Interview question: 'How do you motivate your team?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When interviewing for roles, recruiters often ask questions that draw out information about the candidate's personality, motivations and general behaviours in a workplace environment. These behavioural job interview questions cover many emotions and personality traits, so answering correctly usually means showing the right behaviour in a given scenario. One example of this is the 'How do you motivate your team?' interview question, which focuses on teamwork and leadership. In this article, we explain how to answer this question and provide samples for you to use as a guide.

Why interviewers ask the 'How do you motivate your team?' interview question

Interviewers ask the 'How do you motivate your team?' interview question because finding motivation in the workplace is important in many situations, from encouraging colleagues to reach difficult goals or helping them get the most out of their abilities. This is particularly useful in managerial and leadership roles as someone in this position can motivate others to work more effectively. Recruiters tend to ask behavioural questions about motivation to find the most suitable candidate. In essence, these questions are a way to gauge a candidate's abilities by assessing past experiences and performances.

The idea behind behavioural questions is that past experiences strongly indicate how someone performs in a job. They give interviewers a structure to use that allows them to glean insights into a candidate's previous performance and work experience. Questions about motivating others are usually found in interviews for managers, but they're also useful for roles centred around leadership. Interviewers may ask this question in different ways, including:

  • How do you motivate other people?

  • How do you encourage motivation to reach common goals with colleagues?

  • Discuss how you persuade colleagues to listen to your ideas.

  • Can you describe an experience that demonstrated your leadership abilities?

  • Could you talk about a time when you had to motivate a member of your team?

Related: 9 critical thinking interview questions plus sample answers

What the interviewer is looking for when asking questions about motivation

As with most behavioural questions, questions around motivation give recruiters insights into how you handle leadership and other interpersonal skills in a workplace environment. This is important when applying for roles that require employee supervision, team leading or management for projects, and it's a way to assess your suitability for that role. Although it's predominantly a question for manager or team leader positions, motivating others is a useful trait in many other roles.

Even if you're not applying for management roles, it's useful to have an answer to this type of question ready. Have an example prepared that demonstrates your skills in leadership and motivating others as it's a good way to showcase your talents to future employers. It can show them you're an asset to a team environment, which improves your chances of securing the job.

Related: How to prepare for a competency-based interview (with sample questions)

Tips for answering questions about motivating others

Behavioural questions about motivating others are common when applying for managerial roles, so it's good to have an answer ready. It's an opportunity to show prospective employers that you're skilled at motivating colleagues and subordinates, and it's important to have real-world examples ready to back up your claims. When you're coming up with an answer to this question, try to consider what strategies you use to effectively motivate others and think about past experiences where it's worked.

Another important aspect of answering these questions is considering the different perspectives of those involved. You're motivating other people, so how are they affected by your input? Demonstrate that you motivate others in a way that also aligns with skills that communicate goals. Use the job description to align your answers with what the role requires. This ensures that what you discuss meets the specific skills necessary for the specific job. Some examples to consider include:

  • praising the performance of others

  • acknowledging the skills of colleagues

  • gauging the skills a colleague brings to a team

  • recognising the importance of setting a good example to others through your actions

Related: Informational interview questions (with examples and tips)

Focus on your intended outcome when answering questions about team motivation

The ultimate goal of answering questions about motivation is to show employers that you're capable of influencing others in a positive way to reach company goals. This is what employers are looking for when asking these questions, so focus on the intended outcome to show this to recruiters. Demonstrate your skills and discuss how they help teams succeed when it comes to project goals or company objectives.

The best way to showcase these skills to recruiters is to discuss a real-world example that demonstrates these skills in action. Consider a time when you successfully motivated a coworker to reach a goal or make the right choice for a task. Try to include as many positive behaviours in terms of influence and motivation as possible. If possible, try to showcase your critical thinking and problem-solving skills here too.

Related: Questions to ask at an interview

Structuring your answers about motivating others

A great way to prepare yourself for these types of behavioural questions is to structure your answer effectively. Provide a clear, real-world example of your motivational skills in a workplace setting. Recruiters want to know about your professional behaviour and how you handle specific situations, so make sure that your answer covers these areas.

One of the best ways to structure a response to behavioural questions is through the STAR technique. This is a great way to cover all of the important aspects of the question concisely. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result, which are four areas that you can cover with your answer. Below is a summary of the STAR technique and how to create an answer using it:

  • Situation: The first part of your response outlines the situation or problem that you dealt with. Try to create a scenario that's relatable to the role and easy to understand for the interviewer so that you can demonstrate why motivating someone was necessary.

  • Task: The task section outlines your responsibilities or role that you played in the situation you discussed previously.

  • Action: The action section focuses on how you dealt with the situation you're talking about. You can discuss the actions that you took to motivate someone in your team here.

  • Result: The result section is the part where you discuss the result of your actions. Demonstrate the outcome you reached and ideally point towards a measurable outcome, such as a 10% increase in productivity or meeting deadlines a week earlier than expected.

Related: What are competency-based interview questions?

Example answers

To help you improve your chances of getting the job you're interviewing for, use the following sample answers to create your compelling responses to questions about motivating others in the workplace:

Example 1

'While working in a team during my last role, I worked with a colleague to complete tasks and reach company objectives. At the time, I was quite new to the team so I wasn't fully aware of its structure and hierarchy, but I did notice that my colleague was struggling to complete tasks. I felt that it was a good idea to have a one-on-one discussion with him about his struggles and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I also asked what his motivations were and how I could help him complete his tasks on time.
'I spoke with him about how important completing work on time was for the team as a whole, and that individual recognition was nice but not the overall goal. I told him that if he managed to complete his next set of tasks on time then I would nominate him for an employee recognition award to celebrate his success. He was quite receptive to this idea and the end result was his work meeting deadlines. I nominated him for the award and he won, which really boosted his morale moving forward.'

Example 2

'In my last role as a project manager, my work focused on motivating a small team to meet several tight deadlines. I made sure to assign tasks to the right people and offered incentives such as time off for those that met deadlines. Everyone in the team enjoyed this idea and pushed hard to get their incentives. I would schedule weekly meetings to update them on the progress of the project and let individuals know their status to help them push harder toward goals.
'Part of my role was to check in on my team to answer questions and help with problems they encountered. As the acting team leader, I felt responsible for the overall success of the project, so made sure to pitch in wherever I could to help. I would often discuss issues with individuals and motivate them towards smaller targets if they were struggling. If the week's work was a success, I would highlight key moments from individuals to senior management to let them know who was excelling. This further motivated the team to push even harder towards project success.'

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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