Job Interview Question: "Are You Self-Motivated?"

A woman conducts a job interview
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Interviewers often ask questions about what motivates you. Hiring managers want to learn what drives you, and whether your motivators are a fit for what they are seeking in the ideal candidate for the job.

These questions range from, "What are you passionate about?" to simply, "What motivates you?" Another question employers ask is, “Are you self-motivated?”

What Interviewers Really Want to Know

Employers want to know that you will be an enthusiastic employee who is committed to your work. They want to know that you will do your best work—even without a boss asking you to do so, or the promise of a reward.

Therefore, when an employer asks, “Are you self-motivated?” you should say yes. However, a strong answer to this question will go beyond a one-word answer, and will include specific examples of your self-motivation.

How to Answer Questions About Your Motivation 

When you answer this question, provide one or two specific examples of times when you demonstrated your passion for and dedication to your job. Be sure that you focus on examples of times when you did exemplary work, not because of external influences—a boss telling you to do something, or a monetary incentive—but because of your passion for the task.

You might also talk about a time that you overcame a particular challenge, or set a difficult goal for yourself.

These kinds of examples can also show how you motivate yourself in difficult times.

If you are new on the job market or changing careers, you do not have to give an example from work. Instead, think of a time when you did exemplary work simply out of a passion for the project. Perhaps you organized and led an event for your extracurricular group, or worked to perfect an assignment for school (as long as you did this work because of your interest in the topic, not because of concern for your grade).

You might even talk about how you have been self-motivated to get more involved in the industry you are currently job hunting in. For example, perhaps you joined and participated in a professional organization, or held a number of informational interviews with people at the top of the field. Emphasize that you were motivated not just by the desire to get a job, but to learn more about an industry you are passionate about.

Examples of the Best Answers

Absolutely. I am passionate about this work and am therefore always looking for new and innovative ideas to bring to a project. For example, I was so inspired by the last ad campaign I worked on that I suggested a number of unique ad strategies that my employers loved and ultimately implemented. My passion motivates me to think creatively and produce results.

Why It Works
In this response, the candidate gives a strong yes — and then goes on to provide a work-related example.

I know that I am self-motivated. I give my all to any project and am always looking ahead to the next task at hand. Successfully completing one project and moving on to the next one is very exciting for me. I am passionate about my work and truly enjoy working toward the next big goal. For example, after successfully completing a team project ahead of our deadline, I immediately sought out and requested to join another team on a project I had been interested in for a while. I am always looking for the next project to pour my passion into.

Why It Works
This response gives an example that shows off how hard-working the candidate is.

I have always been self-motivated. No one in my family had attended college, but I was always determined to do so. I, therefore, put myself through college and graduate school with no financial support from my family. In the workplace, I bring that same drive to managing projects and deadlines. I know how to set a goal for myself and achieve it.

Why It Works
This response makes it clear that self-motivation is one of the candidate's core traits.

Yes, I am very self-motivated. In school, particularly in my journalism courses, I always put extra effort into projects, simply due to my passion for journalism. For example, one course required us to write an article on a particular topic. I went above and beyond, conducting multiple interviews and going to the local archives to research the topic. I ultimately got this article published in a magazine. I believe this self-motivation and passion for journalism will make me a strong assistant editor for your newspaper.

Why It Works
In this candidate's response, there is a connection to the applicant's self-motivation in a venue that's similar to the job at hand. This is a strong industry-focused response.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

  • Be positive. Your answer should always start in the affirmative. It's helpful to be enthusiastic and upbeat as well.
  • Share examples. Providing instances of a time when you were self-motivated will be persuasive.

What Not to Say

  • A negative response. Lying is never good, but even if you need a bit of a nudge sometimes to get going, this is not the time to disclose that.
  • A one-word answer. Sometimes questions about motivation are framed as yes/no questions — but that doesn't mean that responding with one word is sufficient.
  • External motivators. In general, your response should stay away from external motivators — like a paycheck or bonus — and focus more on how you were able to find inspiration in the task or project. 

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • What else motivates you?
  • Tell me about a time when you struggled with motivation.
  • What are you passionate about?

Key Takeaways

Go beyond "yes." Share examples that show how you're self-motivated.

You've got options even if you don't have on-the-job experience. Turn to extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or internships if you are entry level.