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How do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question?

How do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question?

August 29, 2021

It’s a question almost always asked during an interview: ‘what is it that motivates you?’ It’s a great question for companies to ask as it provides an insight into the kind of employee you may be and how you may fit into their business and the role on offer. Interviewers want to know more about your inspirations and goals, as this demonstrates your potential to be a fully engaged and productive addition to their team. However, it can be tricky knowing whether or not you are giving the best possible answer. Here are our top tips on how to get your response spot on. 

Do your homeworkHow do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question? CMD Recruitment

Firstly, take a look at the company’s website through the lens of discovering more about their ethos, their vision. Look for the values of the company, perhaps through a mission statement or the About Us page. Is there a charity they support or do they talk about family values or diversity? 

Also, take a thorough look at the job description, this can help you align the role’s objectives with your own motivations. For example, if it’s a technical role, you may want to highlight your motivation to produce highly detailed work. For a customer services role, you can emphasise how you feel inspired to help others.   

Give an example

Giving an example of a situation where you felt motivated, particularly in relation to your job or career is a great way of presenting your depth in one instance. Think back to when you felt the impetus to carry out a task, what the task was and how you were motivated to perform it to the best of your ability. If a work-related story is not possible, perhaps there was a time in your personal life when you felt motivated, a hobby you really wanted to do, a language you really wanted to learn to enhance your travel ambitions.

Be authentic

Although it’s important to do your research and consider how you will answer the question with a fitting anecdote, don’t worry about an overly polished response that may sound too rehearsed. It’s useful at this stage to ask yourself the question, am I going to enjoy this job? If you are finding it hard to come up with real answers that chime in with the role you are interviewing for, then is this job really for you? Although this doesn’t help you answer the question on motivation, the motivation question does give you the answer to whether you really want the job.

Let your personality shine through 

How do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question? CMD Recruitment

It’s an old adage but in every industry, people buy people. Going into a little detail about your hobbies and interests conveys who you are and what kind of things motivate you. It is not advisable to elaborate wildly on hobbies that bear no relation to work, but to stay on topic with professional situations. For example, you can mention how you took on organising the Christmas party for your team last year as you love the satisfaction event planning brings. You could also mention that you collaborated with your previous company’s chosen charity as you enjoy working with new people and looking for new opportunities. If you set up a running club with your fellow employees, make sure you talk about this too. 

Exude confidence 

When you talk about the motivations you have, remember to present them with confidence. Although some interviews can feel as if you are under a microscope, remember that you were shortlisted for a reason. Doing your research and preparation work before an interview will help provide this confidence. 

Be succinct 

It’s easy to stray off-topic in an interview situation and if you do, don’t worry. Simply draw yourself back to the original point or question, and remember to be specific with your answers. Again, this will emanate more confidence, making your response to the questions all the more effective and memorable.

See things through your prospective employer’s eyes

When an interviewer asks you the question about what motivates you, they are also looking to see how you are likely to function on a daily basis. Perhaps they are looking for someone to lead a team, someone to work independently or as part of a team. Ask yourself the question, if I were recruiting for this particular role, what would I be looking for? Companies want people who have the same motivations you would expect from a team leader/an independent worker and/or a team player. Use the motivation question to show how you are driven in a way that is relevant to the role.  

What you shouldn’t do when answering the question

How do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question? CMD Recruitment

Be negative

Stay positive about your responses and avoid bringing in examples of when you felt demotivated. Talk about the fulfilment you felt when completing a task. It’s also helpful to talk about any positive experiences with a previous employer and not put shade on anything you may have been dissatisfied with.

Don’t procrastinate 

It’s easy to keep on talking, especially if you feel a little under pressure, be comfortable with the response you have given and feel okay with the odd pause. This will help bring home the point you have made and demonstrate a level of confidence. 

Don’t align motivation with financial objectives 

It goes without saying that money is a motivation for everyone, but what employers are looking for is whether or not you have the drive to perform tasks using key motivations.  Wanting to do a good job, knowing that clients and/or customers are satisfied with a service, receiving positive feedback from customers, or the pleasure of completing a challenging task are examples of more appropriate responses. 

Stay formal but friendly 

It’s important to get your personality across during an interview, but always make sure you remain professional. It’s particularly easy to become complacent when answering the motivation question as the examples you give can force you to overly digress. Take note of how an interviewer is responding to you, are their non-verbal cues suggesting it’s time to move to the next question?  

Sample answers to the ‘what motivates’ you question

How do you answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question? CMD Recruitment

We’ve given you a few examples of how to approach this question already, but below are some further ideas. You will need to put your own take on these in relation to your own experiences: 

  • Finding more streamlined approaches to old processes
  • Motivating a team to achieve results
  • Achieving deadlines and meeting personal and company targets 
  • Thinking differently about a new idea 
  • Working within a team to produce a collaborative result
  • Discovering new skills that can be applied to yourself or across the company
  • Sifting through data to find new patterns in productivity or financial activity 
  • Helping others learn new skills through coaching
  • Helping others improve themselves 
  • Overcoming challenges with new ideas 

Strength-based interview questions

What motivates you can be categorised as a strength-based interview question, other similar questions may be ‘how would your friends describe you?’, ‘what do you do in your spare time’ and ‘are you best when starting or completing tasks’?  So, when you are preparing for the motivation question, plan for these questions too. This way, you’ll be fully prepared and ready to win that role.

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