Some interview questions require a bit more creative thinking than others- and a common one you will likely come across sooner or later is "Who are your heroes?" This question may also be phrased as "Who do you look up to?" or "Who has influenced you the most?" When a hiring manager asks this question- he or she is really trying to determine what qualities or traits you value most. The actual person does not matter so much as what he or she represents.
As far as interview questions go this is very much a softball question. You should already have one or two people in your back pocket who you admire greatly and could talk about a bit. The important thing to remember is to be aware of what the job is going to entail- so that you can customize your answer depending on what will be expected of you.
How to Answer the 'Who Are Your Heroes?' Interview Question
Know What Qualities Are Desirable at the Job: Every question asked during an interview should have a relevant response. If you are interviewing for a lead programmer position then it would not make a whole lot of sense to say that your hero is Michael Jordan because he is a great basketball player. Instead you would first want to determine what traits are needed in the position. The job listing should give you a sense of what the employer is looking for. For example- if the position requires leadership skills- then you could mention that a certain historical figure is your hero because he or she was a great leader who had great success. Customize your response to the job instead of simply giving an answer you think would be fun.
Avoid Potentially Controversial Heroes: Hiring managers are not allowed to ask you questions pertaining to your political or religious affiliations during an interview- and you should avoid bringing any of these up on your own. You may end up making the interviewer unintentionally biased against you. An example of this would be mentioning that your hero is a former Democratic president when the person possibly hiring you is a staunch Republican. While employers cannot discriminate against people for personal reasons such as political views- they may end up passing over your application if this information comes up. A safer bet is to talk about someone the interviewer would not know- such as a family member or close friend.
Keep Your Response Concise: There is no need to list off a dozen people who you consider your heroes even if that is the case. You should stick with one or two people and give brief explanations for why you hold them in such high regard. List something they did that exemplifies a characteristic you value and talk about it in a couple sentences. While short answers are desirable- you do not want to make it too brief by simply giving the names of your heroes. A little explanation goes a long way when answering- "Who are your heroes?"
Sample 'Who Are Your Heroes' Interview Answers
1. My biggest hero would probably be my grandfather. He served in World War II and exemplified the type of leadership and bravery I strive to perform myself. When his unit landed at Normandy he fought bravely alongside all his friends. After the battle was dying down he led a team to safety so that they could regroup and discuss their next course of action. My grandma used to tell me a story about how my grandpa ran back into the line of fire to get one of his old childhood friends out of the trenches and over to safety. He was a true leader and hero- and I try every day to be the type of leader he was.
2. My two heroes would be my mother and my high school math teacher. My mother is my hero because she raised me and my sisters after my father passed away- and she showed what could be achieved if you worked hard and never gave up. She is the strongest woman I know- and she instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. My high school math teacher- Mr. Huddleston- is another hero because when I entered freshman year math- I honestly was not very good and could not understand any of the concepts. He believed in me and encouraged me to work hard to the point where math became my favorite subject. Now here I am- pursuing a position as a math teacher myself.
You should already have an idea of who your heroes are- and with a little finesse you will have a great response. These types of interview questions are your opportunity to show who you are as an individual- so be ready to answer- "Who are your heroes?"