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How to Answer “What Motivates You?”: Examples for 2024

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What motivates me? Oh, the money.

When faced with the "What motivates you?" interview question, it's tempting to say that. But let's aim higher, shall we? Find out how to impress the recruiters by explaining what drives you. Our guide will help you showcase your passion and irresistible employability. 

This interview motivation question guide will show you:

  • Why do they ask what motivates you interview questions.
  • How to answer what motivates you to do a good job in a way that wins the interview.
  • Tips and advice on how not to answer the “what motivates you” interview question.

Over a dozen what motivates you answer examples to help you form your own.

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Sample resume made with our builder—See more resume examples here.

Looking for more guides to getting ready for your interview? See how to answer:

Why They Ask the “What Motivates You?” Interview Question

Your reply to the motivation question tells them how you would fit in with the company culture.

The interviewer also gains insight into who would you be as an employee, which is crucial. Only 32% of employees feel enthusiastic about their work.

This question is asked in the broadest, most general sense possible. Don’t assume it means what motivates you at work? or anything more specific like that. 

There are other ways the interviewer can as you that question. And there are also other questions standing behind it, such as:

  • What drives you to succeed? 
  • What makes you tick? 
  • What energizes you? 
  • What drives you to meet challenges? 
  • What inspires you?
  • What excites you about your job?
  • What excites you about working?
  • What motivates you to learn new things? 
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? 
  • What motivates you to come to work everyday? 
  • What is your motivation to apply for this position? 
  • What motivates you to do a great job at work?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • What demotivates you?

Answering this question correctly will put you on the top of the call-back list. Make sure you’ve got a great answer planned out!

This is an important question, but there are many others you need to get right, too. See what they are in our guide: Common Job Interview Questions and Best Answers

How to Answer the “What Motivates You to Do a Good Job?” Question

Think about your strengths, as these are a good place to start. What are you great at? What do you have to offer the team? Also, decide on what your interests and passions are. Do any of these overlap with your strengths? If so, this could make for a perfect answer!

Get your hands on the company values. Use them as a guide for answering the question correctly. Does this organization take pride in its staff’s problem-solving abilities and teamwork skills? If so, and if that matches you, then that would make for an excellent response to what motivates you? Question.

Most importantly, it is important that you are honest. You can’t make it far if you tell them you enjoy working on a team when a previous work reference says you shy away from teamwork. Prepare your answer beforehand.

How to Prepare to Answer the “What Motivates Me?”

Did you know that employees work 20% better when motivated? It means that finding true motivation will not only boost your chances of getting hired, but will also make you a great employee. 

To find your motivation, think about it right now, and not during an interview. Here’s how to do it:

  • List your strengths. What motivates you is possibly the same thing that you’re already great at.
  • Think about what motivated you in your previous work. Consider what made you happiest, proudest, and excited to work.
  • Be specific. Giving precise examples of situations from the past will also help you highlight your soft and hard skills, your work experience, and your impressive achievements. Win:win.
  • Learn how to use the STAR method. It focuses on the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Preparing your answer that way shows you’ve come prepared. And that’s always impressive.
  • Keep your answer short and positive. No need to go too much into detail. But staying positive is always a must!
  • Practice. Do it with a trusted friend or a family member and ask for honest feedback.

So, without further ado, let's check the best reasons you can give that answer to this tricky interview question:

What Motivates You to Work—Sample Answers

  • Learning new things
  • Acquiring new skills
  • Meeting deadlines, goals, and targets
  • Coaching others
  • Improving processes, finding ways to solve problems
  • Leading a team or being a part of a team
  • Completing a difficult project
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Coming up with creative ideas

You know dos. Now let’s see some don’ts.

Though we mentioned that honesty is key, sometimes you should just keep your honest answer to yourself. Don’t be dishonest—but keep away from the answers below (even if you’d be joking):

Wrong Answers to the "What Motivates You?" Interview Question

  • Money. We all know that, in the end, your paycheck is the primary motivating factor. And that’s fine—we all need to survive, after all. But dance around it.
  • Friends. Telling the HR director or recruiter that you have some pals there is not the best idea. Employers want to know that you care about the company and the projects you’ll take on. 
  • Perks. Like money, don’t give the interviewer a reason to believe that you are only interested in the company because of the perks and benefits they offer.

There are some interview questions that might stress you out, but your interviewer doesn’t have the right to ask them. Learn more: Illegal Interview Questions

When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.

When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and our resume checker will tell you exactly how to make it better.

“What Motivates You?” Sample Answers

You know where to look for a perfect answer, and you know some of the worst replies to avoid. Let’s look at some great answer examples to help you form your own.

What Motivates You to Succeed?

In an interview for a teaching position:

Well, my own baby sister inspired me to want to teach. You see, my sister has a severe learning disability, and it was, and continues to be, a struggle to help her develop educationally. However, she finally got the personal attention she needed, and I couldn’t be happier with her progress. I want to help children in the same way that my sister received help, so this is what motivates me the most to become a special education instructor.

What Motivates You as an Employee?

In an interview at a large company:

I absolutely love working as a part of a team. I enjoy discussing ways to move forward with teammates, and I love to respectfully debate others to ensure we are moving in the right direction. On top of that, I take pride in the work that I do, and it is humbling whenever I see a product or service being used in the real world that I was a part of.

What's Your Motivation?

During an interview at a small library:

Literature is both a strength and a passion of mine. As a bookworm ever since I can remember, that love of reading stayed with me through university, where I ended up majoring in western literature. My passion for literature continues to this day and has no sign of letting up, so it continues to be the biggest motivating factor in my life.

What Motivates You to Do a Great Job at Work?

In an interview at a creative ad agency:

I really enjoy flexing my imagination and creative muscles. Art and modern design was my first true love, and my appreciation and devotion to superior artistic direction continues just as strongly now. My adoration for creativity dictates every other aspect of my life, and I’d love for it to be put to use in my career, too.

Pro Tip: Make sure you convey your enthusiasm when you talk about things that motivate you. They won’t believe you if you’re not convincing during your interview!

Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:

See more cover letter templates and start writing.

Key Takeaway

Well, that’s it! Hopefully, you will be able to come up with a great answer if and when the interviewer springs this one upon you.

Keep these points in mind when answering the what motivates you? interview question:

  • Stay honest. You have to make sure that your answers remain true to who you are, but leave out any answers about money and other personal interests.
  • Use passions and interests to guide your answer. If you can find where your passions and interests intersect with the company’s values, you’ve got a great response on your hands.
  • Be prepared! Don’t try to answer this question on the spot. Take time to craft a response that fits the company, and remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Another interview at a different company may require a different answer.

Do you have any questions on how to answer what motivates you? Not sure if your interests and passions match the company values? Get at us in the comments below and we will answer your question. Thanks for reading!

About Zety’s Editorial Process

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.

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Maciej Tomaszewicz, CPRW
Maciej is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and career expert and resume writer with a versatile professional background, creating tools for job seekers in various industries. His creative writing background and HR-related experience allow him to create highly readable articles clarifying even the most complicated professional development aspects. Since 2022, he has authored guides on professional resumes and cover letters, written articles on work-related scenarios, and developed research-based career advice.
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