Of all the questions that can come up in an interview, “what motivates you” may be one of the most distinct. Unlike the questions you are used to, which ask about your skills, experience, and strengths and weaknesses, this question is about what drives you.
Interviewers ask this question in an interview to learn more about why you are motivated to pursue specific goals. They will use this information to evaluate whether the factors that motivate you are in line with the work environment.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to answer “what motivates you” and walk you through a few example answers to help understand what employers expect in a response.
Why Am I Asked This Question?
Hiring managers often ask job candidates about their motivation to find out if they will thrive in the type of environment the business will provide.
For instance, if you are motivated by ambitious goals, and the company likes to set ambitious goals, it is a good sign that you will work well on a team. But if you are motivated by deadline-focused environments, and you are applying for a job that requires creative thinking, you may not be able to work as well.
In addition, this question helps a hiring manager evaluate your self-awareness. If you know what motivates you, it is a good sign that you know about what you want out of a job. People who are self-aware are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, which makes them more effective and productive workers.
How to Answer “What Motivates You?”
The best way to answer this question is to practice how you are going to respond before your interview begins. Come up with a few talking points that you want to highlight so that when it comes time for the real interview, you’ll be able to stay on track.
If you are unsure of what motivates you, think about the times when you were highly productive in your last job. What was it that made you so effective?
Suppose you are a web developer who worked well on a speed optimization project. You may realize that you were able to work well on this project because you had a direct impact on the experience people had when using a website. As a result, you may want to tell an employer that you are motivated by “doing work that has a clear impact on others.”
Another way to figure out what motivates you is to consider the reasons behind why you applied for the job in the first place. Did some element of the company’s culture stand out to you? Do you think you have some unique insights that you can share to help the business achieve its goals?
Suppose you read over a job description for a social media management position. You decided to apply for the position because you are interested in creating high-quality social content, and wanted to expand your skills. In this case, you may want to say in your interview that you are motivated by the prospect of personal growth, or by creating meaningful and vibrant social content.
With that said, this question is not asking you about your motivations for applying for a job. If an employer wants to learn more about why you applied for a job, they will ask you directly. When you are asked about your motivation, an employer wants to know what you enjoy doing, and how that drives you to do your best work.
To help you figure out what motivates you, here are a few experiences that are commonly seen as motivating:
- Meeting deadlines
- Learning new skills
- Using creative thinking skills to make something new
- Solving difficult problems
- Leading a project from start to finish
- Mentoring other members of a team
Example Answers to “What Motivates You?”
Sometimes, the best way to figure out how you are going to respond to a question is to see how other people have phrased their responses. Here are a few examples of responses to this common interview question. You can reference them to gain a better understanding of what an employer is looking for:
“I am motivated by working on technical challenges. As a full-stack web developer, I enjoy being given specifications for features to add or problems to solve and figuring out the best and most effective course of action. In my last job, I was able to complete a sprint for an important new feature two days ahead of schedule because I felt motivated to solve the technical challenges associated with implementing the feature.”
“I am motivated by writing high quality content that can help other people. In my last job as a content marketer, I took great pride in assuring the quality of every article that I wrote. This was because I knew that the quality of my work would have an impact on someone else’s life, even if they only wanted an answer to a simple question. Knowing that my words can help other people solve their problems is why I became a writer.”
“I am motivated by helping other people. I have worked as a retail assistant for four years and I have found no feeling to be more gratifying than the one I get when I help a customer. I love speaking with customers, getting to know their needs, then using my knowledge to help them find a solution to their problems. I also love hearing ‘thank you’ after I have helped someone overcome a challenge.”
“What motivates you?” is a more open-ended question than some of the others that could be asked in a job interview. It’s also more personal than many other interview questions. However, you should not let that deter you from preparing for this question.
When an interviewer asks you about what motivates you, they really want to know whether they can provide a work environment that best supports your needs.
By reflecting on your motivation upfront, practicing an answer, and following the advice in this guide, you should have no trouble telling an employer what motivates you and drives you to do your best work.