Learn how to answer “what motivates you” interview question

Last updated on March 6th, 2018 at 06:04 pm

What really motivates you in work, and what you should answer to the interview question about your motivation, 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 doing that.

As you can probably guess, however, money does not stand for a best answer to the interview question about your motivation in the workplace. Exception proves the rule.


Three exceptions when money is a good answers

  • If you apply for a simple manual labor – think stocker, 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 becasue 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 account executive (which is in many cases just a fancy title for a salesman job). 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, becasue 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…

Sample answers for other cases

In all other situations and job interviews, you should not refer to money as your main driving force. Let’s have a look at some other, good answers to this interview question. I will try to explain why the answer is good, and how it helps the job applicant to make a good impression on the hiring panel.


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 belief that I work on something important, something 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.


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, becasue I see the purpose of my work.


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 their factory each morning…


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

I like to learn the ins and outs of operating the company, I enjoy improving my business skills, and I enjoy the environment where many young and motivated people work together. 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, and in my personal development, I am motivated to work hard and to deliver results each month.


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 company ladder unless you deliver results each month…


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.


Explanation: In some companies (mostly small business, or small 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.

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 to feel good in 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 keep 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 :).


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 becasue of the flexibility it offers to me. When you have a family you want to provide for, you won’t risk losing a great position, just becasue the work is tough, or becasue you experience a conflict with someone in the workplace.


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…



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 the 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.


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