This interview question is examining whether you've formed strong professional relationships in your past work or educational environments, as well as assessing intangibles such as passion, inspiration and a collaborative spirit. It's a good opportunity to show that you appreciate learning from others, that you seek continual growth and that you work well in a team.
Points to Emphasize
Here are a few pointers to help you craft the perfect response to this question.
- Pick a person who truly has had an outsized impact on you so that your answer is honest and enthusiastic.
- Telling specific stories about your relationship can make the answer more personal and informative.
- Stay positive throughout this response and don't hesitate to play up your strengths while also humbly acknowledging the debt you owe your mentor.
- If you have more than one mentor, feel free to say so. It illustrates how well you learn from and work with others. This question requires you to think back on your work or personal history to come up with at least one person who had a strong impact on you.
- Be prepared to explain why (with specific details and concrete examples) how this person mentored you.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This type of question provides an opportunity for you to showcase very positive aspects of your work history. Here are a few "no-no's" to help you avoid any stumbling blocks in your response.
- Only say positive things about your mentor—never badmouth previous bosses or professors in a job interview.
- Try to speak in concrete details rather than generalities.
- Make sure you choose someone whom you were actually close to. If this person doesn't show up on your list of references, that's a potential red flag.
- Don't forget to emphasize results or achievements that you accomplished as a result of this mentorship.
Employers value employees who can form strong relationships with supervisors so a good answer to this question could really help you.
While I've had several great mentors, perhaps my most influential was my first boss, Dave Smith, I worked under Dave as a paralegal at XYZ law firm. Though he was a partner and extremely busy, he would always take the time to advise me on my cases and allow me to ask him legal questions without judgment or impatience. I truly learned a lot from him and he inspired me to become a lawyer. He set the bar high for mentorship and I strive to live by his example with the people under my supervision.
A solid response to this question will help show the hiring manager that you're a team player who appreciates learning from others.