Interview Question: "What Motivates You?" (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 August 2022

Published 29 June 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During a job interview, employers may ask a mix of straightforward and open-ended questions. Usually, open-ended questions are used to better understand your personality, work style and self-awareness. “What motivates you?” is a popular open-ended question that you would be required to answer.

Because you are probably motivated by several things, take time to consider which motivators are most relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare your response.

Why Interviewers Ask The “What Motivates You?” Interview Question?

There are two main reasons hiring managers ask this question.

They want to know whether your sources of motivation align with the role

The best candidate for a job would be someone naturally energised by the responsibilities and experiences associated with the position. For example, if you are interviewing to be a news reporter and you share that deadline-focused, fast-paced work motivates you, the interviewer can draw clear parallels between the job and your ideal work environment.

They want to determine whether you are self-aware enough to know what drives you.

Much like asking about your greatest strengths and weaknesses, interviewers ask what motivates you as a way to learn how well you know yourself. A candidate who can quickly provide a well-crafted, natural explanation of what keeps them motivated on the job is someone who is likely also a self-starter and knows how to stay on track.

Other ways an interviewer may ask this question include:

  • “What drives you to do your best?”

  • “What inspires you?”

  • “What are you passionate about?”

  • “What makes you excited to come to work?”

How To Prepare For This Interview Question?

Like any job interview question, the best way to make sure you leave a positive impression is to develop your talking points ahead of time. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you formulate your response.

Related: How to Find Your Passion

What did a great day at work look like in previous roles?

Take a moment to reflect on your professional history and what you considered fulfilling about each job. Try to identify any trends. For example, you may realise your favourite memories from each of your previous positions involved reaching a difficult goal or solving a complex problem. In this case, you can say you are motivated by being pushed out of your comfort zone or having the opportunity to overcome a challenge.

If you are new to the professional world, consider what motivated you to do your best in internships, volunteer positions or classes.

What made you choose your profession or field?

Think about the reasons you were drawn to your line of work aside from compensation. Maybe you enjoy having the ability to assist others or putting your creative skills to use. A teacher, for example, may draw motivation from helping students learn something new and witnessing them excel.

Note: Compensation may be a strong motivator for you but it may not always be a motivator you want to share in an interview.

What prompted you to apply for the role when you read the job description?

Review the job description and determine which job responsibilities persuaded you to apply. For example, if you liked the prospect of working at a start-up to build a new software application, you might say you are motivated by the opportunity to create something innovative or see the tangible results from your efforts.

Related: A Guide On How To Stay Focused (With Practical Tips)

The Best Way To Answer “What Motivates You?” (With Examples)

When answering this question, be sure to be as specific as possible, provide real-life examples and tie your answer back to the job role. Here are a few examples of well-crafted responses:

“As a marketer, I have always been motivated by creative projects, teamwork and being able to draw a connection between my efforts and the organisation’s bottom line. One of the things I loved about my last job was witnessing the results of our team’s campaigns and watching as the leads we nurtured became customers. Having the opportunity to lead campaigns from ideation through launch was one of the reasons I was so excited to apply for this role.”

“The gratification of overcoming an obstacle is my greatest motivator. Math has never been my best subject but I opted to take calculus in college even though it was not required for my major because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. The course was not easy and I spent many nights studying late but I passed with an A. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with exceeding challenging goals is what drew me to a career in sales.”

“I am motivated by the fact that when I leave work at the end of a shift, I know I have helped make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families. Seeing the smiles on their faces and watching them improve makes me look forward to work. That is why I became a nurse and why I am pursuing a position in paediatrics.

Essentially, “what motivates you?” is another way of assessing whether you are passionate and excited about the position and how you ensure you are always doing good work. By identifying and expanding on your motivations, you can leave the interviewer with a positive impression and clearer expectation of how you might be as an employee.

  • Strength-Based Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)
  • Top 16 Interview Questions and Answers

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles