Interviewing Q&A: What Motivates You?

Arran Stewart

Arran Stewart

Arran James Stewart is the co-founder and CVO of blockchain recruitment …


The job interview is a critical discussion to determine if you and the company are an excellent fit for each other. One of the most common discussion points involves the “what motivates you?” question.

This question often leads to a deep discussion about your future with the company and your career goals.

So, why is this such an important question? And what is the best way to answer it? Below we detail all you need to know so that you can knock this question out of the park.

What Does the Interviewer Want to Know with This Question?

There are a couple of reasons why the hiring manager wants to understand your motivation. This question gives him or her a clear idea of how close your aspirations match up with the role.

The hiring manager is also interested to see your level of self-awareness in what drives you. If you show confidence and eagerness in your tone, the employer will notice how much you have thought about your motivations.

Good and Bad Answers to “What Motivates You?”

So, what makes an answer to the question good or bad? Below are some helpful tips to make sure you stand out among the candidates.

Good Answers

A good answer to this question will be clear, concise, and genuine. The interviewer also wants to understand specific examples of when you used your motivation for good. Because people often think through emotions, a compelling story will be sure to blow them out of the water.

Below are some quality motivators to build your examples around:

  • Learning new skills
  • Achieving goals, targets, and deadlines
  • Coaching and motivating others
  • Developing innovative ideas
  • Making someone else’s life better
  • Overcoming a difficult challenge

Bad Answers

A bad answer to the what motivates you interview question will come off as selfish to the interviewer.

Answers about money, material success, and personal achievements will rub the hiring manager the wrong way. Here are some more things to avoid when answering this question:

  • Do not make it about yourself
  • Do not talk excessively or ramble
  • Keep it on a positive note

“What Motivates You?” Answer Examples

Let’s evaluate examples of bad, good, and great answers to this question for a customer-facing role.

BAD Example Answer

“Money is what motivates me. If I hit my bonuses, that is all that matters to me. I like to see the company succeed, but it feels even better to know that I have more money to spend. I also love the satisfaction of being able to put another award on my resume.”

This answer is not so good because the interviewee made it all about themselves. Instead of talking about other people, like the employees or customers, the candidate focused on personal achievement.

Realizing your personal goals is great, but it is best not to always make it about yourself when it comes to a customer-facing role.

OK Example Answer

“What motivates me is seeing a job well done and the customer happy. When a client approaches me with a challenge, I am focused on doing what I can to answer it quickly and effectively."

This answer came off genuine, and the interviewee has the right idea. However, it is an average answer because he or she did not give a specific example of a time when they did this.

The interviewer would have been more impressed if the interviewee aligned this passion to the company’s mission.

GREAT Example Answer

“Delivering meaningful solutions to my clients is what drives me. I have always believed that people buy my personality before they buy my product or service. My interaction with the customer reflects me and my company, which is why I am motivated to see other people succeed. If the customer achieves their goal, it makes me happy and driven to deliver value to someone else.

I am continuously investing in knowledge about emotional intelligence, and how I can apply it within my career. One thing I like to do is read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, and practice remembering people’s names to make them feel important. I will bring this eagerness to learn toward this position, which is why I see myself growing and building with your company.”

This answer is excellent because the candidate clearly defined what motivates them. They then quickly cited an example where they applied this as a skill. What made this an even better answer is that they explained how excited they were to use this skill within the role.

Final Wrap Up

We all have different motivations, which is why the response possibilities are endless to this question. The most vital thing to remember is to frame yourself as valuable. Show how you can make other people’s lives easier, grow company culture, and make a meaningful impact on the world around you.

You have a higher chance of getting the job when you make life about helping other people get what they want. Want to further prep for your interview? Check out our post on the most common interview questions .

See more of our interview prep posts:

Tell me about yourself
What is your work style?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?