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I have a computer science degree, am passionate about programming and plan to move into software development, but I also have a deep passion about animals and animal welfare, often volunteering my time to help look after pets or help care for horses etc.

My true dream job would be to merge these two passions of mine where I can use my software development skills to some way impact the welfare of animals at the same time. But I realise that this is a rather specific area and opportunities for something like this are not always readily available, but I always want to keep a look out.

If in an interview that a question is asked about what your dream job is, would it be harmful to be honest in this situation if the company in question doesn't have any or little to do with animal welfare?

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    "If in an interview that a question is asked about what your dream job is" - remember in an interview setting a question like this is to get to know why you are good for that job. The way you answer should keep that in mind. – Brandin Apr 15 '16 at 10:31
  • My dream job might be oil-boy for the Swedish Bikini team but if asked in an interview I'm going to give some claptrap about a job not a million miles from the one they have on offer. – TheMathemagician Apr 18 '16 at 10:54
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This depends on the company you're applying to. Your dream job would combine programming and helping animals, which is one specific example of putting your programming skills to use for a higher purpose and not just to make somebody money or keep some stuffy old enterprise ticking along. So:

  • at an interview with any firm that is trying to make the world better, a response like I really want to write software that makes a difference. For example, a job where I was helping animals as well as developing software. In fact, I see an aspect of that in your firm, where you're aiming to ... and that is really going to make a difference!

  • at an interview with a stuffy old enterprise where all you'll be doing is getting paid, a response like I have a number of interests that don't really intersect with programming, like helping animals. A great job for me is one that helps me grow as a developer and know I'm contributing to my team's success, without having to work 60 or 80 hour weeks like at a startup.

Focus on the more general aspects of the job - making a difference, having a work-life balance, being able to live in city X, using the latest tech or using stable tech, earning a lot of money, working with brilliant people, traveling - rather than specifics like "it's for the Humane Society." Think about how the job you're interviewing for right now displays some of those general aspects, and connect the dots. Don't just ignore your true dreams and say "this job right here is all I ever wanted." Lying doesn't work. And besides, your dream job should be a bit of a stretch. But show them (and you!) how aspects of this job connect to your dreams, and you'll have a leg up on the "I want to work in France some day" or "actually I want to be a chef" applicants.

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They are trying to figure out how you think and what motivates you. As said in a previous answer, complete frankness is a double-edged sword and I won't repeat what IIy333o said. But what's more important is your attitude toward these types of questions in general and I've been guilty of thinking of them the wrong way as well.

Don't see this question as an interrogatory as much as an opportunity to share some personal insight about yourself. Remember, interviews are almost all about getting to know you as a person and see if your attitude and motivations are a good fit for their team. They're not really a goal review.

In my experience, the one quality that helps most in interviews (both as an interviewer and the candidate) is passion. It is passion (and any emotion or personality for that matter) that is missing from your resume. People don't interview to find out your skills (if they're doing it right). They have that information from your resume/CV. They bring you in because they not just want to get to know you but to give you the opportunity to "wow" them. And nothing wows people like a genuine passion, whatever that may be.

So, how to we get that passion across without telling them, "My dream job is something you can't offer"?

I would slightly move away from the question itself. While they asked for your dream job, tell them about your dreams and your passions in a more abstract way. For instance, you could start by telling them about your two great passions in life, animal welfare and programming. Tell them why animals are such a passion for you. Then talk about your programming passion. Wrap it up by merging the two but not so much as a dream job, but a dream. You could say something like "I don't even know if it's possible to even combine those two dreams in a job, but I don't want to give up one over the other, so for me it would be a dream to use my programming skills to help animals someway such as volunteering to help animal welfare organizations in my spare time so that one passion aids the other"

If pressed, you can finish with something I've said previously like "I do have dreams, but it's not just a job. For me, a great job that helps me also pursue my other passions IS part of my dream. My dream job is a great job. This looks like it could be a great job."

The key (and I can't stress enough) isn't what you tell them as an answer to the question, but what you tell them about yourself and what drives you.

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It can be both harmful and helpful. Remember, that people who interview you are, well, people, and are biased despite what is told to you. So there there could be countless scenarios on how that may impact your interview, let's check on couple extreme ones.

It could be harmful if, for instance, in recent past the person, who left the position you are currently applying to, had great passion for animals. So, he joined the team, worked for, say half a year, and then he managed to join some other group that helps animals worldwide. In that case right when you say "i love helping animals" it will automatically be linked by interviewer with his previous experience hence he will less likely hire you.

It also could be helpful, if, for instance, interviewer has a great passion for animals. In that case right when you say "i love helping animals" he'll think of you better and will more likely hire you.

The interviewing process is tremendously biased, so it is almost impossible to give straight answers you are willing to get. In my opinion it is better to tell the truth, since telling that you like something you dislike (for instance) can lead into eventual dissatisfaction and willing to leave the place for whatever reason. After all, if you live in some first-world country (and since you asking this sort of question i assume you are) there are plenty job opportunities, and it is better to look for something a bit longer, rather to jump onto the first train.

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would it be harmful to be honest in this situation if the company in question doesn't have any or little to do with animal welfare?

I wouldn't think so, questions like that in an interview are not particularly serious ones in terms of getting or not getting the job.

I normally wouldn't mention a hobby in conjunction with my profession though, unless it had some sort of relevance. Also my dream job has nothing to do with my profession, hence it's 'dream' status.

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It's a bad idea to be talking about your non-work related interests in a job interview.

Personally, if I even suspect a person considers work to be a second or third priority, I recommend against them. Of course, bear in mind the people I am assessing are highly-paid professionals. If you are a janitor or something, then its fine to have outside interests.

What an employer does not want is to need 110% from an employee and the employee is giving 50%.

Hopefully, the company will not ask you BS psychological questions like "what is your dream job". If they do, dodge the question, it's not legimate. If it were me I would say, "This one" or "a masseuse at the Miss America pageant" or something like that. Anything that I think might make the guy laugh and move on to the next question which will hopefull be a real question.

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