What really motivates us in work, and what we should talk about in an interview, are typically two different things. Most of us work for money. We need money to live, and to support our loved ones. Honestly, very few people would go to job if they did not get paid for spending 8+ hours a day somewhere.

As you can probably guess, however, money is not the best answer to the interview question about your motivation in the workplace. Exception proves the rule though. Let’s have a look at seven good answers to this question. Once you check the answers, do not forget to read also the notes below them. They will help you to understand how to win your interviewers over.


7 Sample answers to “What motivates you?” interview question

Woman applying for an entry level position in a big international corporation

I like to learn the ins and outs of operating the business, I enjoy improving my communication skills, and I’d love to share the workplace with other young and motivated people.

Such a company culture is highly motivating for me, and since I want to keep the job in the company and to progress further in my career, I am motivated to work hard and to try my best each day in the job.

Explanation: Entry level positions are all about learning, meeting new people, and starting your career. Refer to the working environment and company culture as your primary factors of motivation.

Show them that you want to bring some value, and that you understand you can’t climb up the career ladder unless you deliver results each month…

Special Tip: What motivates you is not the only difficult question you will face in your interview. Check our Interview Success Package for great answers to 104 difficult interview questions–basically all questions you can face while interviewing for a job in a big corporation, and ace your interview with ease. You will find some fantastic sample answers directly on the product page, so it makes sense to check it out even if you do not want to purchase anything…


Applicant for a manual job in an automotive industry

I like to see the results of my work, how the products we create together in the factory help people in their everyday life. Seeing this connection motivates me to work hard, because I see the purpose of my job, and do not think only about making money.

Explanation: Connecting the value of the final product of your work with motivation is not a bad choice either. Show the employer that you see the connection, that you understand why people wake up and take a bus to the factory each morning…


Young man applies for a barista job with STARBUCKS

I love to be around people, to feel the sense of integrity, of belonging somewhere. To achieve great results as a team motivates me to try my best every day in job. I do not want to let my colleagues down. Oppositely, I want to do everything I can to help them, to be a valuable team member. This drives me forward each day.

* Check also: Barista Interview Questions.

Explanation: In some companies (mostly small business, or retail store, or restaurant environment) the sense of integrity, of belonging to the team and achieving results as a team is very strong. We are social beings, and to refer to this sense of integrity and responsibility for the team result is definitely a good answer, a good driving force.

Three people at the table, two lead the interview and one answers their questions. We can not see their faces, but the gestures they make with hands betray a lot of information.

Applicant for a managerial position, in a middle-sized company

I am a results driven person. If I see that I help the company to prosper, if I feel that people grow while working under me, it motivates me to work hard, and I feel good in my job. Management is not only my profession, but also my passion. If I get this job with your company, I doubt I will ever face any crisis of motivation.


Explanation: Some job titles (management, executive, consultancy, law, etc) attracts a lot of recognition.

Just having such a job is motivating for many people, and they’d do everything to retain it. If you apply for a prestigious position, or simply for a great job, you can refer to the nature of the job, and to the results you will achieve (helping people, helping the company to prosper, etc).

Everyone wants to feel good in their life. A good job makes this task a bit easier :).

Special Tip no. 2: Download all sample answers in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answer anytime later, even when offline:

sample answers, PDF

Answer oriented on the well-being of the applicant and their family

This job will allow me to achieve a great life-work balance. I have two kids, a young family, and I’d be motivated to work hard and keep the job simply because of the flexibility it offers. When you have a family you want to provide for, you won’t risk losing a great position, just because the work is tough, or because you experience a conflict with someone in the workplace. That’s definitely not the case…

Explanation: In some cases it is great to refer to your family. This answer can be actually applied in any job interview, and it can do wonders especially if a woman (who has a family, and cares for her family) leads the interview with you…


Man applying for a job on an ecological farm

I like to be active, to move, to work outside. The nature of the job motivates me. I really do not enjoy sitting in the office, looking at the computer screen for eight hours a day. I enjoy working with plants, and I also believe in sustainable agriculture. The feeling of working on something important, something we do for the future, will motivate me to work hard every day.

Explanation: To relate to the nature of the job is always a good answer. Some of us prefer to work in an office, some of us outside, and some enjoy working from their home, never getting out of their pajamas. If your preferences match the possibilities the job can offer to you, you have a great answer to the question about motivation.

* May also interest you: How do you motivate others?


Three exceptions when money is a good answers

Generally you should not refer to money as your primary motivation. But there are some exceptions, and we will look at them now.

  • If you apply for a simple manual labor – think stock clerk interview, picker, construction worker, etc, you can hardly find something motivating about the job, except of the salary you will get. It would make no sense to try to convince the HR managers that you enjoy carrying bricks on a dusty construction site. We apply for these kinds of jobs because we need money, and can not get any better position at the moment. Employers are well aware of this fact.
  • If you want to get a job of a salesman, sales representative, or in an account executive interview (which is more or less just a fancy job title for a salesman position). Working as a sales representative, your salary depends on the number of sales you make each month. More sales means more business for the company, and more money for you. Interviewers often look for money-driven people in this industry, because sales are tough to crack, and the employee fluctuation is high. If you do not care about money, you will hardly keep a sales job for a long time.
  • In an interview for a high-risk high-reward job, such as working on an oil rig in the sea, in a quarry, or cleaning the canals of one of the world metropolises :). These jobs are dangerous. Many people lose their lives, or injure themselves severely each year performing them. High financial compensation is the only reason why we apply for them, and HR managers do not expect to hear any lies from us in the interview…


Conclusion and next steps

Money is important. But life should be fun, and we should also see a purpose in the things we do every day. Money can’t buy happiness, or the everyday feeling of a satisfaction from the good things we have done, from the morning to evening.

Think about your job and life. Try to find things that motivate you to work hard, to try to be a great colleague, and employee. Our sample answers should help you to find your own perfect answer to “What motivates you in work?” interview question.

Check also sample answers to other tough interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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