This question is often asked to find out more about your values and goals. Hiring managers often fall back on these types of “values” questions to try to learn more than standard interview questions can tell them. Choosing your answer carefully while being honest and enthusiastic can help break down barriers.
Points to Emphasize
When responding to this question, you will want to choose your examples carefully and with an eye to what your response will reveal to the hiring manager.
- Do choose someone who truly inspired you in order to ensure a more authentic response.
- Discuss a figure that is appropriate for the position you are seeking.
- Provide specific examples of how this person inspired you.
- You don’t have to tell a long story here but do provide some context about your own personal characteristics that led you to admire this person.
This is a very common interview question so you should make sure to prepare beforehand.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Here are a few tips to avoid sabotaging yourself during your response.
- Don’t choose a widely known and beloved figure unless this person truly is your idol. Otherwise, you risk sounding canned and unconvincing.
- Keep your answer clear and avoid explaining too much. Just tell the employer why you like this person and stop so that you avoid rambling.
- Don’t pick a person with a particularly tragic or morbid life history unless you are using him or her as an example of someone who overcame great hardship.
- If you choose a family member, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, be sure you have a good explanation so you avoid sounding overly sentimental or insular.
This question is a good one for revealing more about your personality than can be expressed with your typical interview questions.
Here is an example of a solid response from an applicant at a government research laboratory.
Of all the people who have inspired me, I have to say that Jonas Salk ranks at the top of the list. Not only was he a brilliant scientist, but more importantly, he used his genius and dedication to develop a product (in the form of a life-saving vaccine) that saved thousands of lives and prevented untold suffering, instead of seeking personal profit like so many others would have.
Remember that a question of this sort is often asked because the hiring manager wants to get to know you better and understand your thought process. Be honest, open and confident and you’ll go a long way to getting the job.