. Many lines of work require specific degrees and certifications, which can take years to pursue. Understanding the requirements of your chosen path will allow you to plan to prepare yourself for the career you want.
A career path is just that – a journey, rather than a single one-time decision. Every career path has milestones along the way. For example, if you want to pursue a career as a chef, you may start working in a restaurant busing tables when you’re in high school, working as a waiter in college, attending a culinary arts school and then taking an entry-level job as a prep chef. Understanding the chronological steps of a career path will help you make decisions about how to go about building experience and working your way through the ranks of your chosen occupation.
When you choose a career path, you position yourself to look far into the future at your ultimate objectives. This can help you identify positions you want to hold and income levels you want to achieve. It can also help to guide you in building your personal and professional networks in the industry in which you’re interested. Having long-term goals in place will help you stay focused on your ultimate career objectives, rather than moving aimlessly from job to job.
Your choice of profession can dictate where you live and may affect if and when you marry and have a family. Choosing a career path can help you make other important life decisions. Achieving a satisfactory work-life balance can be a challenge for many professionals, but career planning can help to minimize some of this stress.
About the Author
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.
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