Describing Your Ideal Job in an Interview
The reason it can be so challenging to describe an ideal job in an interview is because, for most people, there are different sides to you that want different things. The personal side wants high pay and rewarding work, the family side would like time off and good benefits, while the career side wants fast promotion and lots of opportunity. There are times in any career when these “ideals” will conflict. So, which side of you should speak up? In a development career, the answer is very clear – the leadership side.
Every recruiter knows that you have personal goals and desires. They understand your life is not likely dedicated 100% to your work. When they ask you about an ideal job, they are listening for what part of you speaks up. Since the interview is your opportunity to prove that you have a strong desire to be a business leader, their expectation is that you are prepared to discuss your goals and interests from that point of view. If you address it from another point of view, in other words if you focus on non-leadership priorities, you are making it clear that you are not there to prove your leadership and they have to interpret that as a lack of interest and commitment. Joel Junker blogged on this point in December 2009 – http://wp.me/psTE6-aD.
What is the business leadership side of an ideal job? It is really up to you to come up with how you would like to use your leadership within an organization. Taking a look at the description of Level 5 leaders that Jim Collins and his team evaluated in Good To Great may help you come up with some of the leadership interests that you share with those top performers. Think about how the leaders who helped those companies become great focused their time, and how they would answer a question about an ideal job. Internalize those ideas and use them to develop a description of your own ideal job.
Sometimes I am asked if this means you should tell recruiters what they want to hear. I don’t feel that what I am describing is the same as just saying what you think will get you hired. The best example I can give of what I am talking about, relates to going home for the holidays. In the event you are able to get time off for a holiday and go home, both family and friends are going to be interested in what you’ve been doing. You would likely tell your family one part of what you’ve done, but tell your friends about different experiences you’ve had. If you mixed up the two, you would probably bore your friends and shock your parents. Both discussions are the truth, but you are adapting them to your audience. This is exactly what recruiters are looking for. They want to hear from the side of you that wants business leadership.
This answer won’t get you hired. There is no description of an ideal job that will instantly convince recruiters you are a fit for their needs. Your answer will show them whether you want leadership or whether other priorities come first. With that in mind, keep your answer efficient, effective and let the recruiters learn something about you; then stop and let them get on to other connecting points.