What motivates you?

  | James Innes

Classic Interview Questions and Answers

What motivates you?

Alternative and related questions:

What do you need to retain your motivation?

The meaning behind the question:

What the interviewer is really asking is, “What would we have to do to motivate you?” and, “Would you be sufficiently motivated to undertake this job effectively?” They’re unlikely to ask this directly though. By asking you the more open-ended, “What motivates you?” they’re likely to extract a lot more useful information out of you – if you are careless enough to let them have it! Interviewers want to hire highly motivated people – not people who are just going to go through the motions until it’s time to go home.

Your answer:

There are lots of different things which could motivate you. You’ve got to be careful to pick factors:

  • Which will reflect positively on you as an individual
  • Which are not inconsistent with the job for which you are applying
  • Which are equally of benefit to your prospective employer
  • Which will not impose any kind of a burden on the employer

I’m not going to hide the fact that money is of course a major motivator. It’s the primary reason most people go to work each day! However, unless you are in sales or some other highly money-driven and largely commission-based role then you should steer clear of mentioning money as a motivating factor. It’s too selfish an answer. It’s a factor which is purely in your own interests and not your prospective employer’s.

I would recommend that, depending on the nature of your role, you cite factors such as challenges, results and recognition – and elaborate on these so as to demonstrate their value to your employer.


I’m very results-driven. Doing a good job and achieving the desired end result is my primary motivation. While I enjoy working on a project on my own, I’m particularly motivated by the buzz of working in a team. It’s very rewarding working closely with others who share the same common goal. I like to take on a challenge; I like to rise to that challenge as part of a concerted team effort – and I naturally appreciate it when my boss compliments me for a job well done.

The Interview Question & Answer Book

The Interview Question and Answer Book

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