S.M.A.R.T. Goals For Job Seekers

There are two perspectives on S.M.A.R.T. Goals for job seekers, one from the viewpoint of the activities you perform as part of your job search, the other, really understanding the expectations of a position being considered. Related: 3 Steps To Create Your Own Career Development Plan S.M.A.R.T. Goals, originally attributed to Peter Drucker, has been interpreted with some various modifications and additions, but generally refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented (Attainable), Results-Bound (Relevant), and Time Focused. There’s strong agreement on the “Specific” and “Measurable,” with several variations the “__A.R.T.” elements. Specificity, Measurable, and Time are generally agreed upon as core elements.

Job Search

For Job Seekers, S.M.A.R.T. Goals can be a powerful tool to guide the process. While many individuals are familiar with the idea from its common work application, it’s a new – and much needed – process for many job seekers. And for those unfamiliar with the idea, it can be further complicated by the claim of goals being set for them in their work experience – goals that are absolutely NOT S.M.A.R.T. So, a job seeker might just set an extremely broad goal, like “finding a new job,” or might set some seemingly more specific goals like:
  • Revise my resume
  • Contact my references
  • Search online for job possibilities
  • Send thank-you e-mails
While setting some goals, any goals, particularly if there written down, is better than not having any goals, these are definitely not S.M.A.R.T. Goals. More importantly, goals like these deprive a job seeker of the power of having S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Research on goal setting clearly demonstrates the power – and the dangers – of goal setting. Goals that are not S.M.A.R.T. fail to motivate top performance – or lead to inaction. Goals that are set too high (not Realistic) frequently prompt a person’s decision to “give up.” Understanding the dynamics of goal setting can be a powerful tool for a job seeker’s success. Let’s turn the examples above into S.M.A.R.T. Goals:

For The Interview

Understanding S.M.A.R.T. Goals can also be a powerful tool for a candidate to use during an interview. Job postings, ads, and even job descriptions can be filled with generalities and duties that, at best, describe average performance. A job seeker is frequently asked “Do you have any questions?” Seize this opportunity whenever given. Unless the following has been made clear to you, ask: “If I were offered and accepted this position, and you considered me to be extremely successful in my first year, what did I accomplish?” Then, probe! And probe whenever you can during an interview when you don’t have clear, specific (S.M.A.R.T.) expectations from the interviewer:
  • Specifically, what do you expect the person in this job to accomplish 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 sales calls is considered acceptable in a day? In a month?
    • How many sales calls is considered “outstanding performance?
    • How many of the company’s sales staff regularly achieve acceptable performance?
  • The Job Description says that job includes “leading the team.”
    • How many people are on the team?
    • How many members are new? Long-time members?
    • Is the team facing in specific challenges? Problems?
    • What resources are available for developing the team? Training? Assessments?
    • What’s the time frame for improving the team’s performance?
  • You mentioned “the usual customer service” responsibilities, could you tell me…
    • What does “outstanding” customer service mean for this business?
    • What kind of training is provided for customer service?
    • What are the customer service expectations in terms of working with colleagues?
    • (Somewhat advanced but a good question) Is compensation tied to the quality of service provided by a person in this job?
These probing questions need to be customized for each individual position. But just like the importance of thoroughly preparing your responses to questions about your experience, this is where you thoroughly prepare by 1) studying available information about the organization and possible position and 2) preparing questions that probe for:
  • Specificity: are you given answers with clear, “action” verbs?
  • Measurable: is there a clear measurement (a number) that indicates a performance level?
  • Attainable: are the expectations achievable, too low (usually not specific) or unrealistically high?
  • Results: are the results of the actions specified indicated?
  • Time: are the expectations framed in terms of when?
S.M.A.R.T. Goals can be a very powerful part of a successful job search – and a powerful tool for a job seeker to use during the interview process – if a job seeker learns and practices the process.

Related Posts

How To Create SMART Goals Set And Achieve SMART Goals Promotion Killers: Weak Goals

About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at www.farcliffs.com.     Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

When most people think of Nike, they think of shoes, retail stores, and, of course, athletes. That's all true, but there's more. Behind Nike's walls, you'll find the doers and thinkers who design, create, and innovate every day. There are also data scientists who discover and leverage athlete insights to create the future of sport.

You might be surprised to learn about the impact you can have in Data & Analytics at Nike versus at a major tech giant. Nike employees get to work on a wide array of challenges, so if you're obsessed with math, science, computers, and/or data, and you love sport, these stories may inspire you to work at Nike.

SHOW MORE Show less

Employee loyalty is something every company longs for. It's estimated employee turnover costs as much as 130-200% of an employee's salary. When a talented, knowledgeable, trained employee leaves, it's bad for business. And, when lots of them leave, it can be the kiss of death.

SHOW MORE Show less

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the interview situation one of our viewers, Remi submitted. He was in an interview and was asked the question: How many cows are there in Canada right now? - What a weird question but this is a technique that some hiring managers are using these days.

SHOW MORE Show less

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the awkward situation one of our viewers, Kevin submitted. He is a college student who's working a part time job to make ends meet. The manager/owner of the company has become a micro-manager who watches him work on camera and reads his company emails. A bit over the top wouldn't you say?

SHOW MORE Show less

All work and no play can create a tense and unwelcoming environment. Studies have shown that employers that offer additional perks have employees that are happier and more loyal to their place of employment. If you are looking for an employer that acknowledges how important it is to give its employees a place to de-stress and bond with their co-workers, check out these companies!

SHOW MORE Show less

In this week's episode of "Well This Happened", we want to know what you would do if you worked for an owner who micro-manages you my watching you work on camera and reading through your company emails.

We want YOU to be the career coach and tell us which one is the RIGHT answer!

Think you know? Vote below, and stay tuned for later this week when we announce the right answer (and why the other ones are wrong).

SHOW MORE Show less