What Motivates You? : Job Interview Question:

When you’re applying for a job, you’ll hear a lot of interview questions — some trickier than others. One that’s pretty common, but might catch you off-guard, is the job interview question, "What motivates you?"

This is a broad and open-ended question, which can make it hard to know how to answer. After all, most people are motivated by many factors, including pay, prestige, making a difference, seeing results, and interacting with interesting people.

In asking this question, interviewers hope to figure out what makes you tick. The hiring manager wants to know what drives you to succeed. He or she also wants to determine whether your motivators will be a fit for the job duties and the company culture.

Honest answers can help reveal what circumstances help you feel excited and enthused (another common variant of this interview question is, "What are you passionate about?,” which also tries to determine what makes an interviewee excited and fulfilled). Providing insight into the forces that motivate you at work can be a window into your personality and style, helping your interviewers get a sense of you as both a person, and how you'd be as their employee.

After all, there's a big difference between the candidate who's motivated by building teams and establishing strong relationships with co-workers and the candidate whose best day is working on a report that improves the company's bottom-line.

Both candidates bring with them strong advantages, and this question can help interviewers narrow their pool down to the individual who is the best fit for the position and the company.

Best Way to Answer This Interview Question?

When you answer this question, be honest — but also keep your audience in mind.

While you may be most motivated by receiving a regular paycheck, that answer is not very inspiring from an interviewer's perspective. It can be hard to think of a good answer for this question on the spot since it requires a bit of self-reflection.

To prepare your answer, think about the jobs you have held in the past:

  • What happened during your best days?
  • When were you most looking forward to a day at the office?
  • When did you come home from work bursting with stories, and feeling enthusiastic and excited?

Whether it was a successful meeting with a client, a complex project wrangled into submission, learning a new skill, or anything else, keep this in your mind when conceptualizing your answer. As well, consider which skills and abilities will be the most useful in the job. If you are applying to be a manager, framing an answer around relationship-building and helping other succeed and meet goals might be a stronger answer than a discussion about learning new things or working with clients.

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