Who has been the most influential person in your life?

Interviewers will ask you questions about the most influential person in your life. They ask these questions to help provide insight into who you are as a person and to understand what you value.

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Key Takeaway

For this type of question, there is no correct answer. Interviewers aren’t particularly interested in who you picked, but more why you picked that individual. They are listening for the impact this person has imparted upon you. Contextualize your response in a manner that presents you as a better human being and future physician because of the influence of this individual.


Frequent examples that students use include parents, grandparent, prominent leaders, authors, coaches, or teachers. You can use anyone; just relate the influence this individual has had on you to how it makes you a better person and doctor. Consider the characteristics you would like to portray to programs (hard work, dedication, perseverance, enthusiasm, creativity, etc) and construct your response to include these qualities.

For instance, if you are describing why your older sister has been the most influential person in your life, an outline of your answer might be: “My sister has been the most influential person in my life. She has overcome adversity to achieve great success. She works hard, gets the job done, and always has a positive attitude. I try to emulate these qualities she displays.” Tie the positive influences and qualities to your current behavior. Paint parallels between the person you cite as an example in order to create a response that refocuses the interview on your capabilities and qualities that will make for an outstanding resident.

“Contextualize your response in a manner that presents you as a better human being and future physician.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Common Pitfalls

Ways you could go awry in answering this question include not adequately substantiating your response with the reasons why this person has had an impact on you, citing a potentially controversial public figure, or not connecting the individual you discuss to why their influence makes you a better residency applicant.


Spend a few minutes thinking about how you would respond to this question. Pick a person that helps support the narrative you are pitching to programs. Jot down some notes to include in your interview preparation files.

Who has provided substantial influence to you and why? Comment below and share your story.

Back to more helpful interview questions and response aids.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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