“What do you hope to gain from this experience?” can seem simple enough to answer at first, but it actually requires a lot of preparation.
This in-depth guide will help you develop a response to this interview question that makes a great impression.
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Why Interviewers Ask This Question
“What do you hope to gain from this experience?” is a question that gets asked for several reasons, and it can come up for any position. Whether you’re interviewing for an entry-level job, a high-level management position, or an internship, it serves an important purpose.
Ultimately, hiring managers use it to learn about your motivations and differentiate you from those who apply for a job with no goals beyond a paycheck. Employers want to hire people who care about the work they do. They want to see applicants who did their homework, learned about the role to understand everything it entails, and truly believe they can succeed doing it.
If you can answer this question effectively, it shows that you’re more interested in the job and have natural motivations other than the role’s monetary value. The positions you take throughout your career can benefit you in many different ways. While the role you’re interviewing for may not be your ultimate career goal, it’ll help you get there.
When you’re motivated to succeed you have more to gain from your experience in the job, and you’re more likely to work hard and do good work. That’s what hiring managers want to see. Questions like this help hiring managers understand what you hope this job will do for you, allowing them to gain insight into your larger goals and see how this position plays a part in your career aspirations.
How to Answer “What Do You Hope to Gain from This Experience?”
A question like this may not seem important at the moment, especially compared to other skill-based or situational questions you go over during your interview. But it holds more weight than you might realize. It’s incredibly hard to motivate employees who don’t value the work they are doing. Developing a top-notch answer will significantly improve your chances of getting a job offer.
Follow these tips to give an answer that sticks.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Honest
Answering this question requires honesty. Because hiring managers and interviewers ask it so much, they’ve heard just about every iteration of a cliche answer you can imagine. They’ve listened to all the canned responses and have general expectations of what most candidates will say.
You can set yourself apart from the pack by being honest. Honesty is refreshing for interviewers and adds a unique sense of authenticity to your entire persona. Plus, being honest lets you open up more about what you hope to gain from the experience.
Of course, avoid being so honest that it borders on unprofessional. For example, you should avoid mentioning the big paycheck, generous paid time off, or other enticing employee benefits!
Instead, be honest about what you truly hope to gain. Consider what this job means to you, your career, and your larger ambitions. For example, you might wish to gain skills that prepare you for more responsibilities in a higher-paying role. You can talk about that.
If you love the company and have always desired to be an insider for an organization you admire, you can bring that up, too!
Honesty is always the best policy. The more authentic you are, the easier it is for interviewers to understand if you’re what they are looking for.
2. Shed Some Light on What Motivates You
Our next tip is to use your understanding of this question’s purpose to your advantage. We’ve already discussed how interviewers use it to understand your motivations. One way to deliver an impressive response is to focus on what motivates you most.
You should aim to explain how this role includes motivators that will push you to succeed.
For example, you could mention how this job allows you to expand your skill set and gain capabilities that will help you in the long run. Alternatively, you can focus on non-career aspects of the job, such as the work environment or the company’s values.
Whatever the case, connect the dots to show how various aspects of this job will drive you to do your best work. Proving that this position aligns with what motivates you is a fantastic way to show hiring managers that you plan to take this opportunity seriously. Motivated workers are productive workers, and explaining what you hope to gain from this experience allows you to show interviewers why you’re the right person for the role.
3. Share How This Position Fits Within Your Overall Goals
Another way to approach this question is to emphasize how the position you’re interviewing for fits into your larger career aspirations. It’s similar to natural motivators. Hiring managers know that if the experience will benefit your grand career goals, there’s a better chance that you’ll work hard and be a model employee.
You likely have bigger plans than this job, and this particular role may differ from where you want your career to take you. However, there are likely elements of the position that can benefit you long-term while helping you get to where you want to be.
For example, this job could require you to master certain skills that will help you transition to a higher-level role someday. Or, it could be the foot in the door you need to enter this industry. Your experience there could also help you forge network connections that shape your career moving forward.
There’s tons to gain from every job. When answering this question, focus on what this position will do from the career development perspective. Paint a picture of your future and discuss how this job fits into your larger plans.
However, be careful about how you word things. Don’t make this position seem temporary or talk about it as merely a stepping stone into something different. Emphasize this job’s value to your bigger goals and how it will significantly affect your career plans.
4. Demonstrate That You Can Be Flexible, Too
Demonstrating flexibility is another important thing to remember when sharing what you hope to gain from this experience. Remember, employers want to hire people to contribute to the company’s success. While they prefer to create a mutually beneficial experience for the candidate they hire, the bottom line is most important.
You don’t want to come off as inflexible. For example, never imply that you only want things done your way or to work in a way that only benefits you. Instead, express how challenging or new situations have helped you perform better.
That could be a red flag for interviewers. You can discuss the opportunity to grow and mention how eager you are to take advantage of what this job can do for your career. But always remember that your work will help the company first and foremost.
Be practical and grounded by expressing your willingness to grow and learn. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or how you hope this job fits into your future goals. You must emphasize that you’re flexible enough to learn, adapt and grow with the company.
5. Show That You’re Excited About the Opportunity
Finally, don’t forget to show your excitement!
Enthusiasm can take you far, and there’s no better opportunity to express your excitement than an interview question like this. Reiterate what you love about the role and the company.
Think of this question as your chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and to prove that you did your homework. Talk about what you love about the organization and, more specifically, what you like about the role.
Show excitement about the prospect of getting the job. Interviewers and hiring managers love to see enthusiasm. Not only does it make you more personable, but that excitement is like another natural motivator.
When someone is eager to get started and prove themselves, there’s a good chance they’ll be a knockout employee. Interviewers know that, so showing excitement can make a difference when answering this question.
What You Should Avoid When Giving Your Answer
Talking about what you hope to gain from the experience gives you a change to leave a positive and lasting impression. But there are also ways to get things wrong and hurt your chances of getting a job offer.
Here are a few things you need to avoid in your response.
A great paycheck is a fantastic motivator. However, you should never discuss the money aspects of the position when answering this question.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is saying that the best thing you’ll gain from this experience is a big paycheck! That’s not what interviewers want to hear, and it indicates that the only reason you’re there is to get paid.
If money is your only motivator, what else must you bring to the table? Money-focused responses are a big red flag, so you should avoid discussing the salary during your answer.
There is one exception that could be made if you are in sales or in a commission role. Being motivated by money in these types of jobs generally translates to working harder to meet quotas to achieve greater pay.
Focusing Too Much on Yourself
Earlier, we mentioned that you need to remain flexible when giving your response. And when you first hear this question, it seems solely about you. In a sense, it is.
However, focusing too much into what this job will do for you can give off a sense of entitlement that could confuse hiring managers. Don’t focus your answer entirely on what you will gain and how this job benefits your career. You must also remind the interviewer of your value and what you can do for the company.
Your goal should be to frame your answer in a way that makes hiring you a mutually beneficial situation.
Another huge mistake is not having an answer prepared. You can expect to hear a question like this no matter what job you’re interviewing for. So, think about a response early and have something ready to say.
Many people who hear this question don’t know how to respond. So, they shrug their shoulders or say things interviewers don’t want to hear.
Do yourself a favor and prepare early. Give this question the thought it deserves, and have an answer you can deliver confidently.
Implying That This Position is Temporary
Here’s a mistake we touched on earlier, but it’s important enough to reiterate.
Never imply that you only view this job as a stepping stone in your career. If the interviewer gets even the tiniest hint that you’re not serious about succeeding in this role, they’ll hesitate about your value to the company.
Hiring people is a major expense for companies. As a result, they don’t like bringing people in who will only be there for a few years. They want candidates who will invest their time in making a difference and contributing to the company’s success.
It’s surprisingly easy to say the wrong thing and imply that you don’t plan on being at the job long. When discussing larger career goals, it often happens inadvertently. One way to avoid that implication is by emphasizing your excitement and willingness to grow with the organization.
This interview question can seem intimidating, but we’ve given you all the tools you need to develop a great answer. Here, we have a few examples to inspire you.
In the first example, we have an individual who views this job as an opportunity to learn valuable skills. In their response, they flatter the company, show their excitement and prove that the position offers natural motivation for them to succeed.
“One of the things I’m most excited to take from this experience is to enhance my problem-solving skills. In this field, problem-solving is a critical skill. It’s something that I want and need to master to continue developing my career.
While I believe that positions like this can help me improve those crucial skills, no matter where they are, I’m fascinated by your company’s approach. During college, I attended a seminar your company presented. It was a presentation about effective problem-solving strategies and overcoming the unique hurdles of this field.
I was so impressed by your company’s methods, and it showed me why you’re such a success. I’m eager to learn more and be a part of that. Your organization is a juggernaut in this industry, and the prospect of being part of a team that continually develops creative solutions to maintain success is exciting.”
Next, we have a candidate who is entering a brand-new field. They use this question to show that they’re motivated to succeed. The candidate clearly did their homework, and their response tells the interviewer they’re committed to success in this position.
“I hope to gain more experience as a marketing professional. Coming from the world of sales, I believe I have great skills that would benefit me in marketing. But, this career change requires me to broaden my horizons and learn new skills.
I’ve read a great deal about your company and learned that you have one of the best training programs in the industry. That’s why I was so eager to put in an application. The opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business is thrilling.
I’m also hoping to gain new experiences regarding work cultures. I’m quite familiar with working for larger corporations. Your company’s small-scale office environment seems like the great place to learn and collaborate with others as I sink into marketing. That’s something I’m eager to experience firsthand.”
In our final example, the candidate focuses less on the skills they have to gain and more on how the company operates. This answer works well because it explains natural motivators while proving the candidate’s value to the company.
“I’m excited at the prospect of working internationally. As someone fluent in Spanish, I focused my job search on organizations with considerable South and Central American reach. I discovered your company and loved what I learned.
Based on my research and conversations, it seems you conduct international business very well, and your company is a prime example of how to do that ethically while maintaining long-term success. I plan to pursue a career in international business, and there’s no better way to gain experience than working for a company like yours.
My Spanish fluency can be a real asset. I’m eager to apply my existing skills while broadening my horizons and learning more about how to do international business the right way.”
Now that you know how to explain what you hope to gain from a job, the next step is to sit down and do some brainstorming. Think about what you want from the position you’re applying for and spend some time practicing your answer.
Once you’ve done the preparation, you’ll be in a great spot for the big interview!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.