“Who inspires you and why?”
If you have a role model who plays an active part in your daily life, the answer to this interview question will be relatively easy.
If not, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find a person of inspiration, and be able to back it up with conviction.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Variations Of This Question
This question can be framed differently from one interview to the next, but they all essentially mean the same thing and warrant the same answer.
Thse variations are:
- Who’s inspired your life and why?
- Who do you take inspiration from and why?
- Who do you look up to and why?
- Who is your role model and why?
- Who is your biggest role model and why?
- Who has influenced you the most and why?
What The Interviewer Really Wants To Know
There are two reasons an interviewer will ask this question.
First, they want to see what your larger aspirations are.
Having a role model provides you with a template to follow if you want to achieve the same thing in life they’ve achieved, which is why people often find inspiration from people in their field of interest.
In other words, an interviewer can get a sense of your long-term goals and ambitions by learning about the person who inspires you.
Second, they want to see what personality traits you value.
Inspirational figures are also chosen based on their personality traits, so your answer can offer some insight into your own values and moral compass.
It’s basic human psychology; people like people who are like themselves, so the person you look up to says a lot about what they can expect from you as both a person, and in the workplace.
How To Answer: “Who Inspires You And Why?”
We’ll break down this answer into three stages, and it’s recommended that you follow this order when giving your answer.
Starting from the top:
1. Choose A Suitable Role Model
The first words from your mouth need to a persons name, so choose one.
Your chosen role model doesn’t need to be related to the job you’re applying for, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to go that route.
Overall, you have two options:
- A well-known (inspiratational) figure
- Someone in your personal life who inspires you
If you go with a famous figure, the interviewer will be able to make their own connections and fill in some of the blanks themselves, assuming they know who you’re talking about.
If you go with someone in your personal life, however, you’ll likely have to give some additional background information to get them up to speed.
There’s no wrong answer, and you don’t need to overthink this. We’ve all had someone inspire us at some point in our life.
Here’s a short list that can get your creative juices flowing:
- World Leaders
- Nobel Peace Prize Winners
- Creatives (ie. Actors/Musicians/Artists/Writers)
- Historical Figures
- Family Members
If you’re still struggling, try scrolling through this list of inspirational people, and look for anyone who stands out.
2. Explain Why They Inspire You
Next, you’ll need to explain why the person you chose inspires you.
Remember, inspiration derives from someone else achieving specific goals you value, or having specific personality traits you value.
In other words, finding out your “why” is really just a case of figuring out what those achievements and traits are.
A simple thought experiment can help with this.
Visualize the person you chose in the previous step, and ask yourself:
- What have they achieved in their life?
- Which of those achievements resonates most with you?
- What personality traits do they have?
- Which of those personality traits do you most value?
The answers to these questions can be used to form the basis of your answer.
“Steve Jobs revolutionized the personal computer and smartphone market with Apple’s line of Mac’s and iPhones. He was visionary and innovator with a meticolous eye for computer design. He was charistmatic, passionate, and a risk-taker.”
Bonus points if you can relate these back to the role you’re applying for.
3. Give An Example Of Their Impact On Your Life
Your answer won’t feel complete without highlighting how this person impacted your life. Doing so adds authenticity to what you’re saying.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too difficult if you chose someone who genuinely inspires you.
What have you achieved in your life that you can somewhat attribute to this person’s influence? What admirable traits or habits have you adopted that have had a measure impact?
Again, bonus points if you can tie this back to the role you’re applying for.
If you’re struggling to find some connection here, you may need to go back and reavalute your choice of influential figure.
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
I know that’s a lot to take in for a single interview question, but your answer doesn’t have to be a thesis.
Here are some short examples following the advice above:
Example #1: Perseverance
“It may sound funny but an inspirational figure in my life is Colonel Sanders, the guy who invented Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Prior to inventing KFC, he had a string of setbacks and failures that would discourage most people. He even endured over 1,000 rejections of franchising his chicken recipe before someone finally said yes.
That kind of perseverance is inspirational to me, because it shows that no matter how bad things get, your life can turn on a dime by simply working through the hard times.”
Example #2: Dedication
“My inspirational figure is the actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
He’s someone who’s dedicated his life to a purpose, and completely disappears into his characters. Due to his unrivalled work ethic and commitment, he’s won multiple awards for his work.
To do that you have to be 100% dedicated, and constantly refining your skills. I think that’s an admirable quality for any person to have, as it can be applied to everyday life or a professional endeavor.”
Example #3: Fulfillment
“Someone who inspires me is the spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle.
He teaches things like focusing on the present moment, and being more in tune with ourselves so we can be better people.
I think these are invaluable lessons we all need to learn. While there’s something to be said about work and the pursuit of money, all of that is meaningless without having a deeper understanding of ourselves.
Having such knowledge makes it easier for me to know what I want from life, and to appreciate what I have – be it the people in my life, my current circumstances, or my job.”
How NOT To Answer
Here are some mistakes to avoid:
Don’t Name Any Controversial People
The interviewer doesn’t have to agree with your source of inspiration for it to be a valid answer, but it certainly helps if they can resonate.
Naming someone controversial can also communicate the wrong message, even if you intended otherwise.
For example, let’s take Lance Armstrong.
This guy won the Tour de France 7 straight times, beat cancer, started the Livestrong Foundation, and brought the sport of cycling to the public consciousness like no one else before him.
He was also doping his entire career (and denying it), and from all accounts is a pretty terrible human being.
Stick with figures that have a pretty clean record when it comes to not only their professional accomplishments, but their character as well.
Don’t Say You Inspire Yourself
You could always be tongue-in-cheek by saying your greatest inspiration is you.
This may even be true if you’ve had some bad hands dealt to you, and you’ve always found a way to come back better and stronger.
However, the interviewer will either feel like you aren’t taking the question seriously, or you really think highly of yourself. In both instances, it’s not a good look.
Connecting to an inspirational figure humanizes you, and it also gives you something to strive for as you progress through life.
- Learn the different variations of this question
- Familiarize yourself with the most likely lead up questions
- Choose someone who inspires you (celebrity, family member, etc.)
- Explain why they inspire you (achievements, traits, etc.)
- Tell a story of how they impacted your life
- Avoid naming controversial people (even if they’re influencial)
- Don’t name yourself (this is question-dodging)