How Would You Grade This “Career Goals” Interview Response?

How Would you Grade This “Career Goals” Interview Response

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

Many pre-meds are planners and forward-thinkers, but this is a tough question for anyone to answer. Think about what you were like 10 years ago (THE HORROR). One’s goals and interests can change a lot in a decade!

Some don’t even care that much - they’d practice medicine in a swamp, a distant foreign galaxy, or anywhere that will take them. They just want to be doctors!

Unfortunately, “it depends” or “anything goes!” aren’t acceptable answers here.

This is a difficult interview question that demands both specificity and open-mindedness, ambition and humility, gut feeling and careful reflection. 

It’s certainly a question that can paint you as clueless or naive if you’re not prepared.

To help you master this question, we wanted to give you the chance to grade a “Career Goals” response from a REAL candidate! 

Grade This “Career Goals” Interview Response

Here are your simple instructions.

  1. Watch the video

  2. Read the grading rubric

  3. Re-watch the video

  4. Fill out grading rubric

  5. Read our advice and form your own answer

(Our VERY kind volunteer did her best to make eye contact with both the interviewer and camera - so let’s call it a “panel” interview!) 

Have fun. Ready? Go!

Grading Rubric for the “Career Goals” Interview Response

Grading Rubric for the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Response

Overall grade: ___ / 5

What are some things that the candidate did well?

What are some potential areas of improvement?

Our Grade:

Overall grade: 3 / 5

What are some things that the candidate did well?

Other than one blip that caused her “tangent,” the pacing and tone of the response were both strong. The candidate exuded a confident, relaxed demeanor. The amount of eye contact and verbal pauses felt in rhythm and balanced.

The conversational tone made the response feel unscripted, which will be refreshing to interviewers who hear lots of overly-rehearsed, cookie-cutter responses. This candidate was not merely interested in “playing it safe,” leading to an endearing sense of honesty and openness. 

The candidate included a disclaimer about her open-mindedness about future options, which was KEY since she then brought up a very competitive specialty (reconstructive/plastic surgery).

Her highly specific answer about her potential non-profit could seem risky to some (jumping the gun, so to speak), but schools prefer someone with a clear vision over someone who hedges too much.  

It’s great that the response included so much personal backstory and relevance to explain her draw towards protecting the pediatric population. 

What are some potential areas of improvement?

The length could be reduced and the flow improved with some fine-tuning to the structure of the response. The candidate needs to patch the transitions and move between elements more quickly.

In addition, in terms of flow, it might have made more sense to discuss the personal relevance FIRST and save the disclaimer for LAST, as opposed to the other way around. 

The response could have functioned just fine without throwing in a political element. Politicizing your answer almost always has more risk than reward; this was the “tangential” element that should be nixed.

Expressive hand gestures can be helpful in moderation, but the candidate’s generous amount could be distracting to some listeners.  

Our Advice for Building Your “Career Goals” Interview Response

Perhaps counterintuitively, it’s better to focus mostly on your past, even though the question is asking about your future.

The summary of your goals should only take up about 30 seconds of your response. Use the majority of the time to explain how you arrived at those goals. Otherwise your goals will seem arbitrary or half-baked.

Even if you have multiple interests within the medical field, don’t be too wishy washy. It’s better to choose one specialty and run with that. Try to base it on volunteering or shadowing experiences you’ve already had. Zoom in on specific moments or cases to illustrate your fascination with the discipline.

However, make sure not to pigeonhole yourself. This is easily accomplished through a little “disclaimer” which expresses excitement over the new possibilities and avenues offered in medical school.

Go ahead and mention the more supplemental roles you might play as a researcher, bioengineer, community leader, educator, etc. But these inclinations should be motivated by your background or some concrete past experiences. 

Some important factors to include in your answer: 

*Personal relevance

You’ll need to find a way to make the specialty personally meaningful. Make sure you have some foundation for your exploration of the field, even if that’s from a purely intellectual standpoint.

*Tested commitment through exposure

It will be hard to be convincing if you’ve never taken the time to shadow a doctor in the specialty. The interviewers will want to hear your firsthand account of observing, scribing, or working alongside a specialist.

*Exploration of specialty outside of clinic

This is a bonus, since it will help you be distinct and show a clear trend towards the goal. The admissions committee will be wondering, “Does this person REALLY love this field, or are they just choosing whichever specialty they happened to shadow?”


With interests in community health, emergency medicine, and toxicology, I envision myself working as an emergency physician in a community-based hospital system.


While working as a scribe in Fresno, I saw the challenges for ER physicians in under-served communities. With a large physician shortage and poor access to primary care, many patients with low acuity complaints end up going to the ER for care, and I want to be present to support their dire needs. 


I enjoy the spontaneity of the ER. From providing basic exams and medication refills one minute, to overseeing an acute trauma patient the next, no day is ever exactly the same. In addition, as an ER physician in an under-served community, I could serve as a resource for patients with no other place to turn.

However, although this is my current vision, I remain open-minded to other possibilities that medical school will present.


Medicine is, in its essence, a humanistic profession, subject to human constraints. I choose to pursue this future for its potential to impact the human condition, knowing the number of patients I’ll see is limited by my 50-odd years of work.

Being in the OR is exhilarating, but made me realize the practice of medicine is additive: the CT surgeon I shadowed might perform one surgery today, another tomorrow, and yet another the day after. One by one, he replaces a ruptured valve, a failed ventricle, or perhaps the entire heart. Research and teaching are multiplicative: each advancement has the potential to affect thousands of patients, and each newly trained MD will treat thousands more.

Although I remain open-minded about my future, academic medicine appeals to me because it is founded in the pursuit of knowledge -- in endlessly advancing the frontier of what we know about disease and human health, and imparting that knowledge to future generations. Our day-to-day work is subject to human constraints. Our legacy doesn’t have to be.

Want to know if your “Career Goals” answer is up to snuff? Bounce some ideas off us in the comments below, and we’ll let you know what we think.

Good luck crafting this response - we hope it presents you as an excited, prepared, and insightful future doctor!