20 interview questions on motivation
October 2, 2023
min read

20 interview questions on motivation

Amanda Winstead
Amanda Winstead

One of the best ways to evaluate prospective hires is in the job interview. A well-orchestrated interview can convince talented, motivated employees to sign on the dotted line and will also help you spot any potential red flags a candidate might have. In this article, we will share ways you can discover how motivated an individual is and what actually motivates them in the workplace.

According to Gallup, replacing an employee can cost a business 1.5x to 2x their annual salary.  Finding out what makes someone tick can help you find a new employee who is reliable and will stick around for the long haul. This can save you plenty of money on future re-hires and will bolster your corporate culture. 

How to evaluate motivation 

Recruiters should put substantial effort into asking questions that encourage developers to speak up and discuss their areas of interest. It’s your job to push interviewees with unique, motivation-based, questions. This will help reveal the “real” employee behind the rote answers and can help you make some difficult hiring decisions. 

  1. You can assess motivation among applicants by allowing them to shine. This will help shy applicants come out of their shells and may help you spot an unmotivated applicant before it’s too late. 
  1. Expect to field tough questions from talented interviewees, as they’ll be trying to figure out if you’re a good fit for them. They may ask what your company does to motivate employees. Prepare a shortlist of morale-boosting activities that you use in your office and be ready to talk about motivational tactics like bonuses, benefits, and compensation during the interview. 
  1. If a candidate has too much motivation — yes, that is a thing — they may want to move upward or outside your company quickly. This may not be the right fit if you want an employee to grow in one position for an extended period. On the other hand, you don’t want an employee that will fail to meet your base expectations. To find this balance, you’ll have to do some digging during the actual interview. 

Questions to assess motivation

When asking questions, focus on the context of software development and get folks to describe their past experiences. These questions will yield interesting answers and help you determine whether or not your business is a good fit. 

  1. Tell us about a peer or mentor that you look up to. What did you like about them? How have they impacted your career? 

This question gives you an insight into how an applicant wants to grow and be perceived. If their description is limited they might not be motivated to build relationships that support them in the workplace. If they describe someone who matches up with existing personnel at your company, this might suggest a culture fit.  

  1. How do you assess the culture of a company
  2. How does this position differ from your last role? Are there any differences that excite you? Are there changes that make you feel apprehensive? 
  3. If you could spend 3 months levelling up your skills, what would you focus on? 

The fourth question is good because it will help you determine whether an applicant has thought about improving themselves. A high-quality applicant will know where they come up a little short and should be able to pinpoint some areas for improvement. 

  1. When you’re working on a challenging project, how do you like to divide your time? Do you take it all on in one go, or split it up into smaller segments? 
  2. If you could change one thing about your current workflow, what would it be? If not, what do you like about your current workflow? 

Question six, which focuses on workflow, will tell you whether you’re hiring a person who takes initiative (or not!). Folks who are engaged with their work will have a firm idea of their workflow strengths and/or how they can be improved.

  1. In an ideal world, what would your career progression look like? 

Highly motivated, self-aware employees usually have a clear idea of their potential career progression. This line of questioning can help you assess motivation, too, as high-quality applicants will be able to talk clearly about their goals and will be keen to learn more about engagement initiatives to spark personal growth

  1. What do you think your workday will look like in five years? 
  2. Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? How do you think employers can support your preference? 
  3.  If you could automate part of your workflow, what would it be? What would you intentionally decide not to automate? 
  4. When a coworker makes a mistake, how would you like management to respond?

The goal with question #11 is to assess cultural fit. You’re directly asking about management but, in reality, you’re also asking about how they would respond to a mistake. Look for folks whose response aligns with your leadership style.

  1. How often do you experiment with new ways of working? Can you give a concrete example? 
  2. If you have a challenging day at work, how do you like to de-stress? 
  3. If you were leading a project, how would you reward staff who outperform expectations? 
  4. We are paying €X0,000 for this position. However, we like to explore other forms of rewards and compensation. What forms of reward do you find the most motivating? 

Salary is the most important form of compensation — it’s why we work. However, some folks will want other perks. Checking in with prospective hires at this point will help you determine if your company is ready to onboard a new hire or not. You might even pick up some interesting ideas to pass on to your management team. 

  1. Which software engineers do you aspire to be like? What about them do you find aspirational? 
  2. Have you ever been on a project that failed to meet the deadline? If so, how did you respond to the challenge? 

Everyone should experience failure at some point in their career. It shows they’re taking risks and pushing the boundaries. However, you want people who can make the most out of a bad situation and know how to learn from setbacks. 

  1. If you could streamline your day for maximum efficiency, how many hours do you think you’d actually spend at work?
  2. Describe your greatest success as a developer so far. What elements of your achievement are you most proud of? 

Asking the previous question towards the end of the interview gives folks a chance to talk about their achievements in detail. This can be particularly useful when interviewing shy applicants who may be too humble to openly share their accolades. 

  1. What motivates you in a workplace?

It’s important to remember that you aren’t interviewing software developers to find out if they’d make good public speakers. Do not mark folks down if they stumble through sentences or use filler words like “um” and “er’. This will have little bearing on their success and may mean that you accidentally reject highly talented employees.   

Finding motivated employees

After asking motivation-based questions, you may realise that none of your applicants are a good fit for the company. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to be honest about your talent pool — running another round of recruitment is expensive, but it’s far cheaper than hiring (or firing) the wrong employee. 

You can avoid running dead-end interviews by streamlining your search for highly motivated employees. Start by posting your job on relevant job boards If you’re looking for developers or tech professionals specifically, check out WeAreDevelopers. On this platform, you’ll have access to an exclusive pool of tech professionals that are ready to start working in Europe or remote.

If you do find a great employee, consider setting up a referral program. This can help you leverage your internal network and may lead to future hires. Software developers will be motivated to bring talented, capable coworkers on board, too, as devs rely heavily on the expertise of their peers. 


#Wanted and #Misunderstood: A Developer Survey 2023 (Full Report)

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#Wanted and #Misunderstood: A Developer Survey 2023 (Full Report)

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