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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 there are some common interview questions which will almost certainly feature.

Graduate job interview questions range from the straightforward, such as ‘Describe yourself in 3 words’, to the more open-ended, like ‘Tell me about yourself’ and ‘Why should we hire you?

Check out our complete guide to Interview Questions.

Despite being one of the most common interview questions, ‘What motivates you at work?’ will often catch graduates off-guard; so it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared to answer it.

To decide on the best way to answer this open-ended interview question, 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! 

Why do employers ask what motivates you at work?


1. To learn more about your personality

A potential employer will be looking to learn more about your personality, and gain insight into what you value most. As interview questions go, this one will help employers to understand what really drives you, and what kind of employee you would be if they were to hire you.


2. To determine whether you are a good fit for the role and the company

By asking you this question, the employer will be able to ascertain whether your sources of motivation and overall goals align with their own, the company’s, and the direction in which they see the role going. This will help them decide whether you would be a good team and culture fit.


3. To assess your level of self-awareness

Prompting you to explain what motivates you at work is also a great way for a potential employer to gauge how well you know yourself, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. The answer you choose will reveal a lot about how you view yourself and your work; so it’s important to prepare an answer beforehand which relates to the role you are applying for.

What motivates you at work? Best example answers

Just like many other common interview questions, practising your answer is key.

When preparing your answer, think about what really does motivate you, and frame it in a way that demonstrates your interest in and commitment to this particular role. Examples might be:


“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 really valuable, and that’s something I can really see myself doing in this role.”


“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.”


“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 well in a job.”

What motivates you to do a good job? – more example answers


  • 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 are only motivated by money, even if it is a key motivating factor. Instead of mentioning the salary, use this question to show how much you value other aspects of a job, and how committed you will be to the role. Find out other company perks you should consider.


– Discussing your long-term career goals

This is your opportunity to talk about what the factors that 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

A big no-no for any potential employer, saying you don’t know what motivates you in a job implies that you either have no motivation, or you didn’t take the time to prepare your answer.

    • What motivates you?
    • What motivates you to do a good job?
    • What drives you to do a good job?
    • What motivates you in life?
    • 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 drives you to work?
    • What motivates you to go to work every day?
    • What demotivates you at work?

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!



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