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

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

Similar interview questions:
What incentives help you to perform better?
Are you self-motivating or do you require external motivators?
What should I do as your future manager to help motivate you to perform at your peak?
Do you work better with external motivators or internal motivators?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
This is a great question for your future manager to ask. Why? Because different people are motivated differently. However, candidates typically do not think about motivation and specifically how to motivate themselves, so the way this question is phrased can be a stumper question in the interview and catch a candidate off guard.

The best approach to answering this question:
Give examples of times when you motivated yourself to reach a higher level of performance. This can be in times of adversity, but it doesn’t need to have that framing. You can simply give a way that you motivate yourself on a daily basis to get work accomplished and deliverables completed. Unless you truly do not have any work examples, avoid personal examples.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"Actually, I can give you several examples of how I motivate myself, since I do this on a daily basis in my work. I’m accomplishment driven, so I start each day by planning my work for the day and what I plan to accomplish by the end of the day. There can be things that come up during the day which require a higher and more immediate priority, but my work plan for the day is where I return. It helps to motivate me to deliver tangible results each and every day. Then, at the end of the day, I review my work plan and have that sense of accomplishment for what has been delivered. It keeps me focused on what is both most important and most urgent…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I had a work deliverable due for my internship that I knew would be difficult to accomplish within the time frame allotted. So I set up my own internal system for tracking my progress on a daily basis so that I could see what had been accomplished as well as what was remaining. It became a progress chart for me to review on a daily basis. This provided the internal motivation I needed to get the work completed on time…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"The clock is a great motivator for me. If I get tired of all the office politics and people yelling at me to get stuff done, I just look at the clock and think how much time I have until I can leave for the day. Then I count down the hours until I can leave my rat hole of a job. Sometimes, in the last five minutes before 5 o’clock, I find myself just staring at the clock, waiting for the final minutes to tick away…"


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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