What motivates you? – Interview Question with Answers

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“There is always something that ignites a fire in your and fuels you to achieve your goals?

When you appear for an interview, you will certainly encounter numerous questions. Few of them will seem to be trickier than the rest of them. One such question that can catch you off-guard is “What Motivates You?” Money? Yeah! Of-course. Many of the candidates answer this question like- “Well, I think, Money. Because it motivates me to do anything!” and let me tell you, this is the most unwanted answer on the part of an interviewer.

This question is certainly tricky because this is an open-ended question. It can be, e.g. what motivates you to do this job or what motivates you to join this company or what motivated you to keep going? And not only may the question but the answer too can be from any dimension. It can be anything for you. Motivating source differs from person to person. For some, it is financial needs while for others ‘non0financial’ factors play the major role.
This question can surely not be answered on the lines of either ‘Maslow motivation Theory’ or ‘Herzberg Theory of Motivation’. This, seemingly straightforward question, can tell a lot about you to the interviewer. And hence, this tricky question needs to be handled cautiously. Once you know the reasons for the interviewer asking this question and some Do’s and don’ts; you’ll be better equipped to answer this question. So, let’s start.

What Interviewer is trying to judge?

“If you are determined to do something no one can stop you”. HR personnel on the interview panel will be the ones who will be keen to know about what drives you as a person? Why did he/ she want to know so? Have a look:
1. To know what is your motivating factor: First and the foremost reason is simple to guess on. The interview panel wants to know where your motivation lies or what it is that drives you. What will keep you going on the job that you are seeking? Or what will sustain your efficiency in the job?

2. Can the company provide for your motivation source: The panel would also like to see into whether or not your fuel is something that can be afforded by the company? You may be the best candidate for the day but if the company finds that it cannot retain you for long, it will not hire you at all.

3. How you would be as an employee: The candidate’s answer to this question gives an insight to the interviewer about how he/ she is going to be as an employee to the company. As said earlier, your inspiration can be from any financial or any non-financial source, which reveals your personality to a certain level.

4. To what extent does it motivate you: Is your motivating factor something that can bind you on the job for long if the company decides to provide it to you? Or does it play just a minor role in your decisions? The interviewer also looks for this thing while listening to your answer to the question.

5. How would you be with others: One of the reasons for people to bond over is ‘common areas of interest’. Your motivation factor represents your interest area in a way and if that area is not similar to the rest people of the company, you may have a tough time settling into the company.

The interviewer generally asks the question of your motivation due to the above-mentioned reasons. However, sometimes the interviewer may also like to know it to know whether or not ‘your motivation source fits right and relevant for the duties and responsibilities of the position you will be hired for’.


The interviewer can shoot up this question at you in any possible manner. Some of those ways are:
What drives you?; What energizes you?; What inspires you? ; What makes you tick? Or what are you passionate about?
So, what are you supposed to do? Yes, you need to be prepared for it. But how?

1. Research about the company: Devoting a bit of time to research what the company values the most will be of great help to you in answering this question. The organizational goals will give you enough information to build your answer.

2. Time for self-reflection: Knowledge about the company should be rightly blended with your knowledge about self. Do self-analysis and ask yourself about your motivating factor. If not directly then you may seek the answer to the question ‘what were you looking for in your previous job?’
‘What is it that can surely push you to increase your efficiency?’

3. Ask people: No, don’t ask about your energizing factor but do ask what is that they ever felt has motivated you. Your friends or colleagues may answer about what you used to look forward to a day at your office.
Keep certain positive and energizing moments in your memory when you answer to this question. Those energizing moments can be a successful meeting, learning some new skills, handling a big and complex project, etc. This will help you to prepare your answer well.

Tips on what to include and what to avoid

About what to INCLUDE:

There cannot be a perfect answer to this open-ended question but there can be a well prepared and well-thought answer to this question. Following are some tips that will help you to prepare an impressive answer:

1. Keep the answer succinct: Since the question is short, the interviewer expects you as well to answer succinctly. Many of the candidates mention a lot many things in their answer that it doesn’t get clear what motivates them? So, just be to-the-point when you prepare your answer.

2. Back with some examples: If possible, for you to do so then give some examples along with your motivating factor. E.g. If you say that challenges motivate you then do back it with an example, where you had the challenge to face and you did it with great enthusiasm.

3. Relate it with the job: As already stated, your motivating factor should be something that relates to the position you will be hired for. The interviewer will look forward to you explaining how your pumping factor is relevant to the work sphere.

4. Keep money aside: Answering ‘Money’ is short, crisp, and relevant to the job for sure but this answer should be avoided as far as possible. The interviewer would not like to hear that as an answer. Financial motivators play a major role in deciding what you do, however, don’t bring it up in the interview at this particular question. You can say that fulfilling the demands of your family and taking care of it motivates you.

Things to AVOID:

More than answering right, candidates answer this question in an undesired manner which is not the interviewer will like at all. The following are the certain things you need to take care of while forming your answer:
1. Don’t answer about your goals: The interviewer has straight asked about the motivation so, answer for that. Don’t go on mentioning what goals you have for the short or long term. You may have a separate question for that in the interview if the interviewer is interested in knowing your career goals.

2. Don’t mention for this job specifically: Unless and until said clearly by the interviewer about the job, you should not mention of one job particularly. The question is open-ended though but you don’t need to answer in that way. The interviewer will ask you ‘what motivated you to apply for this job?’ if he wants to know your motivation factor specifically for this job.

3. Mentioning certain ‘undesired’ motivators: There are certain motivators that may be the biggest motivators for you but these are undesired on the part of the interviewer. These can be your personal life goals like- money, friends, owning a car/bike/ mansion, etc. This is not what you are there for.

4. Check the relevancy: Before you mention anything as a motivator to you, do check that the thing holds some relevance to that job, that company, and that industry as well. For example, you are interviewing for a job of an accountant and you mention that dream of becoming a business person one day motivates me will make no sense to anyone in the room.

Preparing your answer:

Just knowing the above tips will be of no use if you do not properly structure your answer and mentions the tail first and then the head. In short, there has to be a [proper beginning followed by a good content body and then a good ending to the question. To help you framing a well-thought answer, the following will be useful:

1. Mention your strengths and interests: This is a great way to start with. A positive starting will always be impressive to an interviewer. Bring the conversation to your areas of interest so that you can jump to your motivating factor talks.

2. Mention about your motivation: After your strengths and interests, talk about what motivates you. Emerged from your interests, these will frame a good framework in the mind of the listener. Mention how does that motivate you?

3. Relate with the company values: Use your research work about the company values. Relate your motivational factors with what the company values. This will help you to prove the relevancy of your interest in the job that you are seeking.

4. Put example: You may do all the above steps and then add an example to your answer for making it a ‘flaw-less’ answer. The answer may go like- ‘I am highly motivated when my seniors/ boss shows faith in me. During my last job when I was handled a complex project to do, ‘trust-filled’ words from my boss motivated me to complete the task in the most efficient manner possible’.

This all gives you an answer which is ready to be spoken of during your interview when you encounter the question about your motivation. Let us have a look at some of the examples:

Sample Answers:


“Meeting the work-deadlines motivates me to give my best to the job. The fact that I like meeting deadlines on time doesn’t mean that I am ready to compromise on the quality aspect of my work. This motivator made it easy for me to complete most of my assignments on time during my previous job, because of which my seniors were impressed. And since I pay equal heed towards the quality of the work that I am delivering my boss often used to praise me and that further boosted my motivation level. Completing work in time has always been important for me as it fills me with a sense of achievement and pride. Beating deadlines without altering work quality is something that will always be my motivation in the first place.
Well, my baby sister inspired me to want to teach. You see, my sister has a severe learning disability, and it was, and continues to be, a struggle to help her develop educationally. However, she finally got the personal attention she needed, and I couldn’t be happier with her progress. I want to help children in the same way that my sister received help, so this is what motivates me the most to become a special education instructor.


As we know that everyone has their source of getting inspiration. My source somehow happens to be working in a team. Team-Work is something I love and I find it to be so much better than working alone. And this is because of many reasons. As a part of a team, you would get to know many ways of completing one task. Respectful debates among team-mates are always welcome as to ensure that the team is heading towards a mutual-consented goal. There is always something that can be learned from others and I look forward to that learning while working with others. It’s not like that I won’t be enjoying working all by myself being a team member in itself is motivating for me.


Effort recognition from anyone, be it my superiors or subordinates or peer-group, motivates me. It is very important for me that I get noticed and praises for all the efforts that I put into doing a particular task. Whenever I get the recognition or applause that I deserve I feel like giving more to my work and work harder. This keeps my energy levels high all the time I enter my workspace. Not only this but when I feel inspired I try to motivate others in the team as well and that works wonder. All the tasks get efficiently done in time.


Competition is my motivation. I feel motivated in a competitive environment to perform better at my job. A good level of competition in work-arena keeps my fire burning. I work to give my 100 percent all the time in such an environment. The competition itself has a lot to teach a person. Some great competitors can make you better in your work just if your mind is open and positive. Competition enhances my knowledge and always keeps me on toes. I thrive to live in such an environment in my work-place because it encourages me to give extra efforts and push my comfort zone to farther limits every time.


A healthy work environment is my biggest motivation. And by a healthy work environment, I mean the ambiance where everyone is supportive of each other. Where seniors help juniors with all the knowledge they have and peer-to-peer contact is easy. This encourages peer-to-peer learning. In such an environment, feedback is more genuine, complaint redressal is simpler and suggestion implementation is faster. Having the people with a positive attitude and those from whom I can learn a lot is an apt environment for me to work in. And not only work there but work with more efficiency each time. This work-space is what I look forward to my office and this can inspire me to a great deal.


My biggest motivation is success. This is what keeps me motivated all the time to perform my level higher. Knowing and believing the fact that my hard work will help me in achieving greater professional heights keeps me going. I believe that aligning my motivational source along with the company’s values and vision is a ‘win-win’ path that will rap sweeter fruits in my career. Knowing that I have light at the end of the tunnel encourages me and inspires me to go through the darkest of the tunnel. It may be professional or personal life, success always acts as a booster to me and my work.


My motivation is something that I feel like a person whenever I empower people around me. Helping people or empowering them in any way possible motivates me the most. It can be anyone of my colleagues or friends. There can be moments in their lives when they need your support and that boost from your side to keep going. Helping them gives me confidence that I can do anything in my life and then this confidence helps me a lot in my professional life. Showing respect and empathy with people make things better; this makes you stay positive. Making someone feel upbeat is a way to make oneself motivated.


My motivating factor is access to top-level management in a company. A democratic form of behavior from a seniors end encourages me. Participating in decision making with the team, hearing their viewpoints, and then putting up my logic in a team discussion makes me work harder for my team, for my department, and my company. A non-rigid work ambiance helps everyone to grow equally by providing equal opportunity for development to everyone. I have worked with a couple of organizations and out of them, one had liberal policies and open-door policy of complaint redressal while the other was strict in its approach. I enjoyed working in the one with a liberal approach and I would like to have the same environment in the further organizations those I will be joining. That keeps me energetic and committed.


The sales strategy hitting its target motivates me. I like convincing clients to buy the company’s products and services. I have been a salesperson earlier in my previous company. My interaction with the potential customers used to encourage and energize me a lot. Getting a conversation started with the potential buyers, then deliberating with them, interacting, and convincing them for buying the product or the service was not an easy task at all. But this challenge never made me lose my spirits rather it always motivated me to try my level best. And when the sales target used to get accomplished, it used to give me a sense of pride. I felt more confident than ever. I used to feel like keep doing the interaction, convincing, and sales activity again and again. So, my motivation lies in the success of my task and that thrills me a lot.


I am a very inquisitive personality and so, learning newer things excites me a lot. Learning is what that gives me intense motivation. I do not refrain from changes that may take place in an organization rather I get excited about that new will I get to learn from this new change. I remember when I heard about a new course that was introduced at our college. All my friends were excited to join it. But, the schedule for its classes didn’t suit us as the class timings were in the evening after 5:00 p.m. But I took this issue as a challenge and didn’t give up on the idea of joining the new course. It was a French language course. And I am happy that I stick to my plan A although it was difficult to keep going with that extra burden. But I made it because it made me learn something new and the thought of learning new, motivates me a lot.

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