How to answer the ‘what motivates you’ question

Knowing how to answer the ‘what motivates you’ interview question may be complex, but we’ve got some handy tips to help you out. 

When it comes to a job interview, questions regarding your work experience and your interest in the company are to be expected. As such, preparing for them is somewhat of a straightforward task. At this stage, your CV and cover letter have succeeded in selling your skill set and suitability – at least enough to be shortlisted. However, when face-to-face with a hiring manager, the “what motivates you” interview question can come as a real curveball.

While there are no wrong answers, per se, there are certainly statements you should avoid (“to get paid” and “to use this job as a stepping stone” being the two most glaringly obvious).

This a question that aims to get under the skin of what drives you in the workplace and your professional career – the best answers should be honest, but they should also reinforce your value as a candidate and your suitability for the specific role.

Below, we’ve provided a few examples of strong responses you can use when answering the ‘what motivates you’ interview question.


Meeting deadlines or achieving goals

There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when meeting a target, deadline or objective in time and to a high standard. Roles within fast-paced, pressurised environments are well-suited to candidates who treat this feeling as the prize for their sustained commitment. If this sounds familiar, it’s best not to deviate and pretend goals aren’t your primary source of motivation. To a hiring manager, this response tells them everything they need to know about whether you will thrive under pressure. If this is a key requirement of the job, it will work in your favour.


The rewarding feeling of finding the solution to a problem

Whether it’s a technical problem involving system integration, or a challenge faced by a client, the satisfaction that comes with identifying the best way forward can make for a resilient candidate who doesn’t give up at the first hurdle. As far as soft skills go, problem solving typically features high on the list of desirable attributes for a candidate to offer. Referring to a recent example, use this response to show a recruiter your hunger to fix persistent problems for the benefit of the company.


The satisfaction of team success

Most candidates call themselves team players, but in reality, many of them work best in isolation and are motivated by the impact their personal achievements have on the business. On the other hand, you might be the kind of person who is empowered by collaboration. If the job requires you to work with a team to deliver ongoing projects and the idea of doing so excites you, express to the hiring manager your enthusiasm to meet the team and understand how your abilities would fit into the current skills matrix. Pulling from your experience, briefly recount a time in which you felt invigorated by the success of your combined efforts as a team.


The pride you take in delivering a project to the best of your ability

A candidate who takes pride in their work and values quality over quantity is undoubtedly valuable to any organisation. When using this response, take care to illustrate your motivation with an example of a project you were proud to put your name to. Quantifiable examples always aid in getting recruiters on board, since it provides them with a tangible metric by which to measure your success. Your aim here is not to come across as a candidate who is only in it for the personal glory, but a perfectionist who works efficiently to bring positive results for the business or its clients time and time again.