When a prospective employer asks you to discuss your personal mission statement, chances are they’re trying to get a sense of how you define yourself, where you think you’re going, and how well you fit in with the company. In other words, there’s a lot to this interview question, so you need to take it seriously.
Here are some ways to prepare for this important part of the interview process:
1. Review the Company's Mission
Preparing for all job interviews should include doing as much research as you can about the company. In this instance, that means trying to get your hands on the company’s mission statement -- which may be displayed on the home page of its website, under the company name. It could also be displayed in the company’s "About" page, or in other online materials.
If you can’t find any materials specifically titled the "mission statement," your research thus far -- through the website, newspaper or media clippings, online videos and company advertisements -- should give you a sense of what the company does, who its customers are and what its goals are for the future, which is essentially its "mission statement." Even better, try to find out "why" company leaders do what they do. A restaurant chain, for example, might be in the business to serve food to customers -- but they may also be doing it to raise funds for a charity, or to change consumers’ perceptions of a certain type of food.
2. Evaluate Your Personal and Professional Goals
Now it’s time to turn the tables inward, and to focus on your own personal and professional goals. These will form the basis of your own personal mission statement. Identify what you do well, where your past successes have been, making a list of your core values and what really drives you to keep going, suggests Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. of Quintessential Careers. Based on that self-reflection, come up with some short-term and long-term goals for your career. Try to visualize where you want to be professionally in one year, as well as where you want to be in five and ten years. Naturally, these goals should be aligned with your core values. If you value an independent career in which you get some creative freedom, for example, a goal to be a partner in an advertising firm would probably be a better goal than a goal to continue working as an assistant to a creative person who gets to call all the shots.
3. Combine the Two Sides.
During a job interview, your best bet is to create a synthesis of your personal/professional goals and the goals of the company. If the company’s mission is to help people achieve financial freedom and your personal goal is to work as a financial planner for young families, your goals will be well-aligned. Thus, look for ways to incorporate the company’s goals or mission statement into your answer.
Answer the question by talking first about your professional goals, and then talk about how that fits in well with the company’s goals. It’s OK to give a few specific examples of your personal mission in life -- but during the job interview, always make it about how that mission is going to benefit the company. After all, you’ll be working to serve the company’s interests. The key is always to show that the two are aligned. As always though, keep your answer succinct and avoid rambling.
4. What if the Two Sides Aren't Aligned?
So what do you do if you’ve gone through this and have found that your personal goals don’t align at all with what the company stands for? While you might really need the work in order to start drawing a paycheck, it may be time to re-evaluate whether you’re right for the job. If working for the company isn’t going to help you reach your personal and professional goals, you may be wasting your time. You may also be wasting the company’s time because you’re not going to be as likely to put your heart into something that’s not aligned with your personal mission.
Preparing for the question of "what is your personal mission statement" can take some work. However, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to both understand what the company leaders are looking for, and also to understand whether you’re going to be a good fit for the company.
Have you ever encountered this question in a job interview? How did you deal with the question? Your thoughts and comments below please...