What Motivates You?
Strategies to Answer This Tough Interview Question
"What motivates you?" is one of those tough interview questions where your answer will depend on your background and experiences. This soul-searching interview question can really catch you off guard unless you've thought about it before the interview. Contemplating when you have been most satisfied in your career will not only help you answer this question, but it will also help you focus on what you want in your next job.
Two candidates answer the motivation question, reflecting their values and what is important to them.
The first one says, "In my previous job, I worked directly with customers and their problems. What I liked was solving problems and helping people. Sometimes it took a lot of effort on my part, but it was very rewarding when the customer appreciated the service."
This interview answer reflects the candidate's interest in helping people and the satisfaction he gets in finding solutions.
The second candidate says, "Two years ago, I was involved in a project I was really excited about. The team I was working with had to come up with innovative ways to market a product that was not received well by consumers. It took lots of effort and long meetings, but we met our deadline and launched a terrific marketing campaign. It was really a motivating experience."
This candidate likes thinking outside the box and being part of a team. He loves a challenge and works well with pressure and deadlines.
Prepare Your Script
Writing out your thoughts will help you think about times when you felt energized by your work, times when you looked forward to going to work. For a source of ideas, refer to your resume. Which tasks did you list? Were they the tasks you enjoyed most and felt most motivated doing?
A statement on your resume might be:
- Project leader: Led a team in coordinating and monitoring the progress of projects to assure the flow and completion of work on schedule.
What was it that was motivating about this experience? Being in charge? Being the source of information? Controlling the flow of work? Making sure the standards were in line with your work values?
By making a list of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs, you will begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze what you did before. Do you want more of this type of responsibility in your next job? The answers to these questions will give you insight into what stimulates you as well as possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs with similar responsibilities.
Additionally, by focusing on times when you were energized by your work, you may become more enthusiastic about the job you are seeking.
There is no such thing as the perfect answer to the motivation question. Your answer will be based on your own individual experiences and analysis. Ultimately, this exercise will help you reveal to the interviewer what turns you on in your work. Even if you are not asked this question, your preinterview thinking, analysis and scripting will help you be more focused, projet more interview confidence and be more in control of what you want in your next job.