Motivational Interview Questions and Examples of the Best Answers

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Motivational interview questions are a common part of the interview process. One typical form of the question is, "What motivates you?" but there are other variations as well. Any question in this category helps hiring managers understand what you feel enthusiastic about, what drives your success, and whether what motivates you is a good fit with the job responsibilities.  

Read below some common ways interviewers ask job candidates about their motivations, and get advice on the best responses, along with answers to avoid. 

What Is Motivation?

First, let's take a look at what motivation is, exactly. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something. You can define it as the process that helps drive goal-oriented behaviors.

Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it's getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

There are two different types of motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivations are those that arise from outside of the individual and often involve rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition, or praise. 
  • Intrinsic motivations are those that arise from within the individual, such as doing a complicated crossword puzzle purely for the personal gratification of solving a problem. 

Responding to Interview Questions About Motivation

During job interviews, you should do your best to highlight intrinsic motivations rather than extrinsic ones. 

Before your interview, review the job description and find out as much as you can about the position. Then, tailor your responses to match what the employer is seeking in a candidate. Also, review these examples of motivational skills.

Your response will vary based on your background and experiences, but, you should keep it positive. In your response, share your enthusiasm and what you liked best about your last or current job.

Best Answers

The best answers to motivational questions are honest and yet should also connect to the job you're applying for. Your response should strongly suggest that you'd be highly motivated by, and suited for, the work involved in the role at hand.

When preparing to answer this question, you should think about: 

  • What have you enjoyed while working at previous positions? Think about your day-to-day work and your broader interests, too. 
  • What types of tasks are you best at? In what sort of environments (busy, deadline-driven, cooperative, competitive, loud, quiet, etc.) do you work the best?

Whatever you say, you need to back it up with examples from your studies, work experience, and volunteer activities, and your answers should relate to the skills and aptitudes required for the job you're applying for.

Sample Answers 

  • I'm very motivated by solving problems. In my last position, I helped resolve customer complaints. There's something so satisfying about providing answers to confused customers, and seeing frustrated customers transition into happy ones due to my help.
  • I'm incredibly motivated by solving problems and puzzles. In my personal life; I love doing the daily crossword. In the office, this takes the form of digging into data and spreadsheets. At my last job, I was responsible for preparing the annual report on which products performed best. This information was used to determine where the company would focus our efforts in the upcoming year. It was validating to know that the work I did, reviewing monthly spreadsheets and customer feedback, helped guide upper management. 

What to Avoid Saying

There are some answers that will not reflect well on you as a candidate. 

If you're motivated by factors that aren't involved in the job description, it's going to be a red flag for the interviewer. For example, if you say you're a person motivated by interpersonal communications and working with people, but the job is an accounting position with little interaction with others, you won't be considered a good fit for the job.

Avoid responses that name money (your salary, a bonus, a commission, etc.) as a motivating factor.

While a paycheck and financial benefits are an important reason for working, that's not the kind of answer interviewers are looking for. Being motivated by praise and acknowledgment is also best avoided in your response. 

Do your best to provide an honest or specific answer. Vague responses aren't helpful for interviewers. Remember, every question is an opportunity to show off your strengths