by J.T. O’Donnell, Contributor
When preparing for a job interview, it’s important to look for ways to stand out from your competition.
Unfortunately, many candidates fall short because they end up saying cliches such as “I’m so excited about your company’s mission” or “I’m ready to take on more responsibilities” or “I’m extremely passionate about the work” — without going any further. They wrongly think that these are all things hiring managers want to hear.
But in reality, it often just makes them sound corny, fake, boring or even desperate to the interviewer. The key to impressing hiring managers and avoiding sounding inauthentic is to emphasize your intrinsic motivation.
Know your intrinsic motivation before the interview
Intrinsic motivation takes over when we have a genuine interest in a task or topic and derive satisfaction from the work or learning itself without expecting any obvious external rewards — praise, money, prestige, recognition — in return.
The best way to highlight your intrinsic motivation is to talk about the meaning you derive from your career. What motivates you to get up each morning and go to work? I’m a career coach, for example, because I’ve seen so many people miserable in their jobs due to having little guidance or confidence. Helping someone realize that their dream job does exist — and that it is attainable for them — is truly enjoyable and satisfying to me.
So before your interview, think about what makes you want to take action. Perhaps it’s because of a life-changing event. How is that experience connected to your love for your work? What do you hope to achieve as part of the process of working at the company?
Example answer that incorporates intrinsic motivation
Andrew is applying for a teaching position at a charter school that focuses on low-income and minority students. During the interview, he is asked why he thinks he’d be a good fit for the role.
Here’s what he said:
“My mother was a teacher for 30 years. By all accounts, she had an accomplished career and was well-respected by her colleagues. But with so many students in each classroom, she constantly worried about the ones who were falling behind. She believed that if she had more time to work with them in smaller groups, she could have helped them excel in their studies.
“I used to think she was being too hard on herself. But five years into my teaching career, I’m starting to have the same concerns. I genuinely enjoy experimenting with different teaching styles that help personalize each student’s learning experience, especially those who need additional support but can’t afford it.
“That’s why this position at your school is a perfect fit; the smaller classrooms allow me to do that. Not only does this ensure that every student receives the amount of attention they need to succeed, but with the right teachers, I’ve seen it lead to stronger academic results, happier teachers and students, and ultimately a more educated society.”
What this answer tells the interviewer
In his response, Andrew connected the dots to what led him to apply for the position:
He followed in his mother’s footsteps as a teacher.
He believes in the value of smaller classrooms.
He is interested in experimenting with teaching styles that support each student’s needs.
He is motivated by the desire to reach underprivileged or underperforming students — something that his mother feels she didn’t get to do.
While Andrew compliments the employer for its educational values, he doesn’t go overboard. Instead, he keeps the focus on how his professional passion would fit into the school’s culture. His response paints a picture of what excites him about work, why he cares about it, as well as how those things can make a positive impact on the school.
There’s no guarantee that Andrew will get an offer, but you can bet that the hiring manager won’t be left with any doubts about his authenticity and motivation for wanting the job.