How to answer "What motivates you to succeed?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

One of the most common questions asked in job interviews is “What motivates you to succeed?” It’s a seemingly simple question, but employers ask it for a number of important reasons. Firstly, a candidate’s motivation is one of the best indicators of their performance, engagement, and overall fit within an organization. Secondly, knowing what drives a candidate can help managers better understand how to manage, motivate, and incentivize them in their role. Finally, it’s always useful for hiring managers to gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s personality, ambition, and long-term goals.

How to Answer the Question

When it comes to answering the question “What motivates you to succeed?”, there are a few key points that job seekers should keep in mind:

  • Be honest: The most important thing to remember when answering this question is to be honest. This will help both you and the employer decide if the role is a good fit.
  • Give specific example: Avoid generic answers like money or success. Instead, give specific examples of what has motivated you in the past, and how this has led to success.
  • Relate to the role: Make sure to relate your answer to the specific role and company you are interviewing for. This shows the employer that you have thought about the position and how you can contribute to the organization.
  • Stay positive: While it’s okay to talk about challenges or obstacles, make sure to focus on the positive aspects of your motivation. Emphasize how your motivation has driven you to succeed.
  • Show ambition: Employers want to hire candidates who are motivated and ambitious. Make sure to emphasize your drive to succeed and your long-term goals.

Sample answers

  • Bad answer:

    Money is what motivates me to succeed. I want to make as much money as possible and live a luxurious lifestyle.

    Why it's bad: While it's understandable that we all need money to survive and pursue a comfortable life, it's not a good idea to mention it as your main motivator in a job interview. It can come across as shallow and self-centered to the interviewer. Also, this answer doesn't reflect anything about your work ethic or passion for the job, which are important qualities employers seek in their candidates.

  • Good answer:

    I am motivated by challenges. I like to take on difficult tasks that push me out of my comfort zone and require me to learn new skills. When I see that I can overcome a challenge and produce great results, it ignites a sense of accomplishment and pride in me.

    Why it's good: This answer demonstrates that you are enthusiastic about growth and willing to take on new challenges. It also shows that you are not afraid of failure and are willing to learn from mistakes. That is a great quality that most employers appreciate in their employees.

  • Good answer:

    My motivation comes from making a positive impact on the world. I believe that the work I do can make a difference and contribute to a greater cause, such as improving people's lives or the environment. Knowing that my hard work will lead to something meaningful is what keeps me going.

    Why it's good: This answer shows that you are passionate about the job and that you care about its impact on society. It demonstrates that you have a strong work ethic and a sense of purpose that goes beyond personal gain. These are qualities that can make you stand out as a candidate.

  • Bad answer:

    I am motivated by competition. I like to be the best at what I do and always outperform my colleagues. Winning is everything to me.

    Why it's bad: While competition can be a good motivator for some people, it's not a good idea to mention it as your primary motive in a job interview. It can come across as arrogant and aggressive to the interviewer. It also implies that you might not be a team player and may prioritize your own success over the company's. That can be a red flag for any employer.

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