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Answering the Interview Question “Who Has Inspired You?”

Everybody has had a mentor, hero, or supervisor who has been inspiring.  Interviewers sometimes ask applicants “Who inspired you?” or “Who has been the biggest influence on your career?” or “Who is a role model for you in your professional life?”  While it may not necessarily be a tough question to answer, it can throw you if you’re not prepared.

If the question comes up, be ready to tie your response to the job for which you’re interviewing.  Keep a couple of people in mind so you have options based on how the interview is going.  Be sure to select professional influences, not your parents, partner or pastor. You want to use this easy question as an opportunity to continue to bring out your match to the job.

  • Choosing a hero might be well suited when you wish to discuss how someone inspired you to overcome adversity or a difficult problem in a previous job.  Stress a quality you saw in your hero that directly relates to a quality needed for the desired position. Share a success story in which you used that quality to create value or solve a problem for an employer.
  • Using a mentor as an example might be good if you are applying for a job in your current industry.  Perhaps your mentor helped you get your foot in the door and discover your passion for what you do.  Tie that passion to current opportunity and demonstrate how it will make you more effective.
  • If a manager inspired you, focus on his or her management style and interpersonal skills.  If his or her leadership inspired you a certain way, tell a short story and show how it relates to the job.

Remember to keep the stories short, and have fun with it.  This can be a great opportunity to showcase some personal qualities and how they will help you excel at the position you are applying for.

More interview questions:

“How do You Deal with Conflict?”

“Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years”

“What Do You Know About Us?”

“What’s Your Biggest Weakness?”

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