Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: What to say when an interviewer asks, 'What's your dream job?'

Whether you're interviewing for an entry-level role or eyeing a seat in the C-suite, it's more than likely you'll face the question, "What's your dream job?"

While it may seem simple to answer, bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch warns that this common interview query can be trickier to respond to than you may think.

"The correct answer seems so obvious, right? But trust me, it isn't," she tells CNBC Make It. "You have to be careful to avoid the pitfalls of this question, some of which are obvious — and others, which are hidden in plain sight."

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch.
CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch.

To craft the perfect response, Welch recommends following these three tips:

1. Understand what hiring managers are listening for

To answer this question correctly, Welch says you must first understand the type of information an interviewer is hoping to get out of your response.

"Yes, they want to get a sense of your passions and interests," she says. "But they're actually testing you to see if you understand the requirements of the job you're applying for, and whether you'll be satisfied with the job if you get it."

To put it plainly, she says hiring managers are listening for an answer that will prove you're a great fit for the company.

She suggests avoiding responses like, "This is my dream job," or, "I'd love to run this company someday." Even if they are true, she says the first one sounds phony and the second one "screams of pretension."

2. Convince them you can get the job done

Instead of describing your dream job with a specific title, Welch says you should deliver a response that details the skills and responsibilities that come with your dream position.

When doing this, she says you want to be sure that most of the qualities you outline align with the job you're interviewing for.

She recommends saying something like, "My dream job would involve a lot of problem-solving, especially using data analysis." Or something like, "I love teamwork, so my dream job would definitely involve all kinds of collaboration."

3. Don't be caught by surprise 

Even if you're caught off-guard by this question, stay focused.

"When I ask candidates about their dream job, I love to hear the opening phrase, 'Well, I've thought about this question a lot,'" she says.

Welch says this response is impressive to hiring managers, because it proves that you've given your career trajectory some serious thought.

"Look, 'What is your dream job?' is one of the toughest questions in an interviewer's arsenal," she says. "It sounds all soft and speculative — tempting you to answer like anything goes."

But rather than blurting out anything, Welch says you should plan for this question "with an answer that shows your head isn't in the clouds, and your eyes are on the prize of the real job awaiting you."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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