“Who Inspires You?”
Sometimes this might feel like a vague or generic interview question, but often it’s a common request by a hiring manager.
Personally, I feel it is a bit cliche and slightly outdated. But inevitably in some job interviews, you may hear this one pop up.
And the last thing you want is to be caught off guard or stammering your words.
So, are you prepared to answer this one?
Below you’ll find a few answer examples to “Who inspires you” as well as what to avoid in your response. Let’s jump right in!
Why Interviewers Ask This Question
As I mentioned, I do find this to be a bit cliche of a question to ask an applicant.
But often the reason this one is asked is to get to know you more on a personal level and insight to what values you might have. Your response to “Who inspires you” can surprisingly tell a hiring manager plenty about you.
Now sometimes the question is also not that deep. Some hiring managers or recruiters like to mix it up and toss over a question that seemingly is a simple answer.
Regardless of what you think the motive is, you’ll want to have a good answer to the interview question.
Some general reason interviewers ask “Who inspires you” includes:
- To see who you are as a person.
- To understand the kind of values that matter to you.
- To see if you have a genuine response or defaulting to something generic.
- It can even be a tell on how you may communicate and would connect with others in the organization.
Tips to Successful Answer “Who inspires you?”
While I don’t want you to overthink this question too much, it is important to be prepared. Before getting to the answer examples, here are some additional tips to ensure an answer that leaves a memorable impression.
- Keep your answer short, to the point, and show you know some of the history of the person you chose. Interviews can tell when you are being vague or choosing something random.
- Zero in on one person. This allows you to stay focused but also keep it short and to the point. If you choose multiple people, your answer can run on for minutes and get you off track. And it’s okay to have multiple examples of who inspires you, but stick to one max for a deeper dive response.
- Describe why this person is inspiring beyond their history or impressive achievements. What values or traits do you resonate with? How have their views on the industry shaped you as a professional? Knowing those questions will help you crush this interview question.
Example Answers to “Who Inspires You?”
To effectively answer this job interview question, think ahead about how you want the hiring manager to view you. They only have limited time to get to know and giving a strong answer can definitely help you stand out.
Note: On average, 118 candidates apply for each new job that is advertised. And being on the hiring side, I’ve received north of 600 applicants before. So competition can be fierce in the job market.
Here are some example interview answer examples to “Who Inspires You?”
Example Answer 1:
A good one to consider is a mentor you might have had during your schooling or career.
“While there are numerous people who have inspired me, my college professor who taught engineering was a very important figure in my life. I always had an interest in building things and his passion in the classroom for the field was infectious. He became a strong mentor for me academically, but also took time to offer support and guidance as I entered the job market. Not only did he have a profound impact on my career, but he has inspired me to mentor others just getting started in the field.”
Example Answer 2:
The next example can be a historical figure or industry pioneer related to your career path. This can be a really strong response that recruiters or hiring managers will like.
“As a marketer, one person who inspires me is David Ogilvy, known as the ‘Father of Advertising.’ His approach and success to advertising has always been inspiring because he emphasized the importance of the consumer. He always said that consumer research and treating them as intelligent was key to success. And he was quite effective, considering his successful campaigns with Rolls Royce, Dove Soap, and many more well-known brands. That message totally resonates with me and continues to guide how I approach my own marketing strategies. ”
Example Answer 3:
Another good example you can use in your answer is a former colleague, manager, or an executive in a past role that had a positive influence on you.
“One person that continues to inspire me is the COO of my former employer, [Name Here]. While the company was quite large, he/she always made time to host town halls and interact with people of various departments. But what was most inspiring to me is he worked his way up at 19 without a college education. Started in the mailroom and continued to learn, allowing him to continue to move up in the company. It motivates me to always be learning and to continue persevere, even if something might seem impossible at first. I hope to show those values throughout my career.”
What Should You Avoid Saying in Your Answer?
Beyond the answer examples to this interview question, what should you avoid within your response?
Honestly, it’s really about keeping it simple, but also finding a way to relate to the job and company you are interviewing with.
Here’s some quick things to avoid in your response:
- Don’t use the CEO of the company you are interviewing at currently. While the CEO or someone on the leadership team might be a reason you applied, it is cliche and the interviewer might feel you aren’t genuine in the response. Essentially, it appears you picked them just to try and get in the good graces of the company even if that answer was sincere.
- Avoid picking a major celebrity. Historical figures or thought leaders in your industry that are well-known are certainly great options. But if you are interviewing for an engineering job, I wouldn’t pick Joe Rogan as your inspiration. Nothing personal against Joe here as I dig his podcast, but it just doesn’t connect to the role or company.
- Don’t choose political or religious figures. Your beliefs are yours to have and employers cannot discriminate against you. But it’s best to avoid politics, religion, and other topics that can drive heavy emotional responses. Interviewers might unintentionally make biased opinions about you that can affect your chance of landing the gig.
- Try to avoid picking your immediate family, even if they are inspiring to you. Quite often this is a default response to say your father or mother. It doesn’t mean you’ll be disqualified by selecting a parent or other immediate family, but maybe you can mention this as a secondary to your main response.
If the interviewer asks who inspires you or some variation, ensure you are prepared ahead. The example answers above can help you formulate your thoughts.
As with most of the more general job interview questions, this one may seem pretty simple. But you can easily get caught off guard if you didn’t prepare ahead.
Think about your professional, industry, and who you learn from in order to grow professionally. Use those notes to tie it back to the role and company you are interviewing with.
Interested in other interview question examples similar to this one? I’ve written a few others: