How to Answer 'What is Your Dream Job?'

Q. I'm a graphic design and magazines student at Drake University. I've noticed that most of my internship interviewers like to ask "what is your dream job?"

This should be easy enough to answer, except that I don't have a specific dream job in mind. I do know that my dream job is something creative that allows me to use both my design and writing skills, but I haven't pinpointed an exact position.

What would you advise in this situation?

Allison Maze

A. This is another classic, like the sneaky interview questions I recently outlined.

This is a simple funnel question. It is wide open at the top, and the answer will direct the next few minutes of the interview. This is an opportunity for you, whether you have a dream job in mind or not. The way things are going, anyway, it is very likely that your dream job has not yet been invented.

This question is a chance for you to show where your passion and interests are -- and you should. In fact, if you do not show passion when talking about your career dreams, that could hurt you.

Here are three ways to begin answering this question, even if you have no idea what your dream job would actually be.

  • "I love to connect people with the meaning and significance of news in ways that others in the newsroom can't. Through my designs, I like to create 'a-ha' moments for my audience. I first realized this was important to me when ..." And then give an example. Great answers to funnel questions often narrow into short, telling anecdotes.
  • "My dream job will have to include elements of video and audio, as well as two-dimensional design, as that is where I feel I have some real potential to stand out. I get my news, for example, by ..." There it is again, a transition that is leading us to some insight into you. In this case, we are taking a crack at envisioning the process. Still, we have not described a dream job, just the elements of it.
  • "I can see several dream jobs for me, each one building on the previous. The job I have now is a dream of sorts because it lets me (anecdote here). But I know I am outgrowing it. My next dream job will likely include several of the elements I know now and some new ones that will set me up for the next job. I do not see a dream job as a final destination, but as something to propel me to the next one." An answer like this tells interviewers that you like a lot of things, that learning excites you and that you will attack each job with enthusiasm.

See the "dream job" question for what it is: a springboard into an answer that will contain your best experiences, qualities or ambitions. Don't get carried away, though, and watch for body language that tells you it's time for the next question.

Coming Monday: Why it is a bad idea to call a potential employer's cell phone on a Saturday.

Questions about interviewing? E-mail Joe for an answer.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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