What drives you? And what personnel managers like to hear most in response to this question

Forget about money, fame and glory: the best motivation for work is passion, for what you do

For employers, it’s not just the qualifications of an applicant that count. The motivation with which someone approaches his or her work is at least as important. It’s no wonder, then, that recruiters are looking closely at your willingness to perform during the job interview. You can score!

What recruiters most want to hear when asked about motivation:

Typical interview questions about motivation

"What drives you at work?" – this question is a Classic in the job interview. Even if the HR person on the other side of the table doesn’t ask quite as directly, they will brush off your motivation to work in conversation. Some recruiters take a more subtle approach:

  • What excites you about this position?
  • What are your goals in this job?
  • Why do you want to work for us? ?

All these questions are ultimately aimed at finding out what your motivation is like. Understandable that employers would like to do without unmotivated employees who limit their efforts to the bare minimum. Instead, they would prefer to fill their open positions with an applicant who is on fire for the job.

"Love what you do" – inner drive more important than ambition

The question is, how do you show your counterpart that you are more motivated than your competitors?. Can your ambitious career goals convince the future employer? Or should you rather argue that professional success and recognition drive you to peak performance??

According to a recent study by the two U.S. management researchers Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach, applicants with these or similar answers are often on the wrong track. They found that it is much more important to recruiters than to applicants impressed when people go to work out of intrinsic motivation – so simply out of an inner drive, because they like to do their job.

Surprised? The applicants in the experiments of the two researchers also did this. You assumed that personnel decision-makers would rather judge a high level of motivation by answers such as "I like to measure myself against others" or "Professional successes drive me, I want to make a career" would pin down. That an answer like "I simply enjoy my work"would impress recruiters in a job interview, only very few would assume that it would.

Real fire instead of half-baked truths: Convey motivation in a believable way during the job interview

The two scientists recommend that applicants look at the interview situation through the eyes of the interviewer and ask themselves which candidate would convince them more: Those who are driven by their ambitious career goals or those for whom their work is important for their self-image?

So self-motivation goes down well. But how do you get them across convincingly?? If you want the job primarily for the money or security, probably not at all. No matter how much you emphasize that you love your work or find it meaningful: If this is a lie, a good recruiter will see through it very quickly.

What motivates me? Be aware of your inner drive

When asked about your motivation at work, you can start with real passion score points and stand out from the competition. If you’re really passionate about something, you’ll automatically engage the person you’re talking to.

Often, however, it’s not that easy to just pull out what drives you. Ask yourself the question "What motivates me??" before the interview and be honest with yourself about it. A good way to approach the answer are small auxiliary questions:

  • What is really important to me in life?
  • What am I particularly committed to??
  • Where do I invest the most heart and soul?
  • What is particularly easy for me? And why?
  • What I would not want to do without?
  • Which activities do I find meaningful??
  • Why do I cultivate my hobbies?
  • When do I feel thwarted?

Consider your answers. It is both about what you like to do, but that is also why, What you are good at. It may even be possible to discover real strengths and talents in your personal turbo chargers that you were not really aware of before.

Don’t be afraid to ask about motivation in an interview: good answers

The good news: In the end, when it comes to the question of motivation in the job interview, there is no such thing as "motivation" No wrong answers – as long as you remain honest and do not construct an answer that you think recruiters would like to hear. It is good if you start your answers with concrete examples from your everyday work link. It could possibly look like this:

"It fills me with pride when I’ve done a challenge well. This motivates me to tackle new tasks. Because I had a quick and good grip on the day-to-day business at my current company, I was soon able to take on special tasks."

"Programming has always fascinated me. I am simply fascinated by what can be created from code. Going from the first lines of code to an innovative product is impressive in itself. And I believe that your company, as an innovation driver, is a good place to live out my passion."

"My curiosity drives me. I find it exciting to be thrown into new situations all the time, to get to know different corporate cultures and to be confronted with different challenges every day. This is why I chose a career in freelancing."

If you are honest about your passions and relate them to the job, you are automatically convincing. Show your interlocutor, what your heart is set on. The proverbial sparkle in your eyes will be more convincing than any memorized standard answer from a job application guidebook. The sentence "I have the ambition to always be the best at my job" has probably been heard in countless variations from your competitors.

For all their passion for the job – a fair salary should still be there, of course. To find out what you can earn, read our Salary Survey.

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