Introduction to the Interview Question

Why This Question Matters

During a job interview, when an interviewer asks, "What motivates you?" they’re not just making conversation. This interview question is a window into your professional soul and an opportunity to demonstrate how your personal drives align with the company culture. Employers are eager to understand what propels what motivates you forward: is it personal growth, the thrill of a challenge, or the satisfaction of being part of a team?

Beyond the Job Description

This query is about more than matching skills listed in a job description to your qualifications. It’s about offering insight into how you feel excited about achieving goals, whether those are quarterly targets or major project milestones, and how this motivation intertwines with the team and the company’s values.

Glimpsing Your Fit within the Company

A great answer can show the hiring manager that you’ve done your self-reflection, and you understand why certain projects or experiences have left you feeling genuinely motivated. Whether you thrive in constantly growing work environments or you're driven by creative ideas, your answer helps the interviewer foresee your potential impact as part of their organization.

Understanding The Question

Understanding The Question

Why Employers Ask This Question

When an interviewer asks "What motivates you?", hiring managers are looking beyond the face value of your answer. Behind this common interview question, they're seeking insight into your personality and whether you'll thrive in the work environments they offer. Employers value motivations that resonate with personal growth, teamwork, and the ability to overcome challenges. They especially appreciate when job seekers' motivators align with the company's culture and mission, as these factors often trump compensation's importance.

Decoding the Question's Purpose

This question probes deeper than just eliciting a good answer; it helps to reveal your intrinsic motivation and if it fits the job role's demands and rewards. A sustainable motivational match goes beyond the tangible and taps into the enjoyment and personal fulfillment you might find in the role – factors intrinsic to positive job performance and satisfaction. It's not just about what you find motivating but also how these motivations serve the company's goals.

Setting the Right Context

A relevant answer resonates with the job description and showcases how your personal drivers—like achieving goals or constantly growing through acquiring new skills—mesh with the particular role and company culture. Employers understand that acknowledgments like exceeding quarterly goals can stimulate a sense of accomplishment. By setting the right context, your answer can demonstrate that your personal and professional motivations are not only genuine but poised to make a positive impact within their team.

Preparation Strategies

Preparation Strategies


To give a great answer to the interview question, "What motivates you?" start with some in-depth self-reflection. Consider the many factors that that make you feel excited about getting up in the morning or the aspects of your last job that ignited your passion. Maybe you're constantly growing your skill set, achieving quarterly goals, or you find tackling a big project particularly fulfilling. It's about understanding your intrinsic motivation and how it plays into your work style and career growth.

Researching the Company

Next on your preparation list is researching the company. Delve into their missioncompany culture, and team dynamics. Hiring managers want to see that your motivations align not just with the job role, but also with the company's values and goals. Study the job description carefully; it can offer key takeaways on what the company prioritizes, whether it's customer service skills, creative ideas, or exceeding sales goals.

Aligning Personal and Company Values

Finally, it's crucial to align your personal motivators with the company's expectations. Employers often value personal growth, making a positive impact, and the ability to meet challenges as much as they focus on team dynamics. Battery your insight with a few examples from past experiences that showcase how your motivators align with the company's environment. By doing this, you ensure that your answer to "What motivates you?" resonates with the hiring manager and sets you apart from other candidates.

Formulating Your Answer

Formulating Your Answer

When answering the interview question "What motivates you?", it's essential to offer an honest answer that aligns with the company's values while reflecting your genuine motivators. Here’s how you can approach this.

Starting with Your 'Why'

Begin by articulating your intrinsic motivation, focusing on personal growth, challenge, and the desire to make a positive impact within a team or contribute to something larger, like the company mission. Your 'why' sets the foundation of your answer and provides insight into your professional persona.

Incorporating Your Strengths

An effective strategy is tailoring your response to reflect key strengths that resonate with the job description. For example, if your strong customer service skills have propelled you past challenging work environments, tie in how those skills motivate you to constantly improve and deliver exceptional service. This shows the hiring manager that you're self-aware and intrinsically driven, which are valuable attributes in any job role.

Connecting to the Job Role

Align your motivations with specific aspects of the job at hand. Let’s say the job requires someone who is self-motivated to handle a difficult project. Talk about times when pushing through a big project felt rewarding because you enjoy achieving goals and exceeding expectations. Show how your personal motivators align with the job’s demands and the company culture, demonstrating a person-environment fit that benefits both you and the company.

Remember that employers appreciate when job seekers bring a clear understanding of how their motivators can positively influence their performance in the particular role they're applying for. Be prepared with examples and remember, a great answer often involves combining both personal and job-related motivations.

Sample Responses

Sample Responses

For Entry-Level Positions

When answering what motivates you in a job interview for an entry-level position, focus on showcasing your enthusiasm for learning new things and your commitment to contributing to the team. For example, a great answer could mention, “I am motivated by the opportunity to constantly grow my skill set and tackle challenges that allow me to exceed quarterly goals. I also find working towards a common team objective inspiring, particularly in an inclusive work environment like yours that encourages creative ideas.”

For Mid-Career Professionals

Mid-career professionals should align their answer with the specific job description, reflecting a better understanding of their own intrinsic motivation. A well-crafted example answer might be, “I feel excited about applying my customer service skills to influence positive impact within the company. Achieving goals and exceeding expectations are big motivators for me, especially when I can see how my contributions aid in the company’s success and adhere to its values.”

For High-Level Executives

For individuals in high-level executive roles, the interview question 'What motivates you?' should be answered with a focus on leadership and strategic impact. A compelling answer would demonstrate insight into the role's broad implications, such as, “What motivates me is driving change and innovation within an industry. At this stage in my career, I am inspired by the ability to mentor a dynamic team, shape company culture, and lead big projects that promise to make a significant difference in our sector.”

Incorporating real-life examples from past experiences offers the interviewer a sense of your achievements and how your motivators align with the potential role at the company. Whether you find motivating factors in personal growth, the team dynamic, or the challenge of the job, remember that hiring managers are keen on understanding how these aspects contribute to your overall job performance and satisfaction.

Do's and Don'ts

Do's and Don'ts

Being Authentic

When you answer what motivates you, honesty is paramount. A genuine response shows self-awareness and integrity. It's essential to reflect on your personal growth, team experiences, and past accomplishments to provide an honest answer that resonates with the company's values.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Keep your answer relevant to the job description, avoiding common mistakes such as vague or generic statements. For example, instead of saying you enjoy challenges, specify how a difficult project in a past job or a big project helped you grow. Share real-life examples to prove you're self-motivated and to show a few different ways to distinguish yourself from other candidates.

Staying Relevant

Align your motivation with the particular role and company culture. If the job involves team collaboration, talk about how working with a team to exceed quarterly goals makes you feel excited. Or, if the role is about customer service skills, discuss how achieving goals and constantly growing in your ability to help others is what keeps you motivated. Always connect your answer back to how your motivators align with the job you're interviewing for, showing the hiring manager that you've done your research and understand what the job entails.

Body Language and Tone

Body Language and Tone

When answering the question, "What motivates you?" during a job interview, not only is your verbal answer important, but your body language and tone also play a crucial role in conveying your sincerity and enthusiasm.

Projecting Confidence

Project confidence by sitting up straight and making appropriate eye contact. A firm handshake at the beginning of the interview sets the tone for a confident interaction. Confidence suggests that you are self-aware and self-motivated, aligning well with intrinsic motivation which is valued across many work environments.

Maintaining Positivity

Maintain a positive tone by smiling genuinely when discussing what makes you feel excited about your job role or working with a new team. When you talk about past experiences, whether it was doing new things, working through a difficult project or contributing creative ideas in your last job, let your positivity shine through. This shows the hiring manager your capacity for seeing challenges as opportunities for learning new skills and achieving goals.

Synchronizing Body Language with Words

Ensure that your body language matches the passion behind your honest answer. If you're speaking about how you love to exceed quarterly goals, let your enthusiasm be visible through animated gestures. When discussing how a particular role at the company could help in constantly growing your career, lean in slightly to show interest. This synchronicity helps to reinforce the honesty of your answer and demonstrates your genuine motivation.

Personal Motivations

Personal Motivations

Career Goals

When an interviewer asks "What motivates you?", your career goals are a fantastic springboard for your answer. Employers want to gauge if there's an alignment between their company's trajectory and your professional aspirations. Are you aiming for leadership roles or eager to dive into new sectors? Share how the job opportunity can be a stepping stone for your desired career path, evidencing your intention to grow with the company.

Learning and Growth

Personal development and the pursuit of new skills can be powerful motivators. In your response, focus on how the job role offers the chance to learn and adapt, which keeps you motivated. Whether it's mastering customer service skills or obtaining cutting-edge industry knowledge, express your enthusiasm for staying constantly growing and becoming more self-aware. The interviewer will appreciate the insight into your intrinsic motivation to embrace challenges and grow.

Making an Impact

Lastly, talking about making a positive impact within the company and its wider community can be a compelling part of your answer. Applicants who demonstrate that they feel excited about contributing to something larger than themselves show hiring managers a depth to their motivation. Whether it's through team collaborations or spearheading a big project, highlight how you want to leave a lasting mark — aligning this drive with the company's values and its mission for a greater societal good.

Connecting with the Interviewer

Connecting with the Interviewer

Listening Actively

When the interviewer asks "What motivates you?", it's more than just a prompt for your answer; it's an opportunity for dialogue. An attentive listener can catch subtle cues about company culture and team dynamics, which might be critical for your role. Employers appreciate when job seekers demonstrate engagement not just by answering questions, but also by showing interest in what's being said. It reflects an ability to adapt communication style to different work environments, a vital skill in any job.

Building Rapport

A rapport with your interviewer begins with a genuine interest in the conversation. Reflecting on your past experiences and how they align with the company's values can offer a more honest and personal response. For instance, if the job description emphasizes teamwork and your motivation comes from collaborative success, share an example where you worked with a team to overcome a difficult project. This shows recognition of the company’s focus on team achievement and provides common ground with the interviewer.

Making It Conversational

To make the interview feel conversational, instead of merely delivering sample answers, tailor your responses to interview questions to include insights about how you find motivation in learning new skills or achieving quarterly goals that the job role offers. Discuss how these motivators align with the job description to convey you've not only done your homework on the company but also have self-awareness regarding your career growth. By doing so, you invite the interviewer into a discussion rather than a one-sided Q&A, which could set you apart from other candidates.

Real-Life Examples

Real-Life Examples

Sharing Personal Experiences

When an interviewer asks, "What motivates you?" sharing personal experiences can provide a rich context. For example, you might say in your last job, the opportunity to lead a difficult project sparked an intense sense of purpose. This is an honest answer, giving the interviewer an insight into your intrinsic motivation for leadership and overcoming challenges.

Demonstrating Past Successes

Providing an example answer that highlights past successes allows you to showcase how your motivation aligns with the job role. Say you feel excited when achieving quarterly goals due to the positive impact it brings to the company. By demonstrating how you exceeded goals in your current position, the interviewer gets a better understanding of your drive to excel.

Highlighting Lessons Learned

Now, if you’re aiming for a new role where team collaboration is essential, discussing lessons from past experiences where creative ideas from your team led to a big project's success can resonate well. It subtly reveals how the company's values and your motivation for team synergy can contribute to future milestones.

Employers highly value personal growth, impact on the work, and how individuals engage with their teams. Tailoring your answer with examples that line up with these areas can differentiate you from other candidates, making your answer what motivates you impactful.

Follow-Up Questions

Follow-Up Questions

Being Prepared for Expansion

When an interviewer asks what motivates you, they're often seeking a deeper understanding of your drive and are likely to probe further. Be prepared to expand on your initial answer with real-life examples that showcase how your motivations have played a role in past experiences or how they align with the company’s values and the particular role you are interviewing for. Acknowledge the importance of personal growth and the team environment as key motivators.

How to Pivot Your Answer

If you sense that the discussion is steering away from your core motivations, pivot your answer by bringing the focus back to aspects of the job description that resonate with your intrinsic motivation. Talk about how the role fits within your career growth plan or how you feel excited about the opportunity to contribute to a bigger project or work with a team that is constantly growing.

Managing Tricky Follow-Ups

During the interview, tricky follow-ups may come your way. A good strategy is to relate your motivations to the job's requirements and the company culture. If the hiring manager inquires further, maintain an honest tone while drawing from your self-reflection on what you find motivating. Articulate how your motivators align with the company's mission and the value you would bring to the team. Remember, showcasing how well your motivation fits the work environment and the job role can set you apart from other candidates.

How to Keep Yourself Motivated When Things Are Difficult

How to Keep Yourself Motivated When Things Are Difficult

Setting and Revisiting Goals

Staying motivated during challenging times can be tough in any job, but one effective approach is to set and revisit goals. Whether it's quarterly goals or long-term career growth aspirations, having clear targets can give you something to strive for and make you feel excited about the journey. It's important for these goals to be aligned with your job description and the company's values, as this congruence can drive a more intrinsic motivation that keeps you self-motivated even when faced with a difficult project.

Embracing Challenges

Challenges at work shouldn't always be seen as roadblocks. Instead, they can be opportunities to learn new skills and showcase your ability to overcome obstacles. During a job interview, sharing real life examples of how you've turned challenges into learning experiences can provide insight to the interviewer on how you stay motivated. Employers appreciate candidates who can turn a big project's difficulties into a chance for growth and creativity in finding solutions.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is crucial for sustaining motivation in any job role, especially during high-pressure periods. It's important to remember that a motivated team member is one who knows how to manage their time and energy both in and out of the workplace. Expressing to the hiring manager that you value this balance presents you as a self-aware applicant who understands the importance of recharging in order to maintain a consistently growing performance.

Seeking Feedback and Support

Lastly, don't underestimate the power of seeking feedback and support from your team and leaders within your company. This direct line to insight on your performance can shape how you approach your current position and lead to a positive impact on your work style. During the next interview, when the interviewer asks about your motivation, don't hesitate to mention how constructive feedback and collaboration with others are potent motivators that help keep you grounded and forward-moving, even when times get tough.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Being Vague or Generic

When answering the question "What motivates you?" in a job interview, it's important to steer clear of vague or generic responses. Hiring managers have heard "I'm motivated by success" or "I like to be challenged" countless times. They're looking for insight into how your personal motivators align with the company culture and the job role. Take the time for some self-reflection to offer an answer that presents a better understanding of what specifically drives you—be it career growth, achieving goals, or the joy of learning new things.

Overconfident Responses

Confidence is key in interviews, but overconfidence can be a pitfall. While you may feel excited about your ability to exceed goals or lead big projects, positioning yourself above the team or not acknowledging the collaborative effort can be off-putting. Always focus on how your motivation translates to positive impact within a team setting, showing you value the collective success as much as individual achievement.

Negativity Towards Past Experiences

Lastly, avoid speaking negatively about your past experiences when discussing motivation. It's tempting to talk about the lack of motivation you felt at your last job or with a difficult project, but this can leave a sour taste with interviewers. Instead, focus on what you find motivating and how these factors have helped you remain self-motivated in various work environments. Sharing real life examples can demonstrate how you’ve turned challenging situations into opportunities for growth.

Customizing Your Answer for Different Industries

Understanding Industry Expectations

Different industries seek various attributes in their candidates. Health sectors might value empathy and resilience, while tech industries might prioritize innovation and technical skills. Understand what your potential industry values by digging into its core practices and ethics. For instance, if you're applying to a non-profit organization, your motivation might be aligned with making a positive impact, which resonates well with their mission-driven approach.

Highlighting Relevant Skillset

Respond to the question, “What motivates you?” by relating to the job description and required skillset. If you're interviewing for a customer service role for example, mention how solving problems and fostering positive customer relations drives you. This shows the interviewer that your motivations are relevant to the job role and that you have the necessary customer service skills to excel.

Industry-Specific Challenges and Motivators

Tailoring your answer to reflect industry-specific challenges indicates your insight and preparedness. If you’re in tech, talk about how a difficult project excites you because it promises the growth of new skills and the thrill of innovation. For creative industries, you might discuss how designing a big project or coming up with creative ideas energizes you. By showcasing how your motivators align with the job, you not only reveal your enthusiasm but also demonstrate that you are ready to handle industry-specific hurdles.

Conclusion and Final Tips

Recapping Key Points

Reflecting on the interview question "What motivates you?" it's clear that it offers an opportunity to showcase your passion and fit for the job. Your answer should be a blend of personal growth, team dynamics, and the positive impactyou aim to have within the company. Keep in mind industry variations and focus on intrinsic factors like job satisfaction over extrinsic rewards for a more compelling response.

Last-minute Advice

Before your next interview, revisit this advice: tailor your answer to the job description, be honest, and infuse real-life examples that resonate with the company's values. Highlight your skill set that aligns with particular role responsibilities and the company culture.

Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearsing your answer to the "What motivates you?" question will help you refine it. Think deeply about past experiences, job role expectations, and ensure your motivators align with the company's mission. Practicing will also help avoid common mistakes and present a confident, self-aware front to hiring managers.

Why not check out our "Guide To Nerve Free Interviewing"?

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