Motivation Interview Questions and Best Answers

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Motivation interview questions are a common part of the interview process. One very typical form of the question is "What motivates you?" but there are other variations as well. Any question about motivation helps hiring mangers understand what you feel enthusiastic about, what drives your success, and whether what motivates you is a good fit with the job responsibilities.  

Take a look at some common ways interviewers ask job candidates about motivations, and get advice on the best responses, along with answers to avoid.

 

What Is Motivation?

First, let's take a look at what motivation is, exactly. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something. You can define it as the process that helps drive goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

There are two different types of motivation. Extrinsic motivations are those that arise from outside of the individual and often involve rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition, or praise. Intrinsic motivations are those that arise from within the individual, such as doing a complicated crossword puzzle purely for the personal gratification of solving a problem. 

Responding to Interview Questions About Motivation

During job interviews, it's often best to highlight intrinsic motivations rather than extrinsic ones.

 

Before you interview, review the job description and find out as much as you can about the position. Then, tailor your responses to what would be a good match for what the employer is seeking in a candidate. Also, review these examples of motivational skills.

Your response will vary based on your background and experiences, but, you will want to be positive.

In your response, share your enthusiasm and what you liked best about your last or current job.

Best Motivation Answers

The best answers to motivation questions are honest and yet should also connect to the job you are going for; your response should strongly suggest that you would be highly motivated by and suited to the work.

So, when preparing to answer this question, you should think about: 

  • What have you enjoyed while working at previous positions? Think about your day-to-day work and your wider interests, too. 
  • What types of tasks are you best at? In what sort of environments (busy, deadline-driven, loud, quiet, etc.) do you work the best?

Whatever you say, you need to back it up with examples from your studies, work experience, and volunteer activities, and it should relate to the skills and aptitudes required for the job you’re going for.

Sample Answers: 

  • I'm very motivated by solving problems. In my last position, I helped resolve customer complaints. For me, there's something so satisfying about providing answers to confused customers, and seeing frustrated customers transition into satisfied ones due to my help. 
     
  • I'm incredibly motivated by solving problems and puzzles. That means in my personal life, I love doing the daily crossword. In the office, this takes the form of digging into data and spreadsheets. At my last job, I was responsible for preparing the annual report on which products performed best. This information was used to determine where the company would focus our efforts in the upcoming year, and for me, it was so validating to know that the work I did reviewing monthly spreadsheets and customer feedback helped guide upper management. 

    What to Avoid Saying

    As always, there are some answers that will not reflect well on you as a candidate. 

    If you are motivated by factors that aren't involved in the job description it's going to be a flag for the interviewer. For example, if you say you're a person motivated by interpersonal communications and working with the people, but the job is an accounting position with little interaction with others, you won't be considered a good fit for the job.

    Avoid responses that name money (your salary, a bonus, a commission, etc.) as a motivating factor. While a paycheck and financial benefits are an important reason for working, that's not the kind of answer interviewers want to hear. Being motivated by praise and acknowledgement is also best avoided in your response. 

    Finally, do your best to provide an honest or specific answer.

    Vague responses aren't helpful for interviewers. Remember, every question is an opportunity to show off your strengths. 

    Motivation Interview Questions and Answers

    Here are even more resources to help you prepare for an interview: See a list of typical job interview questions and sample answers, and questions that you can ask the interviewer.