Best Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates – Motivation

This is part 11 of a 12-part series.

Creating a successful and productive team starts with finding great employees who fit your organizational culture. And while you may receive hundreds of job applications and interested parties, narrowing down the talent pool to hire the right candidate for the job goes beyond what hiring managers can surmise by reading cover letters and applicants’ resumes, especially when studies show 85% of applicants lie on their resumes. This is where the art of the interview comes into play.

According to a study, although a typical interview averages 40 minutes, 33% of hiring managers decide whether they want to hire a job candidate within the first 90 seconds of an interview. To ensure you’re completely thorough and make the right decision, it’s important to ask the right questions to fully understand and evaluate a candidate. During this 12-part series, we will explore the best interview questions to ask job candidates and give a few “pro tips” along the way.

Part 11 – Uncovering an Interviewee’s Motivation

Question: What is your biggest motivation at work?

Follow ups: What drives you to perform your best? What specific outcomes do you strive for to reach your professional goals?

In an earlier installment of the “Best Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates” series, we introduced the important issue of uncovering a candidate’s reason for applying for the job and their desire to work for a specific company. This question is designed to uncover a candidate’s due diligence in their discovery phase of the company, as well as if they would be an engaged employee.

For this specific question, we dig deeper into not only what a candidate strives for to be fulfilled at work to determine their motivation.

By asking questions that allow the candidate to explain what motivates them to show up daily, put in the hard work, and go the extra mile, the interviewer is able to uncover what type of worker they are and if they will be able to fit in with the company’s motivation structure. A study found that an employee will work 20% better when motivated in their job; so being motivated is one of the most important characteristics an employee can have.

Whether it is self-fulfillment that drives them, a passion for the work, a desire for a promotion, or even to get a paycheck, every employee is driven by an underlining purpose. And while some may seem more altruistic than others, it’s important to note that each reason is valid. The purpose of this question isn’t to give preferential treatment toward one motivation or the other, but to establish a foundation of a strong work ethic driven by a purpose.

Ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into what motivates the candidate. If one or two stand out, ask why those are important to them.


While asking the interviewee to define what their most important motivations are, dig deeper to have them expound on their ideal environment that helps strengthen their motivation at work. Whether it’s opportunities to be part of a larger vision or a bonus structure that rewards going above and beyond, this is a great chance in an interview to determine if the candidate will be fulfilled at your organization and thrive with the current process.

What is your favorite question to ask a job candidate? How do you decide who the right candidate is? Let us know in the comments section below!

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