Evaluating a Candidate’s Motivation for Exceptional Performance

Donna Bliss

evaluating a candidate in an interview

In the competitive landscape of talent acquisition, finding individuals who not only possess the necessary skills fit for the job but also exhibit a drive for exceptional performance is crucial. While managers often focus on skill alignment when determining a candidate’s suitability for the role, it’s important to remember that motivation plays a pivotal role in determining an employee’s commitment, enthusiasm, and ability to deliver outstanding results. In fact, depending on the level of experience required, someone’s motivation to provide exceptional performance can supersede the need to tick all requirements showing their competency. So, how can employers effectively evaluate a candidate’s motivation for exceptional performance during the hiring process? Let’s explore the role of motivation and take a look at some strategies you can apply.

The role of motivation in performance

Before you can gauge a candidate’s motivation to determine their level of performance it’s important to understand why it matters. Motivation can serve as a great indicator of performance and role suitability when looking at a candidate for a number of reasons. For one, an individual’s level of motivation propels them to initiate action, invest additional effort, and persist in the face of challenges. Moreover, motivated candidates not only demonstrate heightened cognitive processing, leading to better problem-solving skills, but they also exhibit a commitment to clear, challenging goals that contribute to their overall job satisfaction.

As a result, motivation extends beyond behaviour and emotional well-being, influencing the quality of performance and fostering a continuous improvement mindset. Recognising and evaluating a candidate’s motivation is integral to predicting their potential success, as it directly correlates with their initiative, commitment to excellence, and ability to contribute meaningfully to the organisation. By understanding and appreciating a candidate’s motivational factors, recruiters can make informed decisions that align with the organisation’s culture and goals, contributing to the overall success and productivity of the team.

How to evaluate a candidate’s motivation in an interview

So how do you go about evaluating their motivation? Evaluating a candidate’s motivation in an interview involves exploring various aspects of their professional background, personal goals, and alignment with the organisation’s values. Here are several strategies to effectively gauge a candidate’s motivation.

Ask About Long-Term Goals

Inquire about the candidate’s long-term career goals and aspirations. Evaluate whether these goals align with the position and the growth opportunities within the organisation. A motivated candidate will often have thoughtfully planned career objectives and can articulate how the current role fits into their broader professional journey.

Explore Past Achievements

Request examples of the candidate’s past achievements and successes. A motivated individual is likely to discuss instances where they went beyond expectations, overcame challenges, or took on additional responsibilities voluntarily. Look for evidence of self-driven initiatives and a proactive attitude in their responses.

Inquire About Challenges Overcome

On the other end, it’s important to ask the candidate about significant challenges they have faced in their career and how they overcame them. Motivated individuals tend to approach challenges with determination and resilience. Their ability to navigate difficulties and stay committed to achieving goals can provide insights into their level of motivation.

Discuss Learning and Development

Inquire about the candidate’s approach to learning and professional development. Motivated candidates are often invested in continuous improvement. Ask about any training programs, certifications, or skills they have actively pursued to enhance their expertise. This reflects a commitment to personal and professional growth.

Probe for Passion and Enthusiasm

Gauge the candidate’s passion for the industry, the role, and the organisation. Motivated individuals are likely to express genuine enthusiasm for their work. Look for signs of excitement when discussing past projects, responsibilities, or the prospect of contributing to the company’s success.

Ask Behavioral Questions

Use behavioral interview questions to uncover specific examples of the candidate’s motivation in action. For instance, ask about a time when they set a challenging goal for themselves or took the lead on a project. Behavioral questions can provide concrete evidence of a candidate’s past behaviors and motivations.

Evaluate Commitment to the Role

Evaluate the candidate’s commitment to the specific role for which they are interviewing. Inquire about their understanding of the position, the responsibilities involved, and what excites them about the opportunity. A motivated candidate will demonstrate a clear interest and understanding of how they can contribute.

Observe Non-Verbal Cues

Pay attention to non-verbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, and overall enthusiasm. While not conclusive on their own, these cues can provide additional insights into a candidate’s level of motivation and engagement.

By combining these strategies, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s motivation and make informed decisions about the candidate’s fit for the organisation and the specific role. Asking relevant questions and steering the conversation to prompt honest and valuable responses is a skill that successful interviewers cultivate over time. Seeking help from a recruitment professional can ease this process, providing formulated questions that evaluate a candidate’s qualifications while creating an environment where the interviewee feels comfortable sharing insights about their experiences, achievements, and potential challenges. If you would like assistance with this process, reach out to OnTalent to find out how we can help provide a thorough evaluation of candidates as part of our executive search and recruitment services.

Donna Bliss leads Ontalent’s Professional and Specialist Recruitment division. Our Professional and Specialist team are experts in both permanent and contract recruitment with a strong track record across mid-management in Corporate Services including Human Resources, Finance and specialist and technical areas.  You can contact Donna and the team on 07 3305 5800.

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