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What Strategies Would You Use to Motivate Your Team?

If you’re interviewing for a position where you’ll be supervising others, expect to field lots of questions about your ability to lead your subordinates. One such question is, “What strategies would you use to motivate your team?”

Here’s how to deliver the response a hiring manager is looking for while communicating your unique strengths as a leader.

Why do interviewers ask how you would motivate your team?

Being able to inspire your reports is directly correlated to your success as a manager. You’re responsible for the performance of your staff, especially in the eyes of company higher-ups. Thus, it’s important for an interviewer to understand how well you can communicate a common goal and get your team to take action toward achieving it.

When a company decides to hire you as a manager, its leaders are placing a level of trust in you that you’ll be able to carry out the company’s objectives. The organization’s own financial and reputational interests rest partially on your shoulders. So, it’s very relevant to a hiring manager if you’re able get your team to complete tasks according to your direction while retaining your top performers. 

What interviewers are looking for

An interviewer wants to hear concrete examples from your past about how you’ve motivated others. The more specific the example you can give, the better, as it’s the closest they’ll get to actually seeing you lead a team before hiring you. 

They also want to know that you’re capable of learning and adapting. So, it’s a good idea to mention how you keep your leadership skills sharp and discover new techniques, whether that means reading biographies of historic leaders, attending leadership training, or A/B testing different strategies. 

How to answer

Give a specific example

To help your answer come to life, choose a story that’s actually from real life. Give details about how you achieved success in a previous scenario where you had to motivate others, citing demonstrable examples of the outcome, like achieving a stretch goal or getting through an exceptionally challenging project. 

Then, explain what strategies you used to reach that outcome. Here are some examples:

  • Involving the team in the decision-making process
  • Setting incentives for reaching key goals
  • Helping them see the bigger vision
  • Trusting them to take ownership of their work
  • Praising them for their accomplishments
  • Giving constructive feedback

Connect it to the job

This question isn’t only about your past experience; the interviewer also wants to know how you’ll apply your motivational skills to this job. So, weave in details that are relevant to the company and the role for which you’re applying. See an example of this in our sample answer below. 

Answer with an inspired demeanor

A hiring manager will be listening to what you say, but they’ll also be paying attention to how you say it. Be enthusiastic in your answer to help them get a glimpse of your passion for leading others. 

How not to answer

Give a hypothetical answer 

Even if you lack management experience, you can still give specifics about a time you successfully motivated others, like getting teammates to agree on your idea for how to approach a project. You can also work in concrete details in a different way by citing actual ideas you have for how you’ll apply your skills in this role. 

Interview answer sample #1

“I think employees really thrive when they have an open line of communication with their manager. That’s why I hold regular 15-minute check-ins with each of my reports. It’s a chance to recognize them for their accomplishments and give them useful feedback that will help them while working toward the company’s current objectives. For example, I know Rutherford & Co. is currently making a big push to acquire new customers. I would use these check-ins to coach my team on their sales techniques and address any challenges they’re dealing with when talking to prospects.”

By using your answer to give the interviewer a mental image of you in the manager’s seat, you’ll help them feel confident you have the leadership skills necessary to do the job.