SMART Goals For Job Seekers (With Examples)

There are two perspectives on SMART goals for job seekers, one from the perspective of the activities you perform as part of your job search, and the other focuses on understanding the expectations from the job you are considering.

SMART goals, originally attributed to Peter Drucker, have been interpreted with various modifications and additions, but usually refer to goals that are specific, measurable, achievable (achievable, achievable), realistic (relevant), and time-bound (time-based, time-based). There is strong agreement about the “specific” and “measurable”, with several variations of the “__ART” elements. The specificity, which can be measured and delimited in time is generally agreed upon as core components.

To look for work


For job seekers, SMART goals can be a powerful tool to guide the process. While many people are familiar with the idea from its common job application, it is a new – and necessary – process for many job seekers. And for those unfamiliar with the idea, it can get even more complicated because of the claim that they are set goals in their work experience – goals that are not really SMART. So, a job seeker can simply set a very broad goal, like “find a new job”, or set some more seemingly specific goals like:

  • Change my resume
  • Contact my references
  • Look online for job opportunities
  • Send emails Thank you

While setting some goals, some goals, especially if they are written, is preferable to a lack of goals, these are definitely not SMART goals. More importantly, goals like these keep the job seeker from having the power to have SMART goals.

Goal-setting research clearly demonstrates the power – and dangers – of setting goals. Non-SMART goals fail to drive great performance and / or lead to inaction. Goals set too high (unrealistic) often provoke a person’s decision to “give up.” Understanding the dynamics of goal setting can be a powerful tool for job search success.

Let’s turn the above examples into SMART goals:

  • Update my resume – Create a custom resume for any vacancy I want to apply for by next Sunday.
  • Contact My Referrals – Identify at least one of my previous employers’ references and contact them over the next month with my resume and information about the jobs I am looking for.
  • Look for Job Opportunities Online – Check online job opportunities at least twice a week.
  • Send thank you emails – Send thank you emails within 24 hours of the interview to everyone involved.

For an interview

A woman asks a question about goals during an interview


Understanding SMART objectives can also be a powerful tool for a candidate to use during an interview. Job publications, ads and even job descriptions can be filled in with generalizations and duties that describe, at best, average performance.

Looking for a job is often asked, “Do you have any questions?” Take this opportunity whenever given. Unless it was made clear to you the following, he asked, “If I was offered and accepted this position, and you consider me most successful in my first year, what have I achieved?” Then check! And check whenever you can during an interview when you have no clear and specific expectations (SMART) from the interviewer:

  • Specifically, what do you expect the person in this job to achieve in the first 90 days?
    • In the first six months?
    • In the first year?
  • The job description says the job includes “making sales calls”. How many are considered acceptable per day? In a month?
    • How many of the company’s sales staff regularly achieve acceptable performance?
    • How many sales calls are considered “exceptional performance”?
  • The job description says the job includes “team leadership.” How many people are on the team?
    • How many new friends? Old friends?
    • Does the team face specific challenges? Boll?
    • What resources are available for team development? Instruction? Estimates?
    • What is the time frame for improving team performance?
  • You mentioned the “normal customer service warranty”, can you tell me …
    • What does “outstanding” customer service mean for this business?
    • What kind of training is given to customer service?
    • What are the expectations from customer service in terms of working with colleagues?
    • (A little advanced but a good question) Is the consideration related to the quality of service provided by a person in this work?

These inquiry questions should be customized for each position individually. But just like the importance of thoroughly preparing your answers to questions about your experience, this is where you prepare thoroughly by 1) researching the company and 2) preparing questions that are researched for:

  • Specific: Are you given answers with clear verbs of “action”?
  • Measurable: Is there a clear measurement (number) that indicates a level of performance?
  • Achievable: Are expectations achievable, too low (usually not specific), or unrealistically high?
  • Realistic: Are the results of the specified actions excellent?
  • Limited time: Are expectations framed in terms of “when”?

SMART goals can be a very powerful part of a successful job search – and a powerful tool for job seekers to use during the interview process – if a job seeker learns and practices the process.

The job search process can be incredibly frustrating and stressful, especially if you feel lost, trapped or burned out in your career. If you have trouble finding a job that suits you, we can help.

We’ll be happy if you join our free community. It’s a private online platform where employees, just like you, come together to learn and grow into a powerful Workplace Renegades.

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This article was originally published earlier.

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