How to Answer: “What Motivates You?”

Sit through enough interviews, and you’re likely to come across the question: “What motivates you?”

This interview question can feel broad and open-ended, but the hiring manager is looking to better understand how to keep you fulfilled and challenged at work. Let’s dig in.

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask This Question? 

This question is often used by hiring managers to get a sense of your productivity and your suitability within their work environment. If working on many different types of projects keeps you motivated, a job with a singular focus may not be the best fit. 

Hiring managers are looking for employees who will thrive in their roles without much watering. They want to know that you won’t slack off in the role, become easily distracted, or leave the position prematurely.

Your answer will give them insight into how you work, what role you’ll fill in the overall team balance, and how you can be best used. 

 

How To Answer ‘What Motivates You?’

There are a few things to consider before answering this question:

  • What do you love most about your current job? When you feel fulfilled at work, what projects are you working on? 
  • Which tasks do you hate the most, and why?
  • What kind of environment do you like working in? Do you enjoy tight deadlines, teamwork, strict directions or room to ideate? 

Strengthen your answer by providing real-life examples of past work experiences where you were highly engaged. Did you finish on-time and under-budget? Did you increase sales? When you’re motivated, what can you accomplish? 

Some examples include: 

  • Being creative, or crafting thought-starters for the larger team to build upon
  • Working under tight deadlines 
  • Working with a small team 
  • Working on new projects, or developing new skills
  • Analyzing data and discovering solutions to tough problems 

 

How Not to Answer ‘What Motivates You?’

This question is not asking why you were motivated to apply to the position, or what your general career goals are. Instead, focus on what your job needs to give you to keep you engaged.

 

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