How would you describe your ideal job?
Similar interview questions:
If you didn't have to work, what kind of work would you do?
What would you do if you won the lottery?
What part of your work do you enjoy the most?
Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is asking this question for two different reasons: 1) to find out what you are really passionate about in your work; and 2) to potentially find out if you have an alter ego who would rather not be doing the work for which you are interviewing.
The best approach to answering this question:
The ideal answer is to choose an element of your work tied to the position you are interviewing about which you are truly passionate. It should be something that naturally excites you, elevates your level of presentation and causes you to naturally show the body language that this is something you truly love doing (leaning forward in your chair, smiling while speaking, more animated speaking, etc.). If you want to excite an interviewer, get them excited about your passion for your work. If you're having trouble identifying an area for which you are truly passionate, think about that story you brought home from work where you saved the day, where you did something that no one else was able to do, where you were the superstar. This is your opportunity to shine as a superstar. However, be careful not to choose an area that is so limiting that it is a very small percentage (or perhaps no percentage at all) of the work for which you are interviewing. Also, try not to make the entirety of your ideal job focused on one minor element. For entry level, tie in a key aspect of your education or recent internship. The best way to answer is to start with the phrase, "My ideal job would involve…" and then go on to talk about that element as a component of a larger job, rather than the job itself.
An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"My ideal job would involve training others on best practices in auditing. In my current job, I've had the opportunity to spend time training others in our office on the latest updates in GAAP. In this past year I've also had the opportunity to travel to other offices in our region to train their new hires. It was quite an honor to be selected in the central region to do this training, since it has been only the elite auditors at our company who have been selected for this role. So being able to leverage my skills to help develop others around me would be part of my ideal job."
An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"My ideal job would involve working toward certification in my field. I've already completed the first test for industry certification and passed it the first time, which is a big first step forward. Most professionals, even with experience, don't pass the first test on the first try. I have two more tests to pass, one of which I already have scheduled to complete before graduation. So my ideal job is to become a subject matter expert in my field. Going beyond just being certified to becoming the go-to person for others at my company."
An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Wow, well I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be in this field! I just do this work to pay the bills. My ideal job would be one where I wouldn't have to work very hard, but get paid a lot of money. Where I could set my own hours so that I could do my own thing when and where I wanted. I think most people are working stiffs. My father worked for 45 years for the same company, then retired and died a year later. That's not what I want to do with my life. I would love to travel for a living, yeah, I guess that would be my ideal job."
Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!
Further review: know the answers to these Common Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!