You're in the interview, and everything seems to be going great!
You built up a rapport with the hiring manager, you've shared some of your successes in your previous work experience, and you really feel like you're nailing this interview.
But then the dreaded question comes up: “What motivates you?”
This open-ended question can stop you in your tracks, as you know there are so many answers you could give.
Let's examine that question and help you come up with a brilliant answer for it.
In this article, you'll learn:
- Why interviewers ask "What motivates you?"
- How to answer "What motivates you?" in an interview.
- Gain a few practical examples you can use in your next interview.
- Learn a few follow-up questions to ask after you answer your motivations.
Before your interview, you'd feel a lot more confident if you had a little support behind you. This is where Enhancv's career counselling services can give you a leg up against your competition, and give you the confidence to get your dream job.
Why interviewers ask "What Motivates You?"
Upload & Check Your Resume
Drop your resume here or choose a file. PDF & DOCX only. Max 2MB file size.
As you may have guessed, there are many reasons an interviewer might ask you this common interview question.
A job interview is a feeling out process, where hiring managers can check to see if you are a good fit for their company. By asking what motivates you, a hiring manager can decide whether you really fit with the company culture.
If you want to go above and beyond for your interview, do a little research to see what the mission and vision of the company that you're applying for is.
If the question of motivation comes up, you'll be ready to answer it in a way that's tailored towards the needs of the hiring manager.
For example, if the company that you're applying for is a not-for-profit that focuses on environmental protection, then a major motivation for you could be to help reduce carbon emissions, and play a part in the global net zero initiative by lowering carbon emissions to 'net zero' by 2050.
Make sure the responses you give aren't disingenuous, but are truthful to what truly drives you and motivates you.
What they want to see is that there's something that lights a fire under you, something that makes you want to excel in every position that you're in.
Managers are looking to assess whether you are self-motivated, as that's a skill that you can't teach.
Here are some of the hidden meanings behind the “What motivates you?” question:
What's your scoreboard?
The question may be simply asking, "How do you define success and work towards it?" What are the things that you do that leads to exceptional work and building up the company?
Sometimes, a scoreboard would be a great analogy for success. Ask yourself, "What do I count as goals that lead towards winning?"
Read more: Creating a Professional Development Plan- a Guide Based on Experience
You may be the type of person who enjoys building teams and collaborating with larger groups.
You may also prefer to work on major components of a project by yourself, and are more highly motivated when working independently.
Another side to that is that the hiring managers are trying to assess whether you are a team player, one who's willing to collaborate and be part of a team initiative. This can also be the place for you to differentiate yourself from other candidates.
What personal goals drive you?
This question is as simple as helping to understand the primary motivations in your life. This is the point where you can add a few personal goals.
Say, for example, you're saving up for your children's university education. This would be a great place to explain to your hiring manager the goals that you have for your kids to succeed in their future.
Is your motivation going to fit with the company's vision and values?
The hiring manager is trying to see if you are going to fit within the large puzzle that is their company. Are your motivations mixing with that of the company's vision, or do they run antithetical?
How to answer, “What motivates you?” interview question
Just as there are an unlimited amount of motivations for each one of us, there are an unlimited number of answers you can give for this question.
Before you rack your brain to think up answers, here are a few sample answers which you can use:
To learn new things and skills: I've found that curiosity and creativity go hand-in-hand, and one thing that drives me is to learn new skills to allow me to grow and excel.
To belong to a group that shares similar values: I thrive in an environment where I am surrounded by teammates who I can collaborate with and work for mutually beneficial goals.
To be successful at what I do and deal with challenges: I am motivated by a fast-paced, challenging workplace where I can use my unique problem-solving skills to succeed by learning new things.
To feel accomplished: I lived by a certain set of principles instilled in me through years of hard work and one of them is that I should give everything I've got to complete the task to the best of my ability. I know I can feel accomplished when I know I put in a solid day's work.
To help others: I'm passionate about building up other people in the workplace, as I have found that the best workplaces I've been a part of have been collaborative endeavors, places where people can ask questions without judgement, dream big, and work together to accomplish major goals.
Follow-up questions to answer after your motivations
After the hiring manager asks you what makes you tick, they may have a few more questions up their sleeve. These questions may require a bit of self-reflection, delving deeper into what you're personally passionate about.
Do your best to provide an honest answer about what your motivators are.
Here are some common follow-up interview questions about motivations you may come across:
What demotivates you?
At first, this question may feel a little sneaky, as you feel like they're asking you what your greatest weaknesses are, what will slow you down while you're working. But what they're really trying to ask you here is what makes you productive, and what can kill that productivity.
Hidden within this question is the question, "What motivates you to do a good job?"
If you are a social butterfly, someone who thrives on being around people, one thing that could demotivate you is not working within a team collaborative setting. This could be a great time to tell the hiring manager you prefer to work in a team environment.
One thing that demotivates me is when I'm stuck in a rut, and I haven't seen progress in the work that I'm doing.
What makes you get up in the morning?
Here, your interviewer is trying to understand what inspires you. These are the things that keep you going, prevent burnout, and produce long-term career success.
You can mention friends and family to help you shed a more personal view of yourself with your interviewer and build rapport with them.
You can also share with them your values, which may include being a lifelong learner.
Another question that fits within the same line of questioning is "where do you see yourself in five years?"
I am driven by a desire to be curious, as I found that every day you can learn something new from the people and experiences that you encounter.
What motivates you to go to work every day?
Here, your interviewer is trying to discover what motivates you in the workplace. All employers want to hire personnel who will be happy and have a long career at their company.
They are trying to figure out whether you are in it for the long haul.
It's okay to be honest here, and share that there are financial goals that you'd like to hit in your life. A huge goal for any of us is financial security, and that is a significant drive in our life, maybe what motivates you the most.
I have a lot of goals in my life, like early retirement and funding my children's education, and I keep these goals in my mind every day when I go to work because I am working towards something.
What motivated you to apply for this position?
This is the place where you can share important information that you've learned about the company before applying for the position. This is similar to the question "what other companies are you interviewing with?".
You can pick up some things about the company on their social media pages (especially ones which belong to executives at the company), as well as in the job description itself.
As I researched your company more, I found that your company fits well with my goals and skills, but I found the company culture to be something that attracted me the most.
Answering what drives you can seem like an arduous task, but it doesn't have to be. Be honest with your answers, and leverage every response to point to your skills and abilities. Here are some important things that you may have picked up from this article:
- Hiring managers ask what motivates you to figure out if you will fit within the company's unique environment.
- You can use this question to highlight your own strengths, highlighting developments from your career that show that you're passionate about your work.
- Your interviewer may ask follow-up questions to help qualify some of your statements.
- Tailor your answers towards the specific company that you are applying for.If you're interested in learning more about how to nail the recruitment process, at Enhancv we have career counselling services available for you to learn how to crush your next interview, especially when asked the "What motivates you?" interview question.
Make one that's truly you.