In a job interview, the question “What motivates you?” is not just a small talk topic to break the ice. Employers are looking for insightful answers that reflect your work ethic, values, and goals. This can help them understand if you are a good fit for the position and the company culture. It’s not enough to say that money or recognition motivates you. This question requires a more in-depth response that showcases your self-awareness and your ability to align your motivations with the job responsibilities.
We will explore how this question can help you stand out as a candidate, how to prepare for it, and what to avoid. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to answer this critical question and increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams.
Understanding the Question “What Motivates You?”
When an interviewer asks, “What motivates you?” during an interview, they are looking for insights into what drives you to succeed, what goals you have set for yourself, and what makes you passionate about your work.
Definition and Significance of Motivation
Motivation is the driving force that propels individuals to take action and pursue their goals. It can be defined as the internal or external factors that stimulate, sustain, and direct behavior towards a specific objective. In other words, motivation is what makes individuals get up in the morning and work towards their aspirations, whether it’s personal or professional.
Motivation is crucial to achieving success because it gives individuals the energy and enthusiasm to persevere, even when faced with challenges. It is the key to unlocking the full potential of individuals as it influences their productivity, creativity, and overall performance.
Different Types of Motivation
There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation refers to the external factors that drive individuals to take action, such as rewards, recognition, or promotions. For example, a salesperson who is driven by a commission-based salary is extrinsically motivated to perform well in sales because they want to earn more money.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to the internal factors that drive individuals to take action, such as personal satisfaction, enjoyment or a sense of purpose. For example, a teacher who is driven by their passion for educating young minds is intrinsically motivated to go the extra mile when crafting lesson plans and engaging with students.
Understanding the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is crucial when answering the question, “what motivates you?” because it helps interviewees articulate what drives them and why. By demonstrating their motivation and passion for their work, interviewees can set themselves apart as desirable candidates and showcase their potential for success in their new role.
Understanding the question “What motivates you?” can be the key to landing that dream job. By defining motivation, identifying different types, and articulating personal drivers, interviewees can demonstrate their value, passion, and potential to prospective employers.
How to Prepare for the Interview Question “What Motivates You?”
To give a great answer to the interview question “What motivates you?”, you need to prepare thoroughly. Here are three key steps to follow:
Self-Reflection and Introspection
Take some time to think about what truly motivates you in your professional life. Is it achieving a sense of mastery in your work? Being recognized for your accomplishments? A desire to make a positive impact in the world? Whatever it is, try to identify the underlying reasons why you find this motivating.
Research the Company and Job Position
Before your interview, research the company and the job position as thoroughly as possible. This will help you understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate and what the job will entail. Look for any clues about what motivates the organization and its employees.
Identify the Job Requirements and Responsibilities
Once you’ve learned more about the company and the job, make a list of the job requirements and responsibilities. Then, try to identify how your own motivations align with these requirements. For example, if the job involves working towards a common goal, you may find motivation in being part of a team.
By following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared to answer the question “What motivates you?” in a thoughtful and compelling way. Remember, the key is to be honest and specific about what drives you in your professional life.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “What Motivates You?”
When answering the question “What motivates you?” during an interview, it is important to avoid making common mistakes that could turn the interviewer off. Here are two common mistakes to avoid:
Being too generic or cliche
Saying that you are motivated by things like “hard work” or “challenges” can come across as disingenuous and unoriginal. Instead, try to provide specific examples of what motivates you and how you have been able to achieve success in the past by harnessing that motivation.
Focusing Solely on Salary and Benefits
While it is important to consider salary and benefits when evaluating a job offer, focusing solely on these factors when answering the “what motivates you” question can make you appear narrow-minded and lacking in ambition. Instead, try to highlight the professional and personal growth opportunities that the job presents, as well as any passion or alignment you have with the company’s mission and values.
Remember to approach the question with authenticity and thoughtfulness, demonstrating your unique strengths and goals as they pertain to the company and job at hand.
Tips for crafting an effective response to “What motivates you?”
During an interview, one of the most common questions you will be asked is “What motivates you?” This question can be tricky to answer as it requires you to reveal personal information about your values, strengths, and experiences. However, by following a few tips, you can craft an effective response that showcases your skills, aligns with the company’s mission and values, and leaves a lasting impression on the interviewer.
Use specific examples and experiences
One way to make your response to “What motivates you?” stand out is to use specific examples and experiences that demonstrate your values and strengths. For example, instead of saying, “I am motivated by success,” you can say, “I am motivated by achieving my goals and seeing measurable results. In my previous job as a marketing manager, I set a goal to increase website traffic by 20%, and within six months, we exceeded that goal by 30%. That feeling of accomplishment motivated me to continue setting and achieving ambitious goals.”
By providing concrete examples of your past achievements, you not only demonstrate your motivation but also show that you have the skills and experience to make an impact in your new role.
Highlight your strengths and values
Another tip for crafting an effective response to “What motivates you?” is to highlight your strengths and values. This will help the interviewer get a better understanding of what drives you professionally and what you can bring to the company. For example, if you are a creative problem-solver, you can say, “I am motivated by the challenge of solving complex problems. My creative problem-solving skills have helped me find innovative solutions in my previous roles, and I believe they will be an asset to your company as well.”
Remember to tie your strengths and values to the job position and the company’s mission and values. This will show the interviewer that you have done your homework and that you have a clear understanding of the company’s goals and values.
Connect your motivations to the job position and the company’s mission and values
Finally, one of the most important tips for an effective response to “What motivates you?” is to connect your motivations to the job position and the company’s mission and values. This will demonstrate that you are not just looking for any job but that you are genuinely interested in this particular role and company.
For example, if you are interviewing for a role in a nonprofit organization, you can say, “I am motivated by the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Your organization’s mission to alleviate poverty and promote social equity aligns with my values, and I believe that my skills and experience can contribute to your efforts.”
By connecting your motivations to the job position and the company’s mission and values, you show the interviewer that you are not just a good fit for the job but also a good fit for the company culture.
Sample Responses to “What Motivates You?”
During job interviews, one of the most common questions that candidates may encounter is “What motivates you?”. It’s essential to answer this question convincingly because employers use this information to understand what drives candidates to work effectively in a team, how they solve problems, and how they handle difficult situations. Here are some examples of strong and effective responses to the question:
1. “I am motivated by challenges.”
If you’re a candidate who enjoys taking on new challenges, this response can be an excellent fit. You can elaborate that you enjoy pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking on projects that seem daunting initially. Further, explain how your interest and experience in tackling challenges have helped you grow as a person and a professional.
2. “I am motivated by continuous learning and development.”
If you’re someone who enjoys learning new skills, techniques, or knowledge, this response can be a perfect fit. Candidates can explain that they love acquiring new knowledge and skills that can help them grow in their careers. Further, elaborate on how learning new skills and taking classes have helped you become better at your job and add more value to the company.
3. “I am motivated by making an impact.”
If you’re someone passionate about making a difference, this response can be an effective way to answer the question. Elaborate that you are interested in contributing to the company’s mission and values positively. Also, explain how your expertise and skills can help the company achieve its goals, and this is what motivates you.
4. “I am motivated by working with others.”
If you are motivated by teamwork and enjoy collaborating with others to achieve common goals, this response is an effective way to answer the question. Elaborate that you enjoy the challenge of working with diverse teams, leveraging everyone’s strengths, and achieving shared goals.
5. “I am motivated by recognition and appreciation.”
If you’re someone who enjoys receiving recognition and feedback for your efforts, this response is an excellent fit. Explain that you enjoy creating impactful work, and when your efforts are recognized, it fuels your motivation to do even better. Additionally, you can add that receiving feedback helps you identify areas of improvement and enables you to deliver even more effective results.
The question “What motivates you?” is an excellent way for the hiring manager to learn about you and your work philosophy. Therefore, answer this question with sincerity and enthusiasm, demonstrating how your motivation can help you add value to the company.
How to Tailor Your Response to the Company and the Job Position
When answering the interview question, “What motivates you?”, it’s important to tailor your response to the specific company and job position you are applying for. This shows a genuine interest in the role and highlights your ability to adapt to different environments.
One key aspect of tailoring your response is customization and personalization. Avoid giving generic answers that could apply to any job or company. Instead, focus on identifying the specific values, goals, and mission of the company and comparing them to your own values and motivations. Highlight how your personal motivations align with the company’s values, and how you can contribute to their specific goals.
To effectively tailor your response, it’s critical to research the company culture and values. This involves going beyond a quick glance at the company website and delving deeper into their mission statement, recent news, company reviews, and social media presence. Look for clues on what motivates the company and its employees, and consider how you can contribute to their success.
For example, if you’re applying to a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental sustainability, you may want to highlight your passion for protecting the environment and reducing carbon footprints. If you’re applying to a tech startup that values innovation and creativity, you may want to discuss your experience in implementing new ideas and finding creative solutions to complex problems.
A tailored response shows that you’ve done your research, understand the company’s needs and culture, and are genuinely interested in the position. Not only does this make you stand out to the interviewer, but it also sets you up for success in the role. So, take the time to research, customize, and personalize your response when answering “What motivates you?” in an interview.
How to Handle Difficult or Unexpected Follow-up Questions Related to Motivation
When it comes to discussing what motivates you in an interview, it’s important to be prepared for follow-up questions that could potentially make you feel uncomfortable or put you on the spot. Here are some strategies for staying composed and confident when faced with difficult or unexpected follow-up questions related to motivation:
Strategies for Staying Composed and Confident
Take a deep breath and pause before responding. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and ensure that you’re answering the question in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.
Remember that the interviewer is simply trying to learn more about you and your motivations. Take their questions as an opportunity to showcase your skills and experience, rather than as an attack on your character or personality.
Stay positive and focused on your goals. Even if a question catches you off guard, try to steer the conversation back towards your strengths and what you can bring to the company.
Practice your responses to common follow-up questions ahead of time. The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel when it’s time to answer these questions in a real-life interview.
Examples of Common Follow-up Questions and How to Answer Them
- “Can you give me an example of a time when you were unmotivated at work?”
This question can be tricky because it’s easy to fall into the trap of being too honest and admitting to a lack of motivation. Instead, focus on how you overcame your lack of motivation by setting small goals for yourself and creating a plan for success.
Example answer: “Yes, there was a time when I was feeling unmotivated at work. However, I knew that I needed to stay focused and achieve my goals. I set smaller goals for myself and created a plan to stay on track. This helped me to regain my motivation and ultimately led to a successful outcome.”
- “What do you do to stay motivated when faced with challenges?”
This question is an opportunity to show your problem-solving skills and resilience in the face of adversity. Focus on your ability to stay positive and determined in the face of challenges, rather than on the challenges themselves.
Example answer: “When faced with challenges, I like to break them down into smaller steps and create a plan for success. I also stay positive and focused on my goals, which helps to keep me motivated even in difficult times.”
- “How do you stay motivated when working on long-term projects?”
This question is about your ability to stay focused and committed over an extended period of time. Focus on your ability to stay organized and track your progress, as well as your ability to stay motivated and energized throughout the project.
Example answer: “When working on long-term projects, I like to break them down into smaller milestones and goals. This helps me to stay focused and motivated throughout the project.
Importance of Body Language, Tone, and Delivery in Answering “What Motivates You?”
In an interview, your verbal responses are not the only thing that matters. Your body language, tone, and delivery can have a significant impact on how your answer is received by the interviewer. Communication is not just what you say, it’s also how you say it. This is especially true when discussing your motivations, as your body language and tone can convey a lot of information about your level of enthusiasm and confidence. Here are some nonverbal communication tips to help you communicate your motivations with confidence and enthusiasm:
Maintain Eye Contact
When discussing your motivations, maintaining eye contact with the interviewer is crucial. Direct eye contact communicates confidence and trustworthiness. It shows that you are engaged and present in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact can create a perception of dishonesty or a lack of conviction in your response.
A genuine smile can go a long way in conveying enthusiasm and interest in the position. A smile communicates positivity and shows that you are happy to be discussing your motivations. However, be careful not to overdo it. A constant smile can come across as insincere or nervous.
Leaning forward slightly can demonstrate that you are interested and engaged in the conversation. It can also communicate enthusiasm and energy. On the other hand, leaning back can signal disinterest and a lack of motivation. However, be sure not to lean in too much, as this can be seen as aggressive or controlling.
Open Body Language
Keeping your body open and facing the interviewer can convey confidence and sincerity. Crossed arms, on the other hand, can indicate defensiveness or discomfort. Keeping your palms open and your arms and legs uncrossed can help communicate openness and eagerness to discuss your motivations.
Using appropriate gestures can help convey your message and make you appear more engaged and enthusiastic. However, make sure not to overdo it. Too many gestures can be distracting and detract from your message.
Your tone and delivery are just as important as your body language. Speaking in a clear, confident tone can communicate conviction and enthusiasm. On the other hand, speaking softly or uncertainly can convey a lack of confidence and conviction in your answer.
Your body language, tone, and delivery can make a big difference when answering “What motivates you?” in an interview. Maintaining eye contact, smiling, leaning forward, keeping your body open, using appropriate gestures, and speaking confidently can all help to communicate your motivations with enthusiasm and confidence. By paying attention to your nonverbal communication cues, you can make sure that your message is received loud and clear.
How to Practice and Rehearse Your Response to “What Motivates You?”
Strategies for Practicing Without Sounding Too Rehearsed
Preparing for an interview includes anticipating and practicing answers to common interview questions. One of the most critical questions you might face is “What motivates you?” This question can provide valuable insight into your personality, work style, and goals. However, rehearsing your answer can make it sound scripted, disingenuous, or insincere. Here are some strategies to help you practice without sounding too rehearsed:
Understand the question’s context and purpose. Before rehearsing your response to “What motivates you?” consider the reason behind the question. Interviewers ask this question to determine your work ethic, interests, passion, and alignment with the company culture. Knowing this information can help you structure your answer.
Brainstorm your answers. Instead of writing a script, list several things that motivate you. This could be anything from personal to professional goals, a desire to help others, a passion for learning, or a positive work environment. This approach allows you to have several answers based on different perspectives that show your character in the best possible light.
Practice with someone else. Practicing with a friend or mentor is a great way to get feedback on your answers and work on delivery. Select someone who can give you constructive feedback and ask them to role-play as the interviewer. This will give you a chance to hear your answers out loud and get feedback on which parts felt forced or needed more detail.
Record yourself. Record yourself as you practice your answers to “What motivates you” so you can see where you need to improve. For example, you might notice that you are not making eye contact, fidgeting, or rambling. Video recording is the best method to capture both audio and visual clarity of your answer.
Importance of Authenticity and Spontaneity
While it’s essential to prepare your answers to “What motivates you?”, it’s equally crucial to maintain authenticity and spontaneity. Answering the question off-script is essential to convey your genuine feelings to the interviewer. The interviewer is more likely impressed by your honesty and authenticity than a rehearsed and scripted response. Here are some tips to help you balance preparation with authenticity:
Be yourself. You are a unique individual with your own values, beliefs, and experiences that have shaped you. Don’t try to sound like someone else, be yourself, because you are more marketable if you come across as genuine and relatable.
Be specific. Specificity is necessary when discussing what motivates you. Don’t vaguely mention common goals, like “making a difference” or “being successful.” Be specific and genuine, share your experiences or achievements that genuinely motivate you.
Be flexible. Interview conversations can flow unpredictably.
Common Variations of the “What Motivates You?” Question and How to Answer Them
During an interview, hiring managers will often ask the question “What motivates you?” or a variation of it. This can be a difficult question to answer because motivation can come from a variety of sources. However, with a little bit of preparation and understanding, you can provide a clear and concise answer that showcases your unique personality and work style. In this section, we’ll explore some common variations of the question and how to connect your response to your motivation.
Related Questions and How to Connect Your Response to Your Motivation
1. “What drives you?”
This question essentially means the same thing as “What motivates you?”. The best way to answer this question is to consider your personal values and beliefs, as well as your career goals. Think about what inspires you to do your best work each day, and how that aligns with the goals of the organization you’re interviewing for.
For example, you might say: “What drives me is the desire to make a positive impact on the world. I’m passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, and I want to work with a company that shares those values. That’s what drew me to this organization – I believe that we can make a real difference together.”
2. “What excites you about this job?”
This question is more specific to the role or company you’re interviewing for, but it’s still related to your motivation. When answering this question, focus on the aspects of the job that you find most interesting or challenging. You might also consider how the job fits into your long-term career goals.
For example, you might say: “What excites me about this job is the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology and collaborate with a team of talented innovators. I’m excited to be part of a team that’s pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Additionally, this job aligns with my long-term career goals in software engineering, so I’m excited about the potential for growth and development.”
3. “How do you stay motivated when working on long-term projects?”
This question is more focused on your work style, but it still relates to your motivation. The best way to answer this question is to describe your process for staying focused and driven during long-term projects. You might also share examples of past projects that you’ve worked on and how you stayed motivated throughout.
For example, you might say: “When working on long-term projects, I break the work down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This helps me stay focused and motivated, even when the project feels overwhelming. I also like to set clear goals and deadlines for myself and track my progress along the way. Finally, I take breaks when I need to, to recharge and stay productive.
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