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what motivates you

As more and more companies begin to shift their focus on identifying the right attitude and cultural fit for the job alongside appropriate skill sets, a common interview question is being brought up more frequently during job interviews: What do you find motivating on the job?

As with most interview questions, there can be many variations: What is motivating to you?  What motivates you to do good work?  What drives you to perform at your best? And so on.

The toughest part of answering this question is it’s not something many of us think about prior to going into the interview and being put on the spot.  In reality, this is a question that you should not only ask of yourself in preparation for answering in the interview, but also to answer for yourself when starting your job search (or even daily in your career.)

What drives us can be key to our success in a role.  And finding the right balance of motivating factors within an organization can be critical to your performance and your happiness in your role.  Take time to understand what motivates you and then gauge what the best response should be for yourself in the interview process.

The first thing that comes to many people’s minds when it comes to motivation is money.  But, be careful responding with this to an interview question.  Money has been shown to only be a temporary motivator in employees and an interviewer is not likely to be impressed with your response.  (Unless you’re interviewing for a position in a highly competitive sales organization or other such environment where the culture may be centered on money—always do your homework and know your audience.)

What really motivates most employees centers around the following ideas: recognition, the ability to work on meaningful projects, options for career development and additional training, being presented with new challenges, the chance to showcase their talent and make an impact, having job stability, working in an environment where there is trust and mutual respect with the ability to make mistakes and grow, and working among happy people.

Where does your motivation to perform well in your job fall?  If you don’t know, examine projects where you succeeded in the past and why you felt successful?  What made you feel good?  What rewards or recognition was there?  Did you work alone or as a team?  Answering these questions can also supply great follow-up examples to provide an interviewer that showcase your motivation on the job and it leading to great achievements.

For example: I enjoy recognition, no matter how big or small.  A kind word from a supervisor, client, or co-worker is all I need to push me to the next level on a project.  In my previous position, I helped turn over a troubled client account, and upon the success of this task, the praise from my manager was what drove me to take on new challenges and to become the go-to person to deal with difficult situations.  If I have a team that believes in me and my work, there are no limits on what I can achieve.

Understanding the culture of the company you’re interviewing for can help you answer this question as well (and also help you make the decision for yourself if it’s a place you want to work.)  If what drives you to perform well complements the company culture or the management style, it should be easy to tie your response to the company’s performance and provide examples of how their particular culture is aligned with what pushes you to succeed in a job.

For example: I am motivated by being presented with new challenges to solve and making an impact.  From what I know about XYZ Company, you’re driven by innovation and creating new ways to solve old problems.  This is a one part of why I’m attracted to this role and why I know I will be a top performer if selected for the job.

It may be one small thing or it may be a mixture of different factors that motivates you to succeed in a role, but if you take the time to answer this question for yourself, you’re going to come out ahead knowing if the company is the right fit before you go into the interview (or have additional questions to ask to make sure it’s the right fit.)

And if you prepare a tailored answer for the company you’re interviewing with, you’ll be sure to showcase your understanding of how you’ll not only fit in with the company culture, but bring them great results as well.

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