Tough Interview Question - Give me an example of a time when you had to motivate someone else

Give me an example of a time when you had to motivate someone else.

Similar interview questions:
How do you motivate others?
What incentives do you use for helping others to reach common goals?
Do you find it difficult to motivate others?
How do you influence the behavior of others?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
This is often used as a question for manager interviews, but it can also apply to individual contributors working on a team where you are depending on the work of others to accomplish your goals. The interviewer is looking for how you motivate people other than yourself.

The best approach to answering this question:
Follow the edict that there is little you can personally do to motivate others, that individuals need to be self-motivated and personally buy-in on their own. With that in mind, think of an example where you helped someone else find that motivation to accomplish something, ideally related either directly or indirectly to your work.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I have a recent example in my work where I was dependent upon the work of someone else on our team to reach the goal of completing our project. I met with him personally and asked what I could do to help him in reaching his goal. And yes, I actually asked him what motivates him. He said he simply wanted recognition for his work and what he was doing. After explaining the overall importance of the project, I offered to him that I would be happy to nominate him in for an internal recognition award if we were able to meet or beat our deadline. He delivered ahead of schedule and yes, I did nominate him for the internal award and yes, he did receive that award. He has the award plaque proudly displayed on his desk at work…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"In my most recent internship, we had a project that had a fixed delivery date, since it was tied to the release of another product. As we approached the delivery date, it became clear that one of the deliverables was going to be difficult to complete. So I organized a scrum meeting with our team and we decided that a team pizza party would be our motivation and reward for completing the deliverable. By working together, we not only delivered on time, we actually beat the deadline. And yes, we did have our pizza party together as a team…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to motivate others. I’ve tried everything, chocolate, candy, even cash bribes don’t seem to work…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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