A Recruiter’s Notebook: The Importance of Motivation

“What draws you to this opportunity?” That’s one of the first questions I ask a prospective candidate. Here are two very different responses:

  • “My current company is likely to be acquired and there is some uncertainty around the future of my role.  I’m beginning to explore my options.”
  • “My initial research shows your client is gearing up for significant growth through geographic expansion. That’s the kind of challenge I embrace.”

Both are very acceptable responses, but the first candidate may be motivated more by a lack of job security than the specific role you are trying to fill. The second candidate demonstrates initiative and a positive motivation, and is excited about your opportunity based on what they know so far. 

Another question to understand motivation might be: “If you decide to stay at your current company, what does your path look like in the next 1-2 years?” Here, you can get a sense of how someone is currently valued, how ambitious they are, and what potential obstacles to growth exist in their current company. If the response is a sense of doom and gloom (“the culture is toxic, my boss is a jerk”) that may be a red flag. If the response is more related to opportunity (“my next move will be in 2+ years, I’m ready to take on more”) that could be a good sign.

Here’s a simple way to assess motivation: Is the candidate running away from something or running toward your opportunity? That’s a good place to start.

Barry Elkus,

Partner, Gilman Partners