How to Answer the Question ‘What Motivates You?’ in an Interview

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By Lexie Brada

When it comes to common interview questions, there are some that you may have had to think about before, such as what your weaknesses and strengths are. And who knows you better than you, so telling an interview team about yourself should be a piece of cake. If not, no worries, because those links will get you ready in time for your interview.

But a question that maybe you’ve never entertained before, for interviews or anything else in your life, is ‘what motivates you?’

That’s a deep question, right? It’s a question that is asking you to dive deep into yourself and demands an answer of why do you do what you do?

Out of all the most common interview questions, this one can seem like one of the most daunting, just because it’s so personal in a way that some of the others surprisingly aren’t.

There are a couple different ways you can choose to answer this, so let’s look through some of your options.

Why Ask This?

As always, let’s start by looking at why the heck anyone would ask this of you? If you understand what a company is really asking, it makes finding the right answer far easier.

It can be difficult to answer this question, especially if you're applying for an internship or job that doesn't seem particularly inspiring. However, it's important to remember that interviewers are looking for qualities that will make you a good fit for the company, not just the specific job.

The interview question "What motivates you?" is a great way to get to know someone. It lets an interview team know some information about you that maybe hasn't come up yet such as what sort of environment you work best in or the best way to help you be a worker meeting the goals that need to be met. If someone is motivated by feeling good about the work they do instead of the worry of meeting deadlines, a supervisor may elect to have different ways of ensuring things are finished on time.  It's also a good way to see if they're truly interested in the position they're interviewing for.

How To Answer

  • Be Honest

I will repeat this until I have been fired and sent away from writing these blogs, but for the love of god, don’t lie in your interview. It never ends well. Hiring teams also have dealt with a lot of, excuse my french, but B.S. over the years. They totally know when you’re making something up to seem like a more enticing candidate. If you’re honest and sincere, you’ll make yourself look loads better than making up a fake motivation.

  • What Excites You/What Are You Passionate About?

First, take a step back and think about what you're passionate about. What are the things that get you excited and make you want to learn more? For example, if you're interested in social media, you might say that you're motivated by the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and share your thoughts and ideas.

Or maybe you have a hobby or weird interest that could relate to a job you’re interviewing for? Even if your passions in life don’t match up with the job itself, ask yourself if there’s a way to phrase it so that it does?

You don’t have to say that being a coder is what brings you joy in life (unless it actually does) and maybe what excites you is what happens after work. If you like exploring or traveling, maybe you talk about how adventure motivates you. You don’t have to say specifically that adventuring means ‘with a backpack somewhere far away’. Adventure could be found in a job, and that could end up being what pushes you each day too!

  • What Are You Good At?

If you’ve already answered or prepared what your strengths are, you’ve already done the hard work!

Think about what qualities or skills you bring to the table. For example, if you're a good listener, you might say that you're motivated by the opportunity to really connect with people and understand their needs. Think about what sort of strengths you have and why you like having those strengths, and a motivation may pop out at you!

  • What Helps You Achieve Your Goals?

Think about any goal you’ve ever had. Doesn’t have to be a job-related one. And then ask yourself; how did you make sure you achieved that goal? Chances are that if you are motivated by something in your personal life, you’ll also be able to utilize the same motivations in your professional life. These goals can also be long-plan goals you’ve met or simply day-to-day goals.

For example, you might say that you're motivated by the satisfaction of completing a project or the feeling of contributing to a team effort. Alternatively, you might discuss how seeing the positive impact of your work motivates you to keep going.

Another approach is to discuss what motivates you on a day-to-day basis. For example, you might say that you enjoy the challenge of problem-solving or that you find satisfaction in helping others. Alternatively, you might simply state that you enjoy the work itself and find meaning in what you do.

  • Relate It to the Company

Finally, think about how your motivation can help the company achieve its goals. For example, if you're motivated by a challenge, you might say that you're excited by the opportunity to take on new projects and help the company grow. By thinking about these three things, you can craft an answer that will show interviewers that you're not only motivated, but also thoughtful and considerate of the company's needs.

Want loads more tips on how to ace your interviews, along with other great resources to help you find the perfect career? Download our PathMatch app today! 

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