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What motivates you at work? How to answer this interview question

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It’s impossible to predict every question you’ll be asked in a graduate job interview.

But, it’s best to prepare answers for trickier questions that come up all the time, like tell me a bit about you and why should we employ you?.

Though a common interview question, ‘what motivates you at work?’ is one that is particularly difficult to answer and often catches graduates off-guard.

The best answers to interview questions in general – including this one – are fundamentally honest, but also highlight to the employer that you are a good fit for both the role and their company.

We’ll show you the best answer for this particular question, explore the various ways employers will ask it, and list the things you should avoid in your ‘what motivates you in your work’ answer.

As the question is so open-ended, let’s look first of all at why employers might choose to ask it.

Scroll straight to the bottom of the page to see a quick, summary video of how to answer! 

Summary ‘what motivates you at work’ video

Tip: change the playback speed in the settings at the bottom right corner, to suit your learning requirements. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos!

 

Why do employers ask about what motivates you to do a good job?

  • A potential employer will be looking for your examples of motivation at work to learn more about your personality and gain insight into what you value most. What we are motivated by is a big tell into the kind of individuals we are, and how we’ll conduct ourselves in the workplace.

    As job interview questions go, this question will help employers understand what really drives you, and what kind of employee you would be if they were to hire you.

  • By asking you interview questions on motivation, the employer will be able to ascertain whether your sources of work motivation and overall goals align with their own, the company’s, and the direction in which they see the role going.

    Much like other interview questions, it is not meant to trip you up or trick you. It is way to assess your compatability with the job description, and then decide whether you would be a good team and culture fit.

  • Prompting you to explain what motivates you to work is also a great way for a potential employer to gauge how well you know yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses. The answer you choose can reveal a lot about how you view yourself and your working style.

    So, it’s important to think about your job motivation beforehand, and think about your working style in a way that relates to the role you are applying for.

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What motivates you at work example answers

Just like with many other common interview questions, practising your answer is key when interviewing for a job, especially as there are various types of motivation questions interviewers may ask.

When preparing what motivates you answers, think about what really does motivate you, and frame it in a way that demonstrates your interest in and commitment to this particular role.

In an interview, motivation questions may throw you off, so you should look at what the best motivation examples are and study “what motivates you to work” sample answers ahead of your interview.

Example answers to motivation interview questions may be:

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“I am motivated by professional growth. In my current job role, I am always looking for ways to teach myself new things, for example, I watch YouTube tutorials and read blogs in order to learn more about different topics. I find developing my industry knowledge and upskilling with courses really valuable, and that’s something I can really see myself doing in this role.”

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“In a graduate job, my main motivation comes from having plenty of variation. I have enjoyed getting involved in a wide range of projects and societies at University, including organising fundraising sports events, and helping run the Marketing Society every week. I am comfortable adapting to new situations and challenges, so a role where I have variety in the type of work I am doing, as well as the people I am working with, is crucially important to me.”

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“I am motivated by working with other people. I found that during University, my best ideas came when working on group projects. I would bounce well off others and I found it rewarding helping to spur the team on to succeed. I enjoy relationship-building and being part of a group, so this would be my answer to what motivates me to do a good job at work.”

What motivates you to do a good job? – more motivation examples

  • Stability or job security
  • Working to deadlines
  • Leadership
  • A sense of achievement or accomplishment
  • Helping others in my job
  • Growing my professional network
  • Learning and development
  • A great work culture
  • Overcoming challenges at work
  • Providing good customer service
  • Exceeding expectations at work
  • Getting praise or recognition
  • Achieving the company mission
  • Following a project through from start to finish
  • Variation in my role
  • Working with other people
  • Professional growth and upskilling

 

What to avoid when answering the question

Using salary as your motivation at work

No employer wants to hear that you have no methods of motivation besides money, even if it is a key motivating factor. Of course, there will be instances where the interviewer may address the salary and ask you questions like ‘what salary do you expect?’.

But when being asked about work motivation, avoid stating that salary is what motivates you most in work. Use this question to show how much you value other aspects of a job, and how committed you will be to the role.

If you’re struggling to think of what motivates you for work besides pay, select a reason from the ‘what keeps you motivated’ examples above.

Find out the best company perks.

Discussing your long-term career goals

This is your opportunity to talk about what factors will motivate you in this role, not where you see your career going in the future or your long-term motivations. It is easy to go off on a tangent when answering interview questions, here’s some advice on how not to ramble in an interview.

Saying that you aren’t sure what motivates you at work

Staying motivated at work isn’t always easy. However, a big no-no for any potential employer is saying that you don’t know what motivates you in a job, as it implies that you either have no motivation, you don’t know how to keep motivated or you didn’t take the time to prepare your answer.

Learning how to answer motivation questions and identify things that motivate you at work prior to your interview can help to strengthen your response.

    • What motivates you?
    • What motivates you to do great work?
    • What motivates you in the workplace and why?
    • What keeps you motivated at work?
    • What motivates you at work besides a paycheck?
    • What motivates you to work for this company?
    • What motivates you the most at work?
    • What motivates you to work for us?
    • Can you give some examples of what motivates you at work?
    • What motivates you in your work?
    • What motivates you to do a good job?
    • What drives you to do a good job?
    • What motivates you in life?
    • What motivates you to work with us?
    • How can we best help you get your job done?
    • What motivates you to succeed in life?
    • What motivates you to succeed at work?
    • What is most important to you in your career?
    • Are you money motivated?
    • What motivates you to work here?
    • What drives you at work?
    • What excites you about work?
    • What motivates you to do great job at work?
    • What motivates you to go to work every day?
    • What demotivates you at work?
    • What motivates you and makes you feel valued at work?
    • What motivates you most at work?
    • Can you name some things which motivate you at work?

Knowing how to answer how to answer motivation interview questions is key to succeeding in graduate job interviews.

For tips on how to answer similar interview questions confidently, read our complete guide to common interview questions. Find more interview help on our graduate career guidance blog, or check out our latest opportunities for graduates!

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