Tough Interview Question - Who is your mentor?

Who is your mentor?

Similar interview questions:
What person has most influenced your life to date?
Which people influence you in your career decision making?
Do you have a hero? Who is it?
How do you learn and grow in taking input from others?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
This is actually one question asking another implied question. The interviewer is not as interested in the “who” of your mentor as much as the “why” and “what” of your mentor. The question gives an indication of your commitment to professional growth and development.

The best approach to answering this question:
First of all, you need to have a mentor, either formal or informal. If you already have a formal mentor in your life, that person will be the focus of your answer. However, most candidates do not have a formal mentor, so answering the question will require you to identify an informal mentor (or mentors) in your life. This is another great example of why it’s important to consider questions such as this in advance of the interview. Having to answer this question on the spot in the interview without considering it in advance would be very difficult. Answer not only with who your mentor is, but also what your mentor is doing to help direct you in next steps in your career. This can be either for a formal or informal mentor.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"My professional mentor at work is a director in a different department. She has been working with me for the past two years to make sure that I am taking the right steps to develop for potential future advancement in my career. For example, she helped me to get the right training in prep for taking the industry certification exams, which I was able to pass on first attempt, which is very unusual for most in our industry…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"The department chair for my major has been mentoring me for the past two years to make sure that I am both taking the right classes as well as getting the best internship experience. He was instrumental in directing me to take a class which would be important for getting my last internship and has also been my professor for the capstone class in my major this semester. In fact, he was the one who recommended your company on his short list of employers to consider…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, you ask that question like you assume that I have some sort mentor. Why in the world would I want a mentor? I already have enough people telling me what to do in my job who aren’t helpful, so I’m not looking to expand that list. I can tell you about several people have been terrible mentors in my life to date, though, if you want to hear about that…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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