Assessing motivation: interview questions to find dedicated candidates
October 4, 2023
min read

Assessing motivation: interview questions to find dedicated candidates

Luis Minvielle
Luis Minvielle

In 2023, amid the AI scare, the Great Reshuffle, and socials rebranding, discovering the ideal candidate can prove akin to finding a needle in a digital haystack. With many resumes and cover letters to review, HR specialists face a challenge: technical skills are not enough to ensure a company’s — and a recruitment process’s — success. The actual driving force is motivation.

Motivation peeks up as the key to opening up untapped potential, propelling innovation, and fostering exceptional performance. In this blog post, we will show you how to make interview questions to assess motivation, a powerful insight to enhance and refine your recruitment.

Why assessing motivation is a good idea

Traditional interviews focus on qualifications, but for recruiters, especially in tech, it's just as important to grasp a candidate's motivations, especially because uncovering motivations will make candidates feel valued. 

There's an increasing trend of candidates 'ghosting' recruiters, a behaviour ironically introduced by HR departments themselves, who would never get back to candidates who had undergone everything the HR teams had requested from them. To counter this, an interview process that truly values candidates and showcases commitment can reduce the likelihood of ghosting, making sure that qualified candidates don’t drop out of the recruitment race suddenly and unfavourably.

So, showing commitment will help narrow down reciprocal candidates who are also committed. It’s an incredibly effective strategy.

But, besides creating rapport and a sense of responsibility, motivation is actually valuable.

The value of motivated developers

Yes: Motivated developers are game-changers for a team. Here's why:

  • Elevated Productivity: They're self-driven, always aiming high, and pushing for the next big thing.
  • Resilience: When faced with bugs or tight deadlines, these motivated programmers don’t crack. They adapt, solve, and keep the codebase stable.
  • Inspiration Source: Their determination? It’s contagious. They set the mood, making everyone want to level up.

Advantages of motivation assessments over traditional interviews

Traditional dev interviews focus on code and past projects. But that's just part of the story. It's their drive – their motivation – that sets a dev apart. Why? Because that's what fuels their learning, problem-solving, and growth. By asking open-ended questions, you can peek beyond their GitHub repos. You'll learn about their real goals, what they value, and what makes them tick. In short: Don't just code-review, motivation-check. Motivational interviews can help you in: 

  • Finding candidates who are passionate about their work and aligned with your vision and working culture.
  • Avoiding hiring candidates who have the skills but lack the motivation or enthusiasm to use them effectively.
  • Reducing turnover and increasing retention by hiring candidates who are committed to their goals and willing to overcome challenges.
  • Building rapport and trust with candidates by showing genuine interest and empathy in their responses, and thus securing their responses.

If you know what motivates your devs, you'll have a more cohesive team. In tech, as in any other aspect of our lives, motivation pushes better results (and keeps your employee turnover rate lower).

Evaluating motivation: The OARS method

One of the ways to evaluate motivation and find motivated developers is the OARS method. The OARS method comprises four essential elements: Open-ended questions, Affirmations, Reflective listening, and Summarising. Each element serves a distinct purpose and collaborates to propel your interview forward.

  1. Open-ended questions: Push past basic answers. Get devs to share real experiences for a deeper dive into their motivations. Don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions.
  2. Affirmations: Make devs feel recognised. This boosts transparency and comfort in the conversation.
  3. Reflective listening: Truly hear devs out. Show genuine interest in their goals. If they mention anything about their career that you find interesting, ask them about it. Show that you care.
  4. Summarising: Wrap up by touching on main points. Show how you took your notes down. It also demonstrates you understood what they told you, so it’s a sign that you know a bit about tech (too many recruiters do not).

So for a frontend developer role, you could chime in and say:

  • Affirmation: “Cool move with that tech choice – shows you're all about the user.”
  • Reflective listening: “So you grabbed that JS library for faster loads? Walk me through that.”
  • Summarising: “You're big on user experience, proactive with tech, and really pushed performance. How about it!”

The OARS method works because it helps establish more potent connections with candidates. By building a robust connection with someone, you can maximise your chances that said person will keep on going with your recruiting process. The method goes beyond standard questions, revealing under-the-surface details that could tell you about their professional ethic. The OARS technique ensures that even if a developer isn't hired, they leave with a positive view of your company, enhancing your employer's brand. It could also help you deter review bombing on company review sites.

Source: stxnext

Sample questions for a motivation interview

We’ve grouped these questions into critical topics to help you assess their self-motivation:

A) Ambition:

  1. What are your long-term career aspirations, and how do you envision achieving them?
  2. Can you share a specific instance when you went above and beyond to achieve a personal or professional goal?
  3. How do you challenge yourself to grow and improve in your role continually?

B) Goal orientation:

  1. How do you approach setting goals for yourself? Can you give an example of a time when you achieved a challenging goal?
  2. What steps do you take when faced with obstacles that hinder your progress towards a goal?
  3. How do you prioritise and manage multiple goals simultaneously to ensure consistent progress?

C) Resilience:

  1. Describe a situation where you encountered a setback or failure. How did you respond, and what did you learn from the experience?
  2. How do you stay motivated during challenging times at work or when facing difficult projects?

D) Adaptability:

  1. Tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a significant change in your work environment. How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
  2. How do you open yourself to new ideas and innovations in the ever-evolving tech industry?

E) Self-initiative:

  1. Can you share an example of a project or task where you took the initiative to go above and beyond what was expected of you?
  2. How do you stay proactive in identifying opportunities for improvement within your team or organisation?

Finding motivated developers

Finding the right fit goes beyond just skills: it's about the drive. But how do you distinguish mere interest and a flying resume from dedication? By focusing on assessing motivation, you're not just hiring for the role, but for what's coming next in your company. With the correct questions, you can hire a motivated developer from the get-go.

If you're eager to dive deeper into motivation-led interviewing, we're here to help. With WeAreDevelopers, you advertise your open positions to the best developers in Europe. No filler, no pointless detours, just a direct route to the talent and motivation you seek. Connect with our team and book a call to learn more.


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