This is another one of those “soul searching” questions where your answer will depend on your background and experiences. It can really catch you off guard unless you have thought about it before the interview. Doing some thinking about when you have been most satisfied in your career will not only help you answer this question, but help you focus on what you want in your next job.
Two candidates answer this question reflecting their values and what is important to them.
Ted answers, “In my previous job I worked directly with customers and their problems. What I liked was solving problems, tracking down solutions and helping people. Sometimes it took a lot of effort on my part, but it was very rewarding when the customer appreciated the service.”
Ted wants to deal with customers and their problems. His answer reflects his interest in helping people and the satisfaction he gets finding solutions.
Joanne says, “Two years ago I was involved in a project that I was really excited about. The team I was working with had to come up with innovative ways to market a product that was not being received well in the market place. It took lots of effort and long meetings, but we met our deadline and launched a terrific marketing campaign. It was really a motivating experience.”
Joanne likes thinking “out of the box,” and being part of a team. She loves a challenge and works well with pressure and deadlines.
Prepare Your Script
Writing out your answer will help you think about times when you felt energized by your work; times when you looked forward to going to work. For a source of ideas, refer to your resume. Which tasks did you list? Were they the tasks that you enjoyed the most; felt most motivated doing?
A statement on your resume might be: “Project leader – Led a team, coordinating and monitoring the projects progress to assure the flow and completion of work on schedule.”
What was it that was motivating about this experience? Being in charge? Being the source of information? Controlling the flow of work? Making sure the standards were in keeping with your work values?
By making a list of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs, you will begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze what you did before. Do you want more of this type of responsibility in your next job? The answers to these questions will give you the answer to the motivation question, as well as possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs that have similar responsibilities.
Another benefit from preparing your script is that focusing on times when you were energized as you worked may make you more enthusiastic about the job you are seeking.
The Perfect Answer
There is no such thing as the “perfect” answer to this question. Your answer will be highly individual and based on your own experience and analysis. It will reveal to the interviewer and to yourself what “turns you on” in your work. Even if you are not asked this question, your pre-interview thinking, analysis, and scripting, will help you be more focused and in control of want you want in your next job.
Copyright (c) 2007 Carole Martin, The Interview Coach