This is the key trait that can determine whether or not you get a job

Employers can teach many skills to new employees, but not motivation. Learn how to show it through your actions.

This is the key trait that can determine whether or not you get a job

Show employers that you’re a self-starter.

Think you have what it takes to land that job you want? The right skills and experience are definitely keys to getting your foot in the door, but to really stand out in today’s competitive market and get a job you love, you have to show employers you’re a self-starter. Put simply, you have motivate yourself and let employers know you are ready to get to work.

What is motivation, exactly? To get technical, it’s the reason you do the things you do, or the willingness with which you do something. Naturally, employers want to hire people who display self-motivation and an innate desire for the job.

“All things being equal, if one job candidate shows more passion, interest, and commitment to the role, it’s going to sway a hiring manager’s decision,” says Philadelphia-based executive coach Julie Cohen.

Notice Cohen said  “if one job candidate shows”—you can’t just tell an employer you’re motivated; you must show them. These actions will send the right message.

Take an active role in an industry group

Recruiting others to help you motivate yourself is a great idea. That's where a joining a professional association can come in handy. Attending meetings lets you network with industry peers, but what’s more compelling is taking a leadership role within it. “This demonstrates your commitment to the field and also to your own professional development,” says career coach Phyllis Mufson.

Do your homework before job interviews

You already know interview preparation is important—meaning you should be ready to answer common job interview questions. But to really show off your self-motivation, research your prospective employer and relay what you’ve learned, says Denver-based career coach Jennifer DeWall.

Not only is being informed one of the best ways to motivate yourself, it also makes you look good. Prove to your interviewer that you did your homework. “Talk about how you’ve researched the company’s main competitors,” DeWall says, “and provide ideas on how the company you’re interviewing with stands apart from the others.” 

Do informational interviews

Whether you’re looking for your first job or your fifth, going on informational interviews can help you motivate yourself and meet other professionals in your field—people who can offer valuable insight into their job, their company, and the industry as a whole. They can also enable you to vet prospective employers.

“You can read online reviews of employers but getting insight directly from current employees face to face gives you a unique perspective,” says DeWall. “Establishing authentic relationships with employees through informational interviews can also be a great foot in the door for a job interview.”

Build a presence on social media

It’s no secret that employers look at job candidates’ social media accounts. But just being on social media isn’t enough—i.e. liking or retweeting something—you also need to offer sharp, original insights. “Hiring managers and recruiters are going to see what you’re tweeting or posting about,” Cohen says, “and how you’re engaging with other people.”

To utilize social media tools in your job search, you should be sharing your insights on industry news and interacting with thought leaders and recruiters—while avoiding topics that are potentially divisive, such as those that are political. And, choose a professional headshot for your profile picture (not one of those embarrassing photos of you taking shots on Cinco de Mayo).


Donating some of your personal time to a nonprofit doesn’t just feel good—it’s also good for your career. “Volunteering shows you have a balanced life,” says Lisa Adams, a career coach in Saratoga Springs, New York. Employers like to see that you’re willing to try new experiences, and that you’re capable of committing to something that’s meaningful to you.

Having volunteer experience on your resume can also strengthen your job application. The key, though, is volunteering for an organization that aligns with your values. “The work has to be meaningful to you,” says Cohen. “You shouldn’t only be volunteering because you think it’s going to make you look more attractive to employers.”

Leverage your resume and cover letter

When you’re applying to jobs, your resume and cover letter are often what get you in the door for interviews. So, how do you use them to show you’re highly motivated? With a resume, it’s about using action verbs when describing your accomplishments, says Mufson. Weave in words like “negotiated,” “persuaded,” or “appointed,” instead of overused, generic verbs like “led,” “managed,” or “built.”

On your cover letter, focus not only on your passion for the field but also the specific job that you’re applying for. Adams suggests including, “This is why your organization resonates with me,” followed by a brief summary of how the company’s core values speak to you.

Put some polish on your credentials

Not sure your resume adequately demonstrates that you’re self-motivated? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll receive detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to refine your job application and stand out from the crowd.