This is a very common job interview question and is asked to understand your intrinsic motivation. The hiring manager needs to know that you will be a good fit for the company culture and that you will be motivated to do your best work for the company and that you are committed for the long run.
Here are 10 of the best answers that are sure to make a positive impression at your next interview.
5 Tips for Your Answer
- The best way to have a great answer is to target your job search for a job you want in the first place.
- Where possible, provide specific examples from a previous job.
- Customize your answer based on the job description to show you are the best fit.
- Talk about your long-term goals and how this is a great job for working towards them.
- Say that you get a sense of accomplishment when you have done a good job for the company.
5 Mistakes to Avoid
- Do not be too personal, for example, “I am motivated by having fun.”
- Do not say that you are motivated by money.
- Do not provide short-term goals that, once fulfilled, will cause you to leave.
- Do not say “I don’t know” or be too general, e.g., “I like doing a good job.”
- Do not lie. Always give an honest answer. If you lie to get a new job, you will be dissatisfied and leave quickly.
10 Best Example Answers to “What motivates you?”
Example #1: Motivated by Hard Work and Providing for My Family
My three sources of primary motivation are meeting deadlines, learning new things, and providing for my family. To expand on these, firstly, no matter the type of work, I get a great sense of job satisfaction when I have worked hard to complete tasks successfully. Second, I know from my past work experiences that when I work on creative projects where I can learn new skills, I feel energized and excited to be at work each day. Finally, I have a lot of goals in my personal life and things I want to do for my family, and I know that the best way for me to do this is to be successful at my job.
Key Takeaways: This is a good answer because it lists multiple sources of motivation, both work-related and personal, which ensures you will be committed to doing the job well consistently.
Example #2: Motivated by Professional Growth and Working as a Team
I have several sources of motivation that drive me to achieve at work. I know from my previous role that I am highly motivated by opportunities to learn or grow professionally because I know that this means I am providing value for my employer. I also get a great deal of motivation from completing meaningful work as part of a team and helping my team members to achieve their best. And another key driver for me personally is training or helping colleagues to grow and improve. I welcome opportunities to train others and constantly seek informal opportunities to share my knowledge with colleagues.
Key Takeaways: This example answer is particularly good if applying for a highly team-oriented role. It covers working in a team, sharing knowledge with your team, and clearly states that you know your motivations from experience.
Example #3: Motivated by Providing Excellent Customer Service
There are a lot of things that motivate me at work. One of my biggest motivations at work is providing excellent customer service. It makes me feel proud to know that I have genuinely helped a customer with their problem. I am also motivated by achieving great results at work. This ties into my customer service work but also applies to non-customer-facing duties. In all my job responsibilities never shy away from hard work. In everything I do, I try to take the best approach because I take pride in my work, and this is demonstrated through my history of past successes.
Key Takeaways: This is a strong answer when applying for customer service roles as it directly addresses being motivated by providing customers with a good experience. It is also a good example answer for including more than one motivation, in this case achieving quality results, which all employers will like.
Example #4: Motivated by Ambitious Goals and Creativity
I am jointly motivated by opportunities for learning new skills and finding creative ways to achieve ambitious goals. As a software engineer, I am always looking to improve my knowledge and professional skills. I welcome projects at work that challenge my existing skillset and require further learning and development, and I frequently study at home to meet these challenges.
I also find one of my most valuable assets is creativity, and I am excited by opportunities to approach specific goals from new angles. It is incredibly rewarding when you know you contributed to the completion of important projects for the company using ingenuity and skill.
Key Takeaways: Answers like this discuss creative problem solving and ambitious goals. This answer is designed for technical roles, interchange ‘software engineer’ with your professional title. This can apply to most professional skills which seek to solve complex problems for a business.
Example #5: Motivated by Extending Comfort Zones
One of my biggest work-related motivators is pushing my comfort zone. The reason for this is that I know that if I am not learning something new, or trying a new idea, then I am staying still, and in fast-paced work environments staying still is the same as going backward. Trying new things does mean finding the occasional wrong answer, but mistakes are an opportunity to gain a better understanding, and I find this to be a great motivator. In the end, being part of a successful project is a deeply rewarding experience that gives me a lot of pride and satisfaction.
Key Takeaways: One of the good things about this answer is that it is not a “normal” answer. It shows that you welcome being outside of your comfort zone and recognize the need to constantly learn and develop your skills to stay ahead of the game.
Example #6: Motivated by Getting the Most Out of Others
As a manager, I am motivated in several ways. First, I am motivated by success stories, and I look for opportunities to make everything my team does a new success. To help make sure everything my team is responsible for is successful, I am motivated to study and attempt to emulate great leaders and apply everything I have learned from my previous experience. I also encourage members of my team to continually learn and develop because if my team is learning, then our value to the company is growing. I also find being given a challenging workload to be motivating. When I have slight pressure and competing deadlines, I am motivated to keep my time and space organized and plan ahead to get all the important things I am responsible for completed successfully.
Key Takeaways: This answer is designed for management and team leader positions. It is focused on getting results from your team and accepting a challenging workload, both of which are common in leadership roles.
Example #7: Motivated by Solving Problems
Given my highly technical mindset, one of the things that motivate me the most is data analysis. I enjoy analyzing data and getting as much information as I can, and applying this to address problems for the company. My ideal work environment is one where I am given challenging and complex problems for the company and can use data and logic to come up with new or creative solutions. I am also motivated by responsibility. This means that the more important the task or duties given to me, the easier I find it to work hard to resolve them as I get a sense of personal satisfaction from achieving success.
Key Takeaways: For analytical or data-oriented roles, such as accounting, law, statistics, and engineering, this can be a very strong answer. It is important to understand the company and the open position as this is not for roles in time-sensitive or fast-paced environments.
Example #8: Motivated by Goals and Targets
As a high-performing, professional salesperson, I am deeply motivated by ambitious targets. I take company goals, team targets, and personal KPIs very seriously. I also have a healthy level of competitiveness which drives me to always try to beat my own best performance and lead my team in productive results. In addition, I also have several personal goals that are very important to me. I recognize the best way for me to realize these personal goals is to be a top performer at work and deliver value for the company.
Key Takeaways: For any sales roles or highly results-driven roles, an answer similar to this is ideal. In many roles, competitiveness can be considered not ideal, but for sales roles, a healthy level of competition is generally positive.
Example #9: Motivated by Completing Tasks and Achieving Goals
I am motivated most by goals and achievements. I like to always have something to work towards, and I get a sense of value when I accomplish something I have set my mind to. I am constantly setting goals, objectives, and to-do lists for myself so that I am energized to work toward the next important thing on my list. An additional motivator is my drive to have things completed. I cannot enjoy my weekends or evenings if I know that I have not completed my work duties to the very best of my ability and squared off my current tasks.
Key Takeaways: This answer is a perfect answer if you are unsure exactly what the company is looking for. Very few companies will be disappointed by a candidate who likes to accomplish goals.
Example #10: Motivated by Learning and Development and Delivering Quality Results
I am motivated jointly by continuous learning and improvement and doing things to a high standard on time. This means that any time I face a task that challenges me, I am excited to improve my skills and knowledge to best address the task and deliver results for the company. Because I am motivated to do things to a high standard, it also means that I will never cut corners or find shortcuts. I will always find the best information or resources available and work hard to become an expert at each thing I am responsible for so that I can consistently deliver quality results.
Key Takeaways: This is another good answer that can apply to almost any position. Learning and development are critical in all modern business, and quality results provide your company with a competitive advantage and reduce the likelihood of errors or delays in your work.
5 Other Ways This Question May be Asked
You can use the example answers provided to answer almost any question that asks about your motivations, e.g. ‘What motivates you to get up in the morning?’. But an employer will not always use such direct questions when they want to know about your motivations.
Here are some different open-ended questions that they may ask instead.
1. Provide an example of a time when you needed to motivate a team. How did you approach it?
This question is a behavioral question and should be addressed with the STAR technique.
It will normally be asked in management or leadership roles. But it can be asked in senior team member roles as the way you motivate others will reflect what motivates yourself.
2. What are you looking for in a job?
This is a version of “What motivates you?” that is trying to make sure that the job you are applying for will be a match for you. It is a common type of wording for jobs that are likely to be mundane or boring as they require a specific type of person to remain at them long-term.
3. How do you motivate others to do their best?
This is a trick question. It is based on the fact that we usually think others feel and act the same as ourselves. You should always try to answer this question in relation to the job title and job description.
4. Describe a time you worked your hardest and why?
This is another behavioral question and should be addressed with the STAR technique.
This is an indirect way to ask what will make you do your hardest work in the new role.
5. Why do you want this job? / Why do you think you would be a good fit for this job?
These two questions are basically asking the same thing as each other. They are asking you to explain why you are the best candidate for the position.
While these questions explore more than just your motivation, the best answer should explain not only why you are a good fit, but why you are motivated to excel in the position well into the future.
One of the main reasons for this and similar common interview questions is to make sure new people that are hired will remain with the company and fit with the company’s culture. A good way to increase your success is to apply for jobs where the company’s goals are a close fit to your own. Also, anticipate common questions like this and have a detailed answer prepared that shows a strong desire to work for the company long-term.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.