When you interview for a job, the interviewer is looking for clues that you will be a good fit for the company. Not only does that mean you need the skills and experience for the job, but also that your personality is right for the company culture. One way to ascertain this is by asking about your expectations for the job. If your expectations do not align with what the company offers, it’s likely that you will be unhappy and leave, and HR wants to avoid that. Therefore, when answering questions about your expectations, be honest, while focusing on your desires in terms of learning, growth and job responsibilities.
Show Alignment With Company Priorities
A question about your expectations from a job is an ideal opportunity to reveal what you know about the company. Before the interview, research the organization’s mission, vision and values, and consider ways that your own goals align with those priorities. For example, if the company is active in environmental issues and is making a concerted attempt to go green, you might say, “I am very committed to environmental issues and reducing my impact on the planet. I am excited to work with a company that shares that commitment. I expect that I will have the opportunity to learn more about how we can make a difference, and that the culture will support my own efforts to go green.”
Express a Desire to Learn
Most employers want to hire people who want to learn and grow in their jobs. When asked about your expectations for your job, highlight how you see the position as a chance to develop your skills, and that you expect to have opportunities to not only put your existing skills to work, but also to enhance those skills and develop new ones. Express your hope that your supervisor and colleagues will support an environment that encourages growth and the sharing of information. If you know that the company offers professional development opportunities, express your enthusiasm for taking advantage of them, highlighting how previous opportunities have helped you in the past.
Focus on the Job Description
In some cases, questions about expectations are designed to measure your understanding of the job itself, and your experience in those areas. Try to address some of the major tasks of the job in your answer, and share an example or two of how your experience measures up. For example, you might say, “Based on the job description, I expect that I will be leading a variety of team-based projects, including enhancing the company website. I successfully completed a website overhaul in my previous position, and I feel that I am well-prepared to coordinate such an effort again.”
Addressing your expectations for a new job is not an opportunity to badmouth your previous employer or co-workers. Even if you worked in a toxic environment for the worst manager in the world, saying negative things will reflect poorly on you. You can address your expectations for the working environment by saying how you hope to develop good working relationships with your colleagues in an honest and respectful environment. Highlight your desire to be a team player and work toward shared goals – not how you were micromanaged and sabotaged in a previous position.
Avoid Discussing Salary
Unless the interviewer specifically asks about your expectations for salary and/or benefits, do not mention them when answering this question. This is not the time to tell the interviewer that you want to work from home three days per week, or that you hope for six weeks of paid vacation a year. Keep your answer focused on your career goals and how your skills align with the company's needs.