How to Answer: What Motivates You?

Posted by GradConnection

If you’re asked “what motivates you” it’s important to be straightforward with your answer while considering what’s relevant for the position. The ideal answer will draw upon what motivated you prior to graduation and show why this is relevant to the interviewer.

If you’re stumped on where you might discover what motivates you perhaps start by reflecting on your experiences with the below: 

  • Work experience 
  • Recreational hobbies (e.g. local sports club) 
  • Colleagues, friends, and peers 
  • Elective subjects in your degree 
  • University clubs and societies 

When interviewers ask this question they want to find out if you’ll be engaged by the type of work you’ll be doing in this position. If you are motivated by being able to use your creativity but you’re applying for a job centred on data entry for example, you likely won’t be productive or happy if you get the job. 

There are many things that might motivate you, but if nothing is coming to mind or if you need a place to start, consider these examples: 

  • Making customers feel seen 
  • Regularly accomplishing tasks 
  • Working as a part of a team 
  • Seeing your work lead to tangible outcomes 
  • Recognition from your peers 
  • The content of the work you’re doing (the subject matter is motivating) 

When answering this question, you want to be honest with your answer to avoid it sounding phoney and ensure you are truly suited for the role. This is especially important as a recent graduate because these early years of your career will become a foundation. If you end up getting the job you might find yourself not feeling motivated and worse, miss out on other opportunities as a recent graduate. 

To structure your answer, you want to have a simple yet relevant motivation, that’s relevant to the position, with an example you can quickly reference in your answer.

✏️ Example Answers

“Making sure customers feel seen, and being able to help them out, motivated me in my position prior to graduating. I remember an older man came into work having issues connecting his old laptop to the internet and I was able to take the time to help him through the process and get him the cables he needed. It was the part of the job I wished could be all of it, which why I’m really excited to give public relations a try and have the opportunity to help clients and interact with stakeholders!”

"Being able to regularly accomplish things is very motivating for me. When I was trying to get involved in this industry through freelancing I really enjoyed being able to start and finish work on a quick turnaround. This position's need for regular posts across the company’s social media pages is a challenge I’m looking forward to for this reason!”

See more common graduate job interview questions and how to answer them here.


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