SMART goals for job seekers

There are two views on SMART goals job seeker: From the perspective of the activities you perform as part of your Looking for a jobanother important point is to understand the expectations for the position you are considering.

SMART goals were originally attributed to Peter Drucker and have since been interpreted with various modifications and additions, but generally refer to specific, measurable, attainable (attainable, actionable), realistic (relevant) and time-bound (time-based, timely). There is a strong consensus on “specific” and “measurable”, and there are several variations of the “__ART” element. Specific, measurable and time-bound are generally considered to be core elements.

For job hunting


For job seekers, SMART goals can be a powerful tool in guiding the process. While many people are familiar with this idea from common job applications, for many job seekers, this is a new and much-needed process.idea, it can be made even more complicated by the goals they claim to have set work experience– Definitely an unwise goal. Therefore, a job seeker might set an extremely broad goal, such as “looking for new job,” or maybe set some seemingly more specific goals, such as:

  • Edit my resume
  • Contact my recommender
  • Search for job opportunities online
  • Send a thank you email

While setting some goals (any goals, especially written ones) is better than no goals at all, these are definitely not SMART goals. More importantly, such goals take away the power of candidates from having SMART goals.

Research on goal setting clearly demonstrates the power and dangers of goal setting. Unwise goals fail to inspire optimal performance and/or lead to inaction. Setting goals that are too high (unrealistic) often prompts a person to make the decision to “give up.” Understanding the dynamics of goal setting can be a powerful tool for job seeker success.

Let’s turn the above example into a SMART goal:

For interviews

Women ask questions about goals in interview


Understanding SMART goals can also be a powerful tool for candidates to use during the interview process. Job postings, ads and even job descriptions can be filled with generalities and responsibilities that describe, at best, average performance.

Job seekers are often asked, “Do you have any questions?” Whenever you have the opportunity, take advantage of it. Unless you already have a clear understanding of the following, ask, “If I was hired and accepted this position, and you thought I was very successful in my first year, what would I have accomplished?” Then, explore! And explore as much as possible throughout the process. Conducting an interview when the interviewer does not have clear, specific (SMART) expectations:

  • Specifically, what do you want people in this job to accomplish on the job? first 90 days?
    • The first six months?
    • the first year?
  • The job description says the job includes “conducting sales calls.” How many times in a day, in a month, is considered acceptable?
    • How many salespeople does the company regularly achieve acceptable performance?
    • How many sales calls are considered “outstanding performance”?
  • The job description includes “leading the team.” How many people are in the team?
    • How many new members and old members are there?
    • Is the team facing a specific challenge or issue?
    • What resources are available for team development, training, evaluation?
    • What is the time frame to improve team performance?
  • You mentioned “usual customer service” responsibilities, can you tell me…
    • What does “excellent” customer service mean to this business?
    • What kind of training is provided for customer service?
    • What are the customer service expectations in terms of working with colleagues?
    • Is compensation tied to the quality of service provided by the person doing the work? (A bit advanced, but a good question.)

These probing questions need to be customized for each position. But just like the importance of being thoroughly prepared to answer questions about your experience, this is where you come in thoroughly prepared: 1) research company 2) Prepare questions to discuss:

  • Specific: Does your answer contain an explicit “action” verb?
  • Measurable: Are there clear metrics (numbers) that indicate performance levels?
  • Achievable: Are expectations achievable, too low (usually unspecific), or too high?
  • Reality: Are the results of a given action shown?
  • Time-bound: Is the expectation measured in “time”?

If candidates learn and practice this process, SMART goals can be a very powerful part of a successful job search and a powerful tool for candidates to use during the interview process. Try setting some SMART goals for your job search today.

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This article was originally published at an earlier date.

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