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Top 10 Motivation Questions Employers Should Ask Before Hiring a Candidate

Using these interview questions, you will rapidly uncover whether a candidate has the underlying motivation necessary to go the extra mile and get the job done.

Motivation questions are a powerful tool to discover whether someone will work hard and seize the opportunities you are providing as an employer.  These questions will help you weed out candidates who lack ambition, and that can save you a lot of time and expense down the road. The last thing you need is a high maintenance employee to drain your time and energy. This is especially true if you run a small business, or you are hiring for a remote position, where direct supervision is not possible.

We can all agree that intrinsic motivation is a very desirable characteristic for your employees to possess, but it’s not always easy to identify star players in the interview process.  You must ask the right questions and understand the significance of the answers to figure out which job candidates are driven to perform at the highest level on a consistent basis.

Tapping into Discretionary Energy

Your goal as an employer is to hire someone who is not only a good fit for the position but will also have the self-motivation to be a star performer for your business.  We call this discretionary energy.

What is discretionary energy? According to executive coach and advisor Michael Holland, "It’s that willingness to go “above and beyond,” give the extra effort, have a personal commitment to excellence or provide creativity that enhances the team."  As an employer, you want to identify candidates with a high degree of discretionary energy.

Assessing a Candidate’s Level of Motivation and Discretionary Energy


When you ask motivation questions, you should assess several factors to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the position and your business.  So, you will also want to assess a job candidates’ overall demeanor and enthusiasm for addressing questions about motivation.

You should also consider motivation as it relates to the job requirements. For example, you might not want to hire an introverted candidate with lackluster communication skills to be a high energy customer service representative.  

Feel free to use these questions for your next round of interviews, or modify them to suit your own specific hiring needs:

  1. What goals have you set for your career and your life?
  2. What motivates you to deliver your very best – to go above and beyond the call of duty when the situation demands?
  3. Describe how a previous manager motivated you to perform at the highest level.
  4. What were the specific actions your manager took to motivate you?
  5. How would you motivate those who report to you?
  6. How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?
  7. How do you respond when a co-worker is not motivated to get the job done?
  8. Describe how you motivate co-workers?
  9. Tell me what makes you feel that you’ve had a successful week at work?
  10. How do you respond when things are not going well at work?

By asking the candidate what motivates others you are also probing what is important to the candidate themselves, and gain insight into how they view the world. Their answers will also tell you what kind of coworkers they will like and respect, which is essential if they are to fit in as a member of your team.

In the interview, you are also looking for nonverbal cues that can signal a candidate’s level of motivation. For example:

  • A candidate who seems bored, unfocused and expresses little interest or enthusiasm should score lower on your assessment.
  • A candidate who is alert, confident, enthusiastic and asking questions should score higher on your assessment.

The truth is you can’t force someone to be self-motivated. This this is something they must to do for themselves. You can only create an environment for this to take place, so you must find out if self-motivation is a fundamental characteristic of your candidate.

Where to find Motivated Job Seekers

MotherWorks is a great place to find self-self-motivated, reliable, and dependable employees. When you post your remote and flexible positions on MotherWorks, your jobs will be seen by thousands of qualified and experienced professionals.

If you are hiring, visit MotherWorks today to learn more about our listing fees and packages.