Fake content
Skip to main content

How to reply when an interviewer asks how you influence others

How to reply when an interviewer asks how you influence others

In the workplace, influencing others means affecting their actions, character, or professional growth. Every influential person has the potential to lead, and employers often value candidates who can develop into strong leaders regardless of their level within the organization. Qualitative research has found that an overwhelming majority of employers understand the importance of developing leaders at every level, though few have successfully done so. 

That's why you might expect your next job interview to include at least one question about your ability to influence the people around you. The interviewer wants to know if you'll bring this asset to the role, so the greater your influencing capacity, the better your odds of landing the job.

How to answer the question, "How do you influence others?"

By using the following steps to prepare an answer to this question, your reply can tell the interviewer that you know how to influence others.

Recall specific incidents

Reach into your memory to identify occasions when you influenced another person. These can be moments from your personal or professional life, as long as the scenarios are appropriate to describe in a professional setting. Some possible situations you might explore are:

  • Supervising a team
  • Helping co-workers resolve a disagreement
  • Helping a co-worker or friend achieve a goal
  • Getting approval for a project or personal endeavor
  • Negotiating with an employer or acquaintance to achieve an objective

Identify the best example

You can't spend the interview discussing all the moments you've recalled, so identify one incident that best exemplifies your powers of persuasion. The story you choose to tell the interviewer should show that you can:

  • Identify the needs of others
  • Stay calm
  • Remain assertive
  • Construct a logical argument for your position
  • Speak confidently and effectively
  • Listen actively

"Every influential person has the potential to lead, and employers often value candidates who can develop into strong leaders regardless of their level within the organization."

Use the STAR method

The STAR method is a framework for answering questions that ask for a narrative. STAR is an acronym that stands for:

  • Situation: Describe the situation that required you to use your ability to persuade.
  • Task: Discuss your responsibility relative to the situation. Maybe you were tasked with completing a project or closing a sale.
  • Action: Detail the steps you took to resolve the situation or achieve your goal. 
  • Result: Discuss the outcome of your actions. Share concrete or data-driven changes, if possible.

Alternatively, describe your philosophy

If you can't identify an incident in which you influenced another person, it's OK to generalize your response. To do this effectively, describe a philosophy that demonstrates you know how to influence others, and describe a common scenario in your profession in which your philosophy would come into play — for example, maintaining optimism in a sales interaction.

Example answers to the question "How do you influence others?"

Here are three example answers to an interviewer's question about a situation where you've influenced someone:

Example 1

"I used to work as a project manager for a lead-generation company. We were paid by the hour instead of a fixed salary, and we had to file incredibly detailed timesheets. The other PMs and I felt we could more effectively use the hours we spent every week on the timesheet process to add value to our projects.

"I decided to raise the issue with my direct supervisor. First, I made sure the other PMs were willing to back me openly on the matter. Then, I asked for a meeting with my supervisor, in which I explained how the timesheet process interfered with our workflow. I offered to create a streamlined timesheet that covered all the bases but took less time to fill out. 

"I think my offer to provide a deliverable was what did it because my supervisor asked to see a draft of the revised template before the end of the week. The other PMs and I worked together to make the new timesheet template. After some back and forth with our supervisor, we got it approved. As a result, we spent a third of the time completing timesheets compared to the previous method."

Example 2

"Early in my career, I worked as a paraprofessional in a school district well known for serving disadvantaged families. I remember one boy who always reacted poorly to every instruction we gave. For example, if we asked him to sit, he would wander around the classroom or run into the hallway. My role in the classroom was to support those who needed the most help, and I felt I was failing this student.

"But I had a hypothesis. I figured the boy was acting out because his life was full of negativity, and the best way to counter negativity is with a positive attitude. So, I made a point of engaging with him as cheerfully and optimistically as possible, and I asked other paras to do the same. For example, whenever we saw him in the halls or on the playground, we might compliment one of his cool baseball caps. During class, we'd consistently tell him how great he was doing.

"We started seeing a change in his attitude after a couple of weeks. Soon, he was greeting us first, asking us how he was doing in class, and being friendlier to those around him. I'm proud to say that our positivity rubbed off on him and stuck with him. His grades improved dramatically, and from what I hear, he's now excelling in middle school."

Example 3

"I try to be a positive influence on everyone I work with. I find that a friendly greeting and a smile go a long way in helping someone have a better day, and clients are more willing to listen when you approach them with a positive attitude. That works in your favor when you're trying to close a sale."

Learn how to influence others with these key competencies

Like any skill, your ability to influence can improve with purposeful observation and practice. With that in mind, learn how to influence others by building the following key competencies:

  • Assertiveness
  • Awareness
  • Communication
  • Confidence
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Motivational skills
  • Negotiation
  • Observation
  • Trustworthiness

An added benefit of building these skills is that you can highlight them on your resume to showcase your leadership qualities. Remember, employers are constantly looking for candidates who can step up and help others develop in their roles. Create a searchable profile on CareerBuilder to attract these employers and find the best environment to apply your competencies. 

More tips for acing your job interview

The interviewer isn't the only one who should be asking questions. Ask the right ones to improve your odds of getting to the next round.

Doing your best in an interview is about more than just knowing the right things to say; you also need to know what mistakes to avoid.

Virtual interviews are standard in today's workplace, but preparing for one takes a special approach.