What the interview question ‘what motivates you?’ is not asking you
This question is not asking you:
- What are your motivations for applying for the job?
- What are your career goals and aspirations?
At least, it’s not asking you these things directly, although you can touch on them in your answer.
It is asking you: what motivates you in life in general?
Why are recruiters asking you about what motivates you?
This question helps recruiters to find out more about you as a person. Your answer can give them some insight into:
- What makes you tick
- What you enjoy doing and what you value
- Whether you would do well in the job role
- How you would fit into their team.
The best answers to these questions are honest and yet should also connect to the job you are going for; they should strongly suggest that you would be highly motivated by and suited to the work.
So, when preparing to answer this question, you should think about:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What have you enjoyed while working at your last/recent job?
- What sort of tasks are you best at? In what sort of environments (busy, dead-line driven, loud, quiet etc) do you work the best?
For example, are you well-suited to working as part of a team? Do you work at your best when you have an imminent deadline or do you crumble?
Then think about: The skills sought by the employer and the nature of the job you will be doing.
Good answers to the question ‘what motivates you?’
It’s all in the detail. Whatever you say, you need to back it up with examples from your work experience and/or extra-curricular activities, and it should relate to the skills and aptitudes required for the job you’re going for.
So, for example, ‘I am motivated by meeting set targets within deadlines, as it gives me a sense of accomplishment and it's something that I can look back on and say "I achieved that". I'm also motivated by visible results – for example, when I wrote an article for my student newspaper, I got a sense of accomplishment from knowing that up to 16,000 students would read it.’