During the job interview, employers are interested in assessing how well co-workers and clients would respond to you, and how you would interact with them if hired. Accordingly, you should prepare for job interview questions like, "What strategies would you use to motivate your team?"
Expect this question if you are interviewing for a role that calls for supervising staff, leading teams of co-workers, or managing projects. Your response offers interviewers a glimpse into your leadership and interpersonal style.
Other jobs that might have this question include teaching, sales, public relations, and other work where you need to motivate others into action.
What to Focus on in Your Responses
In your answers, it's helpful to highlight that you understand motivational approaches should be tailored to personality type. You can mention that you would take the time to get to know your clients or team members and assess their needs and preferences. It's helpful to differentiate how you might approach staff who perform well, versus the office underperformers.
Demonstrate your awareness of some of the common factors that help increase motivation at work, such as bonuses, team spirit, and recognition. Of course, you will also want to make it clear that you cannot always control these factors. Salaries and bonuses, for instance, are often outside of a manager or team member's control.
Experts recommend creating interview responses organized to describe the situation, task, action, and results (STAR). This method helps you describe your job-relevant experiences to the interviewer.
Situational interview questions generally have no wrong or right answer. One strategy for your response is to share an anecdote to demonstrate the motivational techniques you have used in the past. Describe the situation, your action, and the results using this modified version of the STAR interview response technique.
Sample Responses for Motivating People
Here's an example of how a response framed as situation-action-result can look:
- Situation: When I was at ABC company, we had a round of layoffs in the middle of an already understaffed project. The 5-person team I led was demoralized and also needed to absorb the additional work from the departed staff.
- Action: I took each person on the team out for coffee individually. These one-on-one meetings were an opportunity to vent, but also created space for employees to share pain points. I shared all the potential roadblocks in a follow-up team meeting, and we brainstormed solutions together, including adjusting the timeline slightly.
- Results: In the end, the project launched just a week behind the original schedule, and without any other issues. Because the team felt that their frustrations were acknowledged, there was no simmering resentment holding people back. Instead, the team felt enthusiastic and unified in a common goal.
Sales, Marketing, and PR Jobs
If you are interviewing for a position in sales, public relations, marketing, or fundraising, where you need to convince customers to take a specific action, share how you discover the needs and preferences of your customers or constituencies.
Then mention how you emphasize the benefits of your products or services in light of those wants and needs, in order to prompt the desired response from your customers.
Sample Statements for Sales and Marketing
Here are a few examples of statements you can consider as you develop your responses to questions about how you motivate others.
I believe that recognizing positive aspects of employee performance is critical to motivating most workers. For example, I manage a staff of five employees, and I noticed that one of the workers was somewhat introverted and tended to stay in the background. He performed adequately but was reluctant to contribute at meetings, and I thought he could be more productive if optimally motivated.
It helps to remember experiences that are relevant to the position you're being interviewed for. It's likely there are many similarities to positions you've held, so you should have plenty of examples.
I started a daily ritual of checking in with him and monitoring his output. I provided positive feedback regarding his daily achievements. I discovered that the quality and quantity of his output increased as I interacted with him more frequently. I was able to call upon him at meetings since I understood the details of his work better and ask him to share some of his successful strategies with colleagues.
Giving Consistent Feedback
I believe that regular and concrete feedback is important when dealing with a worker who is not performing up to her potential. I heard complaints from a few of my restaurant customers that one of my bartenders was not as cheerful and attentive as they would have liked.
I started asking her customers as they were leaving about the quality of service and informed her as soon as possible after they left about what I had learned. I let her know which behaviors were problematic and complimented her when the customer was satisfied. After a few shifts, I observed a transformation in her attitude and began to receive consistently positive feedback from her customers.
Focus only on positive experiences. All leaders have failures they have learned from, but don't mention them unless specifically asked about them. If this occurs, talk about one that had a positive outcome.
Establishing a Context for Work
I believe that staff members are more motivated when they understand the impact of a project and their role. I also think that they are more likely to be motivated if they have input regarding how to accomplish group or departmental goals. When I launched a fundraising campaign for a new library, I called a meeting and clearly explained the purpose of the drive and how it would benefit the college.
Then I asked the group to share their insights regarding the best process for achieving our goal. After brainstorming strategies for getting the best results, I drew a consensus around a plan and designated responsibilities for each team member. The group was more invested in this campaign than in some past efforts, and we reached our goal ahead of schedule.
On Motivating Others in Sales
As you can see from my resume, I have sold fundraising software in the past. My approach to motivating customers was to spend time uncovering the problems and challenges that confronted their development staff. Then I would pitch features of my product that would help them to meet those challenges.
For example, I met with one museum development officer and found that they had no systematic way to identify particular donors based on their artistic interests. The staff relied on handwritten notes or memory. I showed her how our prospect files could be coded by different types of art and lists of past and potential donors could be generated. She decided to purchase a lease once she saw how the system could help her staff to focus their fundraising efforts on prospects with an interest in upcoming exhibits.