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How to Respond to the Influence Question, Part 1

interview tips Dec 21, 2022

Here is a common behavioral question asked in many interviews:

Tell me about a time you were asked to influence someone?

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common behavioral interview questions asked in a job interview. I was surprised when I Googled the question and found over 1.5 billion results. This article will outline the items you’ll want to consider when answering this question. 

Item #1—Company Culture

I found this data point countless times in my own research. You should be researching the company before your interview. However, this research should not influence your answer. You need to have a killer answer to this question regardless of the company. Company culture shouldn’t influence it too much. 

In my professional opinion, the company research component is needed for your interview prep. It’s just not relevant for this particular behavioral question.

Item #2—Why

It’s critical when outlining your situation and task that you are outlining why influencing this person was so important. Why was it important to a specific initiative or program? And ultimately, what was the business impact of your influence? Including the timeline for the project is also a beneficial step. 

You must be able to convey all of this within 2-3 sentences as you outline the situation and task. You always have to be careful about giving too much background. Clearly outline the importance of your influence, and then dive in with your actions and result. 

Item #3—Data

Data should be a consistent theme throughout your interview answer. Influencing should be supported by data. You will also want to talk about how you presented the data. What did you use to influence someone else? Did you use a spreadsheet, a formal presentation or a one-pager? Did you actually physically meet with them? Did you outline the pros and cons?

In your actions, it’s very important you tell your interviewer what you did and support that with how you did it.

Item #4—Interpersonal Skills

Here are a few things you should be thinking about when it comes to presenting your interpersonal skills:

  •   Psychological safety
  •   Active listening
  •   Empathy
  •   Trust
  •   Respect
  •   Professionalism
  •   Care

Care is especially critical when talking about how you influenced someone. You want to clearly define how you created a safe space to influence. If applicable, you may also want to talk about how you adapted to the other person’s personality and recognized their potential. Highlight what they did well. Remember that all companies will hire people who display a high level of emotional intelligence.

Item #5—Positivity

Positivity is another important theme. It’s absolutely critical that the underlying tone of your influence is positive. If it comes across too pushy, aggressive or arrogant, it can really turn off your interviewer. Always use positive words throughout your answer and always maintain a positive tone throughout your interview.

Stay tuned to the Practice Interviews Blog for Part 2 of this topic, where I talk about the importance of persuasion, actions and learning. For more insight, please watch the full video below:

For additional interview training and practice tips, check out my YouTube channel, visit my blog or sign up on the Practice Interviews website.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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