A question that is asked of many job applicants is around what their motivations are, and it’s something that can throw people off if they’ve not really thought about it before.
If you’re being asked this question by a recruiter or interviewer, this is because they are essentially trying to assess whether factors of the job are going to satisfy you or not. For example, if you are driven by working in a collaborative environment but the role at hand involves a lot of solitary work, or opportunities to work in a team are minimal, then there’s a chance that you wouldn’t be that good a fit for the job.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that when it comes to considering your motivations, it isn’t about working out how to game the system; to trick interviewers into believing that you’re the ideal candidate. It is about being honest with yourself and working out what drives you and makes you tick in your job.
If you’re not sure where to start, let’s begin by breaking down the two main types of motivation; intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
Without getting too sciencey about it, the basic difference between intrinsic and extrinsic is that the former is based on internal forces, and the latter on external ones.
For example, intrinsic motivators could be the desire to make an impact, or, as another example, you could thrive on building up those around you. Maybe you really love to produce quality work that you can be proud of, or you really like to learn new things. These types of things are internal drivers.
Extrinsic motivators are, when it comes to the workplace, generally centred around money, benefits and other economical drivers. They can include additional perks and rewards such as a well-stocked beer fridge, holidays, and so on – although we all know that these things do pretty much boil down to money at the end of the day. It’s worth noting that while these types of motivators may sound ‘selfish’, it’s important to realise that these motivators exist for very good reasons. After all, if we weren’t being paid for the work we do, it’s not that likely we’d do it.
Being motivated by money can very much be a good thing in the right environment. If, for example, someone is interviewing for a commercially-driven role that relies on monetary incentives like commission, is it really that bad to ‘admit’ to being motivated by money? If you’re driven by commercial rewards, it’s surely a good asset to have in a commercial environment. That being said, a host of other environmental and behavioural motivators should also be at play, but you get the picture. Ultimately, managers should understand which extrinsic motivators their team reacts well to and use this knowledge to get the best performance out of them. On the other side of this, if you’re in the position of looking to join that team, you should consider how your motivations align – if they do at all.
Identifying Your Motivations
Understanding what motivates you extrinsically is probably a fairly easy task as these motivations will largely point towards rewards – i.e. what do you expect your employer to incentivise you with to get you to do your job?
Intrinsic motivations are to some degree more difficult to work out, but a good place to start is to ask yourself: WHY do you do what you do?
It doesn’t have to be particularly spiritual or altruistic as such, but by working out what pushes you to do your best will make you look at the work you do in a different light, and hopefully will open the door to being more fulfilled in your job.
Intrinsic motivations can be influenced by extrinsic motivations too. This is where external satisfaction (rewards for a job well done, for example) also gives you internal satisfaction (the warm fuzzy feeling of doing a job well).
If the balance of extrinsic and extrinsic motivations is right, they’ll work together. The important thing to remember when it comes to assessing your motivations is not to focus on simply what your company can do for you, but what you want to achieve, in reality, for yourself. You can only influence extrinsic motivations so much, so try to focus on the intrinsic ones.
Once you’ve identified your internal drivers, it opens up the possibility to have a conversation with your employer or potential employer on how you can help feed them, to each other’s mutual benefits.