Many people dream of becoming influencers nowadays. Posting half-nude and heavily edited pictures on their Instagram (or on other platforms), the so called “influencers” often make more money than engineers working for the tech giants in the Silicon Valley, who spend 250+ hours sitting at their computer screens, working on the next big thing… But influencing someone doesn’t necessarily mean posting pictures on some social media platforms. It can also mean encouraging someone with the right words, going by example with an excellent work, helping your subordinate to grow into a leadership role, and simply having a positive impact on someone’s life. And that’s actually what matters for the hiring managers.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting interview question. You will find both obvious and unconventional choices on my list, and hopefully at least one of the answers will resonate with you. Remember that in nine out of ten cases, interviewers cannot verify the authenticity of your story. As long as it sounds credible and you do not mess up some details, you can tell them whatever you want–even narrating a story that never happened…


7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time when you influenced someone else” interview question

  1. The best example dates back to my college days. My friend, Stephanie, suffered an emotional breakdown in her junior year. Her boyfriend ended a long term relationship with her, and she also suffered a loss in the family. As a result she lost all her motivation and wanted to quit the college. I decided to do something to change her mind. I spent a lot of time with her, trying to provide emotional support, and anytime she was in a mental state to actually listen to me, and to think without emotions, I emphasized the importance of finishing the college, especially after she had already spent two and half years studying there. It eventually worked out. She got over her loss, and finished the college. I do not want to take too much credit for it, but I definitely played my part in the story.
  2. In my last job I had a lot of influence on one of my teammates. I saw that they were shy, and struggled to express their ideas in team meetings. At the same time, following them in work, I realized they were brilliant and had a huge potential in marketing. For some reason, however, they struggled to sell their skills, and stagnated in their career. I decided to do something about it. Anytime I had a chance, I praised them for the good work. I purposely asked them to talk in front of the team. Little by little, they gained more confidence and eventually managed to sell their skills in the meetings with the managers, and were promoted to the position of a creative director in the company.
  3. I actually try to have a positive impact on everyone I meet. You know, world is a sad place for many in this pandemic. People lose jobs, family members, some of them lose hope, or even end up on the street. I believe it is crucial to bring some positivity to this gloomy atmosphere, and we can do it with very simply things–sharing a word of encouragement, smiling on people, giving a helping hand when someone needs it. Maybe these aren’t big things, but I believe they make the world a better place. This is my philosophy in life, and I definitely want to stick to it in my job as well.
  4. Two years ago, suffering from obesity, I made some drastic changes to my diet. Basically from day to day I switched from eating junk food and a lot of meat to whole foods plant based diet. It had a profound impact on both my body weight and my health. When my friends witnessed my transformation, some of them also made changes to their diet. And the results followed. Now we are all healthier and looking better. I made the first move, and I definitely influenced my friends to follow. But credit goes to them as well, since it is not easy to make such a switch…
  5. I recall my last job in the sales department. I was a new force in the company, younger than anyone else, and everyone expected me to follow the processes the sales team already had in place. But after just few months I realized I could do it better–on the call, in the meetings with the clients, generating leads, and so on. It needed some courage to try my own sales techniques, but they worked, and delivered better results. My manager took notice, and we had a long meeting where I explained what I was doing and why. They liked the ideas, and implemented them across the entire sales team. Now I do not work in the company any longer, but I am still glad that I left something behind.
  6. I’m an Instagram influencer actually. Have several thousands of followers, and some brands sponsor me. It is not big money and something I can live from, but I try to promote natural cosmetics, and also some sustainable clothing brands. In my opinion, every little effort matters if we want to have a sustainable economy one day. My Instagram activity is my way of contributing to the better future.
  7. To be honest, I cannot remember such a time. I am still very young, and try to be humble, and learn from more experienced colleagues in the workplace. I doesn’t mean that I cannot speak out in a team meeting, or hesitate to propose some idea. But I still consider myself more a learner than a teacher, and prefer listening to talking. Many colleagues have influenced me, hopefully in a good way, and there will certainly come a time when I will be the one influencing others. But it is not here yet to be honest.


Focus on the positive impact you had in someone’s life

We can surely influence people in many ways. Introducing someone to jogging, and introducing someone to marijuana, are both forms of an influence. But you should certainly avoid speaking about the later in the interview.

We can find many parallels in the workplace. Some autocratic managers take the wind from the sails of their subordinates, and some egoistic managers can actually make others hate their jobs. But this isn’t the form of impact you want to talk about–even if you had such an impact on someone.

Focus on the good things–how you helped someone to make an important decision, introduced them to some activity that helped them improve their health and habits, or how you influenced your manager to make a decision from which the corporation eventually benefited.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You may face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, making an unpopular decision, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Add numbers, dates, other details for credibility

As I’ve already mentioned, hiring managers have no means of verifying the authenticity of your answer. They are not going to call your classmate from high school or one of your subordinates in your former job, just to ask them whether you really influenced them in a positive way, as you claim you did while interviewing for a job.

Having said that, they have other criteria for assessing the authenticity of your interview answers. They may ask you some follow up questions, such as when the situation happened, what was the ultimate outcome, if someone else played the role, and so on. You should think about it in advance.

You can actually prevent follow-up questions by offering details in your initial answer. Give some time frame to the situation. If possible, quantify the results, explaining the impact you had in numbers. Such details give your answer more credibility in the eyes of the hiring managers.


If your interview isn’t going well, you can take a risk with one of the unconventional answers

You will probably get this question in later stages of your interview (just like other scenario-based questions). If things have not gone well up to that point, it makes sense trying to stand out with some unconventional answer–especially when you have nothing to lose.

Why no saying that your philosophy is to have a positive impact on everyone who crosses your way–be it a colleague, a friend, or a homeless guy you pass on the street? Or maybe saying that you are still young and prefer to stay humble and learn from your colleagues in this stage of your professional career. You will find both example on my list (answer no. 3 and answer no. 7).

Each interview is different, and sometimes you have to adjust your answers to the situation. When things aren’t going well, or when you know that other 3o people interview for the same job, it doesn’t make much sense going for the obvious answers. Take some risks, try to stand out, and you may end up with the coveted job contract at the end…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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