Everyone we meet during our brief journey on Earth has some impact on us. It starts with our parents–they have the biggest impact, one that is hard to overcome. Teachers at elementary school and our first friends follow, accompanied by heroes from TV and books.

As we grow older, our horizons grow wider. We get to know a variety of people from all walks of life, and understand the differences and problems of the world. Suddenly we make conscious choices, deciding who we’d spend time with. This definitely has an impact on our career choice, and on jobs we choose later in life.

Doesn’t matter if you were lucky with people who entered your life or not, and whether you realize the impact they had on you, and perhaps continue having as long as you meet each other. This interview question is difficult for everyone, so let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to make things at least a bit easier.


7 sample answers to “Who has impacted you the most in your career?” interview question

  1. It may sound strange but I’d say that my first teacher at an elementary school impacted me the most in my career. She was so nice, extremely attentive to our needs and friendly. She always had a smile on her face, and you could feel that teaching was her calling. I believe she inspired me to pursue career in the same field, and everything else that followed, from my studies and teaching career to this application for a job of an Assistant Principal, would not have happened if I had had a different teacher at elementary school.
  2. I would say that my first superior, Mr. Smith, had the biggest impact on my career. When I started in the company I lacked confidence. I struggled to talk to other people and perhaps even “sell” my skills and knowledge in the workplace. But Mr. Smith trusted me, encouraged me often, and helped me to overcome my inner demons. Without working under them, I would likely still sit somewhere in an office, doing simple clerical work. But as you can see things have changed, and I am applying for a managerial job with you, speaking with confidence.
  3. I honestly think it would not be fair to give credit to a single person only. I learned so much in my previous job. We had an excellent and diverse team in the workplace, and led many constructive conflicts. Feedback flew freely in all directions, which helped me to identify areas for improvement in my work, and to become much better in what I do. But I cannot pick one person only. The entire experience, the great team we had, impacted me in this way.
  4. A social worker, case manager, had a biggest impact on my career, many years ago. I was young, and we had problems in the family. My father drank a lot and the parents neglected us. I dare to say where I might have ended up today, if I had had not so much luck with the social worker who was assigned to our family. She helped to solve the crisis among our parents, she saved their marriage. This experience had a profound impact on me as a child, and I decided to pursue social work as my career.
  5. Not a person, but an event had the biggest impact on my professional career. I was running a  successful backpacker hostel in Thailand when the tsunami hit. We lost everything from day to day, and did not have insurance for our property. I didn’t feel strong enough to start everything from scratch, and decided to apply for a hotel manager job instead. If the waves did not destroy the house, I would likely still run my own hostel. But that’s life, problems belong to it, and we have to adapt to the new reality. That’s what I am trying to do now.
  6. I am just starting my professional career, still waiting for someone or something to show me the exact direction I’d like to pursue in life. That’s one of the reasons why I am applying for a job with your company. Big international corporation where one can opt for different career paths later on is the right choice for me at the moment. I am eager to learn and explore opportunities.
  7. If I had to pick one person only, it would be definitely my school counselor. I excelled in many subjects, and enjoyed doing many things, and didn’t find it easy to decide about my field of study. They guided me through the process, asking the right questions, helping me find the right answers within me. I eventually decided for veterinary medicine, and as you can see I’ve stayed in the field up to this point…


Positive impact is better than a negative one

Each of us has their share of experiences of bosses and managers. Maybe you’ve been on your way to progress to leading role in a company, but one of your colleagues blocked you, protecting their own position within the organization. They didn’t want you to replace them.

They made something up, or purposely assigned you a workload too heavy to bear. You had to leave the company, and instead of working as a top manager you have to start from scratch again, somewhere else.

Or you happened to have a bad friend at the high school. They were into drugs and clubbing, and you didn’t want to stay behind, trying to impress them. This had a profound impact on your study results. Instead of ending at a good college, you ended up in an interview for a job of a janitor

Whatever happened to you, however, you should focus on a positive impact someone had on your career choice or career progress. Just like I describe in the answers.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, 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!

You can give credit to people, but try to avoid blaming anyone

You should not say that if you had a better boss or better school mates or whatever, you would end up in a better place right now. Maybe it is true, but it’s not a good attitude to show in an interview.

If things haven’t ended the up the way you wanted, at least for now, because your life does not end today, you should accept the responsibility. Surely, you weren’t particularly lucky with people but you also made your mistakes, and that’s why you are here. Now you are ready to make things better, in your new job.


Try to bridge your answer with their company or organization

It would be strange to say that a great nurse impacted you as a child and helped you to choose your career, if you were interviewing for a Financial Analyst job in a big corporation.  It just would not make sense to them.

Oppositely, if you manage to connect the impact someone had on you, with the future in the company of your choice, it is probably the best possible answer. See sample answers no. 1 or no. 3 for your inspiration.


An event can impact our career in a big way

In many cases it’s something that happens to us that has a profound impact on us, instead of a person we meet. In sample answer no. 5 job applicant referred to a tsunami which broke their hostel to pieces. You do not have to be so dramatic though.

Perhaps you had a child, or split up with someone, or found your love in another city and had to quit the job in which you were growing a lot as a professional, and so on. Or you got sick (hopefully not but it happens) or someone dear to you got sick, you wanted to spend more time at home and  had to change your career completely because of it.

As long as you explain it to the interviewers, as long as your answer makes sense, they will be happy about it…

Ready to answer this one? Have a loot at 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)