As a software engineer at my current company, I've had the opportunity to interview lots of candidates looking to join our team over the past year or so. At the end of each interview, I've made it a goal of mine to ask them one last question that I assure them there is no right answer to:

Who inspires you? Who do you look up to as a mentor or a role model?

I get all kinds of answers.

Some people tell me about outstanding co-workers or empathetic managers. These mentors set standards in their respective roles and invested in the candidate in some way that made them feel part of the team.

Others describe friends and family who they've known all their lives. Parents and siblings who've shown candidates' what it means to live a meaningful and successful life. Childhood friends who candidates have always admired and feel lucky to know.

A few don't look up to anyone in particular. They tell me about their determination to build a better life for themselves and the values they use to guide them on their journey.

I have no idea what to make of these answers with regard to a candidate's fit for a software engineering role. If there's any correlation between the two, I haven't identified it.

What I do know is that when people describe who they're inspired by, the feeling is contagious. I leave the interview feeling energized and wanting to be more like the role models who've affected the candidates in such great ways.

By asking, I'm the one who becomes inspired.