How to Assess an Applicant's Motivation From Interviews

You want to assess your candidate's answers to interview questions about motivation to determine if they are intrinsically motivated.
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Motivation ranks high as a desirable characteristic or attribute in the employees you hire. But, how do you spot true motivation during a job interview? In particular, what is an employer listening for as candidates answer their job interview questions about motivation?

The job interview questions you ask, and the interview question answers your candidate supplies, are crucial to your assessment of the candidate's knowledge, experience, and potential cultural fit within your organization.

Especially in an area such as motivation—the candidate's own motivation—and how they create an environment in which other employees will choose to be motivated is a critical assessment for an employer.

Here is what you are trying to learn when you listen to your candidate's interview question answers about motivation.

Answers to Interview Questions About Motivation

When you consider the answers your candidates supply to questions about motivation, you are assessing several factors. You want to understand what motivates your candidate. You want to understand the work environment that he or she finds motivating. You want to determine whether your work environment and the coworkers you provide are consistent with your candidate's needs for motivation.

You are attempting to identify what motivates the individual you are interviewing. A candidate's innate motivation needs to match the job for which he is selected. For example, you don't want to hire a candidate who most enjoys working alone for your customer service position.

Your software developers need to find intrinsic motivation in solving problems, making things work, and frequently working alone. Yet, if they work in a shared code environment, they need to also communicate and work as team members. Your PR professional has to find working with hundreds of people motivating for a good job fit.

The recruitment planning meeting is a significant opportunity to identify the characteristics and attributes of the prospective employee who will succeed in your available job. This allows you to gear your interview questions toward identifying the appropriate candidate.

You are also obtaining a sense about the work that motivates your candidate. You want to select employees who are willing to bring to daily work that hard-to-define quality called discretionary energy, the willingness of an employee to invest his or her utmost in work.

Identify What the Candidate Believes Motivates Coworkers

You are also discovering, with these motivation job interview questions, what your candidate believes motivates others. This outlook tells you about what is important to the candidate and how he or she views the world. It will also tell you what type of coworkers your candidate will appreciate and value. Are the candidate's values congruent with your workplace environment?

You are learning what must be present in the work environment for the candidate to experience motivation. If the candidate's preferred environment bears little resemblance to your workplace culture and environment, the candidate will not culturally fit your workplace. Cultural dissonance will impede the candidate's potential for success in your workplace.

Listen carefully to your candidate's answers about their motivations. How to motivate employees is one of the most frequent questions received on this website. The reality is that you can only create an environment in which employees will choose to be motivated by something at work. You cannot make a person choose motivation and motivated behavior—you can only trust that it is intrinsically important to your candidate.

Nonverbal Communication in Assessing Motivation

While the content of the candidate's answers is critical to assess his or her motivation, nonverbal communication is equally important, especially as you assess motivation. Look for enthusiasm in the candidate's voice and a sense of engagement in her body language. How much space does she take up at the table? Confident people use space to their advantage. Does she lean forward, look you confidently in the eye, and reminisce with humor and obvious involvement?

These are signals that a candidate sends out about motivation. Sleepy, slow answers, with no tonal emphasis, no enthusiasm, and little body language send a red flag about a potential employee's motivation. Sure, your candidate might be discouraged, ill, or having a bad day, but why risk hiring her when candidates who radiate enthusiasm and motivation exist? Your best results will come from using nonverbal communication in hiring.

So, the key to your job interview is to identify what motivates your candidate. Then, decide whether those qualities, characteristics, behaviors, values, and approaches exist in your workplace. If they do, you've found a dynamite employee from your job interview match dance.