Tough Interview Questions - What motivates you?

Following is a tough interview question:

What motivates you?

Similar interview questions:
What are your drivers for achievement? Is money important to you? What motivates you to do your best work?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
At its core, the interviewer is asking two things: 1) do you actually know what motivates you (many people don't know the answer); and 2) if you do know, can you articulate it in a way which would be helpful and relevant to your future employer? This question is often asked by the person who would be your manager, looking for insight into what makes you tick. One of the most difficult aspects of managing others is understanding what motivates each individual. It's a great question for your future manager to ask, since it shows recognition that different people are motivated differently. However, keep in mind that the position for which you are interviewing may be open due to the unmet needs of another person who is vacating the role, either to another team internally or exiting the company.

The best approach to answering this question:
Focus on recognition of results. While most people think about money as being the primary motivator, it is typically recognition that motivates behavior. Yes, the money part needs to be right and form the foundation of the overall comp package. Yet it is recognition which is typically in short supply and ends up causing employees to leave. So do yourself a favor by setting up future positive feedback and recognition by answering this question focusing on recognition, especially if you have past notable recognitions to discuss in your example.

An example of how to best answer this question:
"I would say that recognition of results is my primary motivator. Yes, money is nice, yet it's simply a reflection of the value of the results being delivered. What motivates me on a day-to-day basis is the recognition of that value and the results being achieved. An example of this is the recent reward that I received from my employer. There is a CEO award that is given out our quarterly employee meetings. Only 1% of the employees have ever received this award. I recently received this award after being nominated by my boss for the innovative tools I included in our recent product launch. My boss has been great at giving me feedback personally, so this award was an even greater motivator. It made me want to perform at an even higher level. Would you like to see a copy of the award certificate?"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Money works for me. I expect to be rewarded for my work. I received a big pay increase a couple years ago to move to my current job, but since then I've only been getting 2% increases every year. That's not a way to motivate me. It makes me want to give less and less each year, rather than more and more. If you want to motivate me, a nice bonus or big pay increase would probably be the best. Money is how I measure how I'm doing and the measuring stick for comparing with others. I found out that someone else in our department got a bigger pay increase and it really bugs me. That's why I'm looking."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!