When searching common interview questions, one that often appears is the question “What motivates you”? Articles suggest be honest but keep your audience in mind.  That’s good advice because you are on an interview, often making a first impression and ultimately (probably) want the job for which you are interviewing. Some suggested answers are “I am motivated by… the desire to meet a deadline, mentoring others, learning new things”. These are acceptable answers, but don’t really say much. You need to be able to drill down to the real motivation behind the superficial answers.

Not only is it important for you to know what motivates you, but it is important that your boss knows what motivates you. Bad bosses do not care what motivates you. So-so bosses ask what motivates you once and may or may not try to work it into your job. Good bosses will ask you what motivates you, will work it into your job and will keep asking you what motivates you because let’s face it, what motivates you can change. 

No matter what type of boss you have, it is important for you to know:  What motivates you and why?  How do you like to be managed?  How do you like to be rewarded?  How do you learn best (ie. reading, demonstration, hands on experience, testing, etc.)? What were the 2 prime triggers that caused you to leave your last two jobs?  What would you like to learn (specifically) in the next 90 days?  

What motivates you is an important question, but the answer is more important.  Knowing the answer to the question is often the difference between going to work happy or miserable.  It is even sometimes the difference between a “job” and a “career”.  You should take the time to drill down and figure out what it is that motivates you on many levels – daily, overall, at work, and life in general. Your career and your life will thank you for it. 

Jeanine Borko

SVP, Human Resources

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