“What motivates you?” can be a tough interview question which can really catch you off guard unless you’ve thought about it before the interview. Contemplating when you have been most satisfied in your career will not only help you answer this question, but it will also help you focus on what you want in your next job.

Consider making a list of all the times you’ve loved your job, assuming there have been some. What was it that you loved? Have a look at your CV and think about the achievements you are most proud of. Which tasks did you enjoy most? Where and when was your motivation strongest?

A bullet on your CV might read:

  • Led a team that completed project X; controlled workflow and project communication, ensuring achievement of all deliverables against tight deadlines.

What was it that was motivating about this experience? The leadership aspect? Completing the project? Controlling the flow of work? Having a solid understanding of what makes you tick will help you stay energized and keep your career on track.

Now, how should you structure your question on interview? Think about the environment (emphasising your love of a good challenge is ideal), then move to the role that you are interviewing for. Focusing precisely on how well you are suited to that role is the best possible response here, and hopefully the key aspects of that role will dovetail neatly with your biggest strengths, which should be a motivation in itself.

Flattering the company also works well (remember your interviewer also made the choice to work with that company), and it shows you have done research. It doesn’t hurt to mention the industry, or your own personal development, but your primary focus should be on how well you can do the job in front of you – if in doubt, consult the job spec, and show how well you know it as much as possible. Finally, wrap with something warm and enthusiastic, using emotional language to indicate your passion. Expressing passion and excitement is a good thing.

What tools can help answer difficult interview questions like “What motivates you?”

There is no such thing as the perfect answer to this question, it’s a subjective process. The Career Refinery has a tool that can assist you in answering difficult interview questions. Check out City CV’s video below:

City CV can help with writing CVs, interview coaching, online applications, cover letters and the creation of LinkedIn Profiles. We work intensively with graduates seeking a role within banking or the Big Four and have collated over 400 real interview questions from banking and finance internship and graduate interviews. If you would like a copy to help you with your interview preparation, please email enquiries@citycv.com. For anything else, please call us on +44 20 7100 6656.