Tough Interview Question - What motivates you?

What motivates you?

Similar interview questions:
What makes you tick?
What encourages you to do your best work?
What inspires you?
What influences you to be your best?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is asking for your self-assessment of what motivates you. Note that most people are not able to correctly self-assess on motivations. So the intent is to find out what you at least think motivates you. However, there are often new insights learned about the candidate by asking this question.

The best approach to answering this question:
Do not talk about money. Focus on doing interesting work (which is actually the #1 motivator for most professionals), recognition, tools to do your work and/or the opportunity for future advancement. If they ask "What about money?" as a follow-up question, you can simply acknowledge that money is important, but if you are interesting work, you know that the money will follow.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I'm motivated by several things in my work. Doing meaningful work, recognition and having the tools to be successful are the most important motivators for me. For example, on one of my recent projects, we had the opportunity to develop leading edge systems for our company. It meant a lot to me to be selected to lead the team and we all worked well together, since we knew the importance of our work and the impact to our company. Our boss also knew that we needed additional tools to complete the project successfully. Those tools were provided and the project was delivered successfully. This project also led to recognition at both the team and department level. And that project was also noted as one of the reasons for my promotion to my current role…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"The type of work I will be doing is the most important motivator for me. I want to be doing meaningful work that makes a difference for our company and our customers. As an example, I selected my last internship employer over two other offers because they provided the opportunity to do real work that was going to have an actual impact, rather than just a test project to assess my skills. My internship project also gave me the opportunity to work with several very experienced professionals as we worked to deliver the solution. In the end, the project was delivered successfully and noted by my manager as being one of the best internship projects at the company that year…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Money is what motivates me. I measure everything in terms of money. Money is the real measure of how I'm doing. If I'm doing well, I know I will be paid more. And if you want to motivate me to do more, pay me more. Yep, money is what does it for me."


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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