What Inspires You: 15 Answers to This Interview Question

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Job interviewers ask many questions. Most are easy to answer, but others have us stopping to think. These are the questions that you need to prepare for in advance… or else you and the interviewer may be sitting there in silence, and someone else may end up getting the position you want.

One of the most frequent questions employers ask, regardless of the field you are interviewing for is some version of, “What inspires you?” Today, we are going to look at why this is an important question and what type of answer will allow you to have the best chance of satisfying the questioner.

What is Inspiration?

Inspiration is the act of feeling so enthusiastic about someone or something that you put all you have into making it successful. Inspiration creates an atmosphere that allows you to go from apathy to enthusiasm in a heartbeat. Inspiration is what keeps you moving ahead despite the obstacles that inevitably appear.

Inspiration allows you to see beyond what is and opens up the entire realm of possibilities. You can say that a person who feels inspiration puts their very essence into whatever they are doing.

Why Do Employers Ask This Question So Often?

Knowing what inspires a person can tell someone a great deal about you as a person. Your answer reveals what you value most in life. It tells what drives you to succeed and what energizes you. People who are inspired have an internal drive to succeed, yet they are not as competitive.  They don't strive to beat the competition, but rather help inspire others.

People who are inspired set and achieve higher goals. They are more optimistic, have a higher belief in what they can accomplish, and have a greater sense of self-esteem. Inspired people are not happy staying where they are or following only tried and true methods. They often see paths to success that are hidden from others. 

How to Answer What Inspires You

Maybe the reason you want a job is for the money, but that is not what an interviewer is looking for. They want someone who will give their all and keep coming back. Let's explore some general ways you can successfully answer this question and give a few examples.

Keep your answers short and to the point, explain how your inspiration helps you surpass your comfort zone, and always look for a way to explain how this inspiration will help you achieve in the position you are applying for.

If you can't answer this question at the moment, think about what interests and passions you have. Next, think of the things you are good at that could bring added value to the team. Then, try to tie these together. That is a good place to start.

Answer #1. Learning new things.

Even if you are educated in a certain area, every business has its own method of going about things. Your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and admit you don't know everything appeals to those in charge.

Explain how learning new things helps you feel like you are expanding your mind and adding to your ability to approach situations in a new way. This, in turn, allows you to see possibilities where it appears there were none.

Answer #2. Reaching your goals.

“I love the feeling of achievement I get when I have worked toward an important goal and finally achieved it because it allows me to see my ability in a greater light.” Explain how you don't like to simply work without knowing where all that effort will end up.

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People who are inspired set and achieve higher goals. They are more optimistic, have a higher belief in what they can accomplish, and have a greater sense of self-esteem.

People who have goals are much better at overcoming obstacles and continuing even when external influences put pressure on them. When you have a purpose, you can measure your progress, which gives you a chance to change tactics and adapt to what circumstances you are presented with.

Answer #3. Coaching others.

One thing many employers look for is someone they can see becoming a leader within the company. You don't have to be a supervisor to coach others. Describe how you like to discover how another person's skills can help a project grow. Explain that you like the feeling of seeing someone grow and become their best self.

This means you will encourage coworkers, help them achieve their goals, and won't spend unnecessary time competing against them. It shows you are willing to be a team player who can step up and lead should the need arise.

Answer #4. Finding ways to solve problems or overcome obstacles.

Too often, people are willing to quit when the going gets hard. Explain that you welcome challenges because they help you grow. Challenges force you to try new approaches and think outside the box.

Meeting a challenge and mastering it gives you a sense of your own inner strength and resilience, traits you find admirable in others. Finding a solution to a problem forces you to not only dig deep inside for solutions within your knowledge base but also to look outwardly for new information.

Answer #5. Coming up with new, creative ideas.

Company leaders know that a company will not grow if it keeps doing the same thing without changing. If coming up with new, creative ideas is what inspires you, you are an asset to the company. You will want to find ways to help the company grow and become better than the competition.

You can help them come up with new products or services that will appeal to a younger generation that is ready for something innovative. You find opportunities to create more with fewer resources and get work done quicker and in a more efficient way.

Answer #6. Nature as inspiration.

Many people find inspiration in nature. To stand out, you need to provide an answer that is unique. “I find inspiration in nature because I see everywhere how nature survives no matter what circumstances it is given. It is strong, yet gentle. Nature adapts and doesn't sit around complaining about misfortune.

When I see forests become revitalized after a devastating fire, it gives me hope and encourages me to keep going forward.” You could also mention that you find inspiration in the little things that others may overlook. This could be a flower growing through concrete or the way a homeless animal keeps her babies alive in spite of a lack of proper food and care. 

Answer #7. Understanding people.

In any environment, the ability to get along with those you work with is a positive trait. In fields such as customer service or sales, understanding people is essential. The same is true about social work. Explain how you enjoy meeting and talking with people from all walks of life.

You enjoy learning about various cultures and trying to understand how individuals think and feel. Explain how this helps you adjust your actions to fulfill their needs and helps you get on the same page as them.

Answer #8. The internal wish to grow beyond what you are.

People need to grow internally in order to grow outwardly. Mentioning the internal need to grow, improve, and become a better person than you currently are will tell the employer that you are a person who isn't content with staying still.

You will welcome the opportunity to learn new skills, will seek ways to invent opportunities, and will help others also grow. Wanting to grow is admitting that you know you are not perfect, but you are willing to work on those imperfections and become your best self.

Answer #9. Music as inspiration.

 “When I immerse myself in music, it helps calm my mind. Music blocks out distractions and allows me to focus on what is most important at the moment. This allows me to give my best.” Music creates pathways within the mind that are often underdeveloped. It opens up the mind and allows creativity to flow.

Certain types of music have been proven to increase intelligence. Knowing you are in a peaceful state of mind allows the employer to understand you know how to handle stress and not allow it to stop you.

Answer #10. Reading inspires.

Mention how reading allows you to imagine possibilities that you never would have considered previously. Not only does reading open up the world of the imagination, but it helps you learn new information, gives you examples of inspiring people and situations and helps you grow in a variety of ways.

Explain how reading allows you to access things you might never have the opportunity to encounter in your everyday life. It helps you become focused and creates a calm environment.

Answer #11. People who beat the odds.

Find someone who, by society's standards, had every reason to fail but didn't stop dreaming and working toward their goals. Explain how their resilience, ability to overcome obstacles without giving into self-pity, and their resourcefulness in finding solutions inspire you.

You could also show examples of people who showed courage in the face of danger and found the strength to continue.

Answer #12. Remaining true to values.

Employers want employees with integrity and the ability to stand up against things that might cause them to falter. Talking about how you find inspiration by reading about, hearing about, or seeing a person stand up and stick with what they believed in even if it meant enduring great pain, and even death.

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Keep your answers short and to the point, explain how your inspiration helps you surpass your comfort zone, and always look for a way to explain how this inspiration will help you achieve in the position you are applying for.

People like Nelson Mandela are good examples. So are lesser-known people who put their careers on the line to bring notice to corruption. Show that you have a strong inner character that can't be swayed from what you believe is right.

Answer #13. Name a person who inspires you.

This can be someone that you personally know and admire that the interviewer wouldn't know. For example, you might say “I admired my grandmother. She was widowed at an early age and left to raise fourteen children on a mountain farm. She did so without complaint.

She learned things that women weren't normally taught, like fixing farm equipment and she saw that every one of her children got an education. Yet you never remember her complaining and she always seemed to have the time to comfort a crying child and feed everyone. Name the traits you feel she embodied and explain how you want to do the same.

Answer #14. Creating a winning environment where everyone is inspired to succeed.

Talk about how you believe a good working environment can only be achieved if everyone is inspired to become their best. Talk about how you love to help people learn things like relaxation techniques and mindfulness so they can become focused.

When you show your belief that everyone can succeed, you exhibit your ability to work well with others, lead a team, and understand how to motivate.

Answer #15. Finding a way to make the world a better place.

No, you understand you can't change the whole world, but you can change parts of it. Explain how looking for ways to ease the pain of others and help them achieve a better life is important to you.

Talk about how you want to strive to find ways to save our environment, find all homeless animals homes, or make it possible for everyone to afford medical treatment. If you can relate the causes you worked on, that will gain you points.

Final Thoughts on Answering the Interview Question “What Inspires You?”

Inspiration is essential for rising above your current status and enjoying the work you do. Employers will continue to ask what inspires you, or some version of this question, in order to determine if you will be a good fit in their work environment.

Prepare in advance with your answers and try to tie the answer in with the company's values. Above everything, be honest. It is only with honesty that the interviewer can sense the passion a topic brings for you.

For more motivational ideas, try listening to some of these podcasts. Inspiration is a personal thing and what inspires you can change throughout life, but in the end, it is what keeps you from becoming bored and apathetic. Share what inspires you with others, and your passion will also grow.

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