How To Answer ‘What Motivates You?’ In A Job Interview

Jun 2, 2021 | Features | 0 comments

Many companies ask a standard set of questions to prospective applicants. For instance, a common interview question is: what motivates you?

There are a hundred ways to answer this question, but what kind of answers will set you apart? Job interview questions are sometimes purposefully broad and abstract. This allows hiring managers to learn more about a prospective employee.

To nail an interview, you need to understand why a recruiter is asking a particular question, the best way to respond, and the types of answers you should generally avoid. So keep reading to get all the insider info you’ll need to stand out in your next interview!


RELATED: How to Make a Career Plan Using an 8-Step System

Breaking Down 7 Common Job Interview Questions

1. What Motivates You?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Your answers to this broad question will give potential employers some insights into what you’re passionate about and what you value. With these insights, they’ll try to determine if you’re a good fit for the role and the workplace culture.

What’s the best way to answer this question? The best answers to this question are answers that give employers a picture of an interviewee’s internal and external motivating factors.

Internal motivators refer to your own drive to succeed. For instance, the desire to learn new things is an example of an internal motivator.

On the other hand, external motivators refer to contextual/environmental factors that push you to excel. For example, being more motivated when you’re a part of a team is an external motivator.

It’s good to include both in your answer because your internal motivators will tell the interviewer what you have to offer. While your external motivators will tell the interviewer if you’ll thrive in the company and position.

What answers should you avoid? Avoid giving generic answers that don’t really reveal anything about you as a prospective employee. If possible, back up your answers with real-life examples. These examples can come from your previous school or work experience.

what motivates you

2. Why Are You Applying Here?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Recruiters ask this question because they want to know how much you know about their company. When you’re on the job hunt, it isn’t usual to send in applications to different companies and you can be honest about this.

But recruiters are likely to weed out applicants who simply sent in their resumes because there was an opening. It’s important to show that you were thoughtful in your application process.

What’s the best way to answer this question? Your answer should reflect your knowledge and understanding of the company. It’s important to do your homework and know the company’s mission, vision, and values. That way, you can summarize them during the interview and explain why you were drawn to them.

What answers should you avoid? While it may be an important consideration, try not to cite compensation as your reason for applying. In most cases, employers want to invest in their employees. If the paycheck is the primary motivation for a job, then applicants are less likely to exhibit loyalty to the company.

3. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Prospective employers ask this question to get an idea of your career goals. This will help them figure out if you’re more likely to stay with the company long-term. Studies show that turnover can be quite costly, so employers want to avoid it.

What’s the best way to answer this question? Your answer needs to show that the position you’re applying for is in line with your long-term goals. You can also talk about your short-term and mid-term goals.

It’s helpful to identify career outcomes, achievements, or milestones you hope to attain. For example, you may want to think of well-known awards related to the position you’re applying for.

You can also talk about skills you want to develop in the next couple of years. Try to make sure these skills are relevant to the position’s job description.

What answers should you avoid? Avoid giving unrealistic answers. Make sure the goals you communicate are specific, measurable, and attainable.

what motivates you

4. What Are Your Strengths?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Recruiters ask this question because they want to know what sets you apart from other candidates. It isn’t always easy to talk about how great you are, but recruiters need to know to make an informed choice. So don’t be shy!

What’s the best way to answer this question? Good answers to this question usually include a summary of your hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to technical skills that are easily measurable.

When it comes to your hard skills, you can talk about degrees or certificates you’ve earned, training programs you’ve completed, or the expertise you’ve accumulated over the years. On the other hand, soft skills refer to work-related traits that make you a more effective employee.

These can refer to your interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, or work ethic. When it comes to talking about your soft skills, make sure you back these up with specific examples.

What answers should you avoid? Avoid long-winded answers that show a lack of focus. Mention 1-2 important hard and soft skills that are relevant to the company and job position.

5. What Are Your Weaknesses?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Recruiters ask this question to determine an applicant’s ability for self-reflection. In most cases, a weakness is a challenge. So the interviewee wants to see how you view and respond to these challenges.

What’s the best way to answer this question? Don’t simply identify a weakness. Make sure you provide a concrete example of something you struggled with within the workplace and the steps you took to overcome it.

Use this question as an opportunity to show that you’re willing to learn and grow as a professional.

On the other hand, you may start to feel unmotivated if you’re working 24/7. That’s why it’s important to maintain work-life balance.

what motivates you

6. Why Are You Leaving Your Job?

Why do recruiters ask this question? Your answer to this question will reveal a lot about your personal motivations, priorities, and company commitment.

What’s the best way to answer this question? Keep it positive by sharing what you’ve gained from your previous job. Then focus on professional opportunities that you’re looking forward to. 

Try to be specific and mention ways that you want to grow professionally. Make sure to relate your answer back to the position.

What answers should you avoid? Even if things didn’t end well with your last job, do not bad-mouth your previous employer. This is a red flag for employers. They are less likely to hire you if it seems like you have a lot of unresolved emotional baggage.

7. Tell Me About Yourself

Why do recruiters ask this question? Many recruiters start the interview process with this prompt to ease into the interview process. Even if it seems like the interviewer is using this question to break the ice, make sure you provide a thoughtful answer.

In some cases, your response to this first question can set the tone for the rest of the interview. Interviewers may use your response to ask follow-up questions.

What’s the best way to answer this question? It may seem like a simple prompt, but it’s actually quite complex. So try your best to answer the question directly and concisely.

Focus on information and accomplishments that are relevant to the position. Here are some topics you can cover:

    • Summarize your important assignments and responsibilities in your previous job. 
    • Mention some of your major professional achievements and contributions. 
    • Briefly discuss how you found out about the job opening and what excites you most about it.

If it seems appropriate, you can share some of your personal passions and interests as well. This may help ease some tension and build rapport between you and the interviewer.

What answers should you avoid? Avoid providing answers that sound too rehearsed. First impressions last and giving a memorized answer reeks of inexperience. 

what motivates you

Job interviews are nerve-wracking, but remember the goal of the recruiter isn’t to intimidate you. They want to figure out if you’re a good fit for their company.

Keep in mind that this goes both ways too. So use the interview process to determine if the company is aligned with your values and professional goals.

Are you looking for a rewarding career? Do you want to work for a company that prioritizes your professional growth? Visit the Virtual Hub for more information!


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