6 June, 2021
By Mike Simpson
Personality interview questions can be a bit… uncomfortable for candidates. In some cases, it’s because figuring out how to describe your personality is surprisingly difficult. At times, it’s simply because it leaves you feeling exposed or vulnerable.
Plus, personality questions don’t have a right or wrong answer. At least, not in the traditional sense. It is possible to make a misstep, one that may hurt your chances of getting the job.
Luckily, we have your back. If you want to make sure you’ll nail the personality interview questions, here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Personality?
Alright, before we dig into the example personality interview questions and answers, let’s take a quick step back and go over what personality even is.
According to Merriam-Webster, it can be defined as “the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual” or “a set of distinctive traits and characteristics.” Yes, there are other definitions too, but that should give you a starting point.
In less technical terms, personality is what makes you, well, you. This can include your various traits, mentality, perspective, and soft skills, for example.
Why do you have to deal with personality questions in your job interview? Usually, it’s because it helps the hiring manager gauge your cultural fit with the team and company. It also gives them insights into the kind of employee you are, something that’s incredibly crucial for them to know if they are going to be your supervisor.
In many cases, personality interview questions get a bit personal. Now, this doesn’t mean they’ll veer into inappropriate territory, as hiring managers usually know what kinds of personal interview questions are off-limits. But they do ask you to reveal aspects of yourself, and that can be difficult.
Additionally, most of what the hiring manager will ask you here doesn’t have right or wrong answers. In most cases, they’ll be situational or behavioral interview questions that are designed to learn more about how you approach specific scenarios.
For example, you may be asked how you would react to a particular kind of problem or what you’d do when facing a described challenge. When that happens, you can’t necessarily be “wrong” when you answer. However, that doesn’t mean some responses aren’t better than others.
Now, this doesn’t mean some of the questions won’t be more straightforward. The trick is, you may not want to approach them that way. For instance, simply listing your traits – unless that’s explicitly what you’re asked to do – leads to a lackluster answer. Examples, stories, and context make your replies more meaningful, so don’t be afraid to give the hiring manager some insights when you answer any kind of personality question.
How to Answer Personality Interview Questions
Alright, here’s another quick detour before we dig into the personality questions. Before you look at the examples, it’s essential to learn a bit about how to answer these kinds of questions correctly.
Why? Because you never know what is going to come up.
Yes, we are giving you a list of personality questions. The thing is, the hiring manager may ask you some of these, or they may not. If you want to be ready for the unexpected, you want to get a great strategy in place. That’s why we’re taking a short wander down this path.
First, let’s talk about how to describe your personality. In most cases, you’ll want to mention the standout traits that help you excel at work. Precisely which ones those will be depend on you.
Spend a little time reflecting on why you’re good at what you do. What traits give you a leg up? How do they impact your motivation, drive, and mentality? How do you make them work for you? And in what way do they apply to the job you want to land?
Also, think about traits that hold you back. There’s a chance the hiring manager is going to ask you about them. Like the interview classic “what is your greatest weakness,” this can be tough. Admitting you have shortcomings can sting, but it’s an important part of the equation.
The Tailoring Method is all about focusing on relevancy. It’s about discussing points that matter to that specific hiring manager, making your answer more compelling. With the STAR Method, the goal is to develop an engaging story. It gives your responses more life and detail, ensuring they are as meaningful as possible.
Once you get your footing with all of that, you should be in good shape. You’ll know what it takes to create a great answer to any personality questions, as well as many other types that you might face during an interview.
Top 3 Personality-Based Interview Questions
Okay, it is officially time for those personality interview questions you’ve been waiting for. Here are three prime examples, as well as some sample responses.
1. How would you describe your personality?
In the world of personal interview questions, this one is the most straightforward. There’s no doubt what the hiring manager wants to know, giving you a lot of insight into what you should cover.
Often, the biggest challenge here is that it’s incredibly broad. There really aren’t any limits, and that can make it a surprisingly hard one to navigate.
Ideally, you want to focus on traits that help you professionally. However, it’s also okay to throw in something that’s a bit outside of the box, too, as it may help you stand out from the crowd.
“If I had to describe my personality at work, I’d have to say passionate, driven, and strategic. I believe strongly in my field and continue to find it both engaging and fascinating. Additionally, exceeding expectations is one of my core motivations, and I rely on preparation to help me do that.
While I’m also fun-loving, supportive, and empathetic, I think those traits simply support the others. It keeps my mood positive, even when facing challenges, along me to be an asset to my employer at all times.
2. What one trait makes you a unique candidate?
This question is a bit more focused and a tad bit more tricky. You have to pick a characteristic that benefits you in the role that’s also something other candidates likely won’t share.
In most cases, you’ll want to come up with a trait that’s a bit unexpected. Precisely what that will be may depend on you, but the example below can help you get an idea of the right direction.
“If I had to pick one trait that sets me apart, I’d have to say my serene nature. During high-pressure times, I’ve often been described as the calm in the storm, as I’m incredibly hard to shake, even when faced with obstacles. It is part of why I thrive in fast-paced roles, as when times get stressful, I flourish instead of fold.”
3. Tell me about a time you got angry at work. What happened, and what did you do about it?
This question helps the hiring manager learn more about how you react when things get tough. Over the course of even a shorter career, something has likely gotten under your skin. However, it’s how you handle it that matters
Being able to navigate your own anger and diffuse it is important. It ensures you don’t lash out at colleagues, customers, or anyone else.
When you pick an example – and you do have to pick one – focus on an option where your frustration would be understandable. Choosing a moment where you were irrationally angry won’t work in your favor.
Additionally, be brief when describing your anger. Instead, focus mostly on how you let it go, allowing you to work through it and achieve a positive outcome.
“While I don’t let my emotions dictate my actions, there has been a time where I did become angry at work. For example, I was working on a team project in my last position, and my colleague missed the deadline for their deliverable, a deliverable I needed to stay on target myself.
Their delay was undoubtedly going to put me behind. However, instead of expressing my frustration, I touched base with them to see if I could help. Ultimately, if my assistance could remedy the issue, we’d all be in better shape, so I set my emotions aside and approached them.
With my support, we were able to wrap up their tasks faster. While we were still a bit behind schedule at this point, it was manageable. With a bit of extra diligence, we were able to make up the lost time, allowing the project to finish on schedule.”
17 More Personality-Based Interview Questions
Here are 17 more personality questions you might encounter during an interview.
- What do you do to manage stress?
- How do you stand out from other professionals in your field?
- What are you passionate about?
- How do you navigate change in the workplace?
- If you could make one change to your personality, what would it be and why?
- How would your former coworkers describe you? What about your last manager?
- How would your best friend describe you?
- Do you prefer working collaboratively or independently?
- How do you handle negative feedback?
- If you could rewind to a moment in the past three years and change what you did, what would you do differently and why?
- What does success mean to you?
- Can you describe a time when you were dealing with an incredibly challenging workload? How did you handle it?
- If you saw your coworker doing something unethical, what would you do? Would you act differently if it was your manager?
- How do you like to spend your free time?
- Using just three words, how would you describe yourself and why?
- Do you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert? Why do you feel that way?
- Describe a time when you bounced back after a failure.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, figuring out how to describe your personality can be tough. But with all of the tips above – as well as the sample personality interview questions and answers – you’ve got all of the tools you need to do it well. Use them to your advantage. That way, when you have to describe your personality to a hiring manager, you’ll be ready.