The Best Answers for Personal Interview Questions

 © The Balance, 2018

When you go on a job interview, in addition to being asked job interview questions about your employment history, your skills and qualifications for the job, your educational background, and your goals for the future, you'll also be asked personal interview questions.

What You’ll Be Asked About

These will be questions about you personally – your personality, your work style and work ethic, how you handle stress, what you expect from an employer, and how you handle certain situations.

When an employer asks questions about you and how you work, they are trying to determine if you're a good match for both the job and the company culture. For example, if the role requires someone who is flexible and can work as many hours as needed to get the job done, but you can't commit to the overtime, you may not be the right person for the position.

There aren't any right or wrong answers to these interview questions, but do be sure your responses match what you know about the job and the company. The company is looking for candidates who suit their requirements; the closer you fit the job description, the more competitive you'll be.

One caveat, however – try to answer each question as honestly as you can, both as you do these exercises and when you are actually answering these questions in an interview. It generally doesn’t work to try to pretend to be someone you are not in order to land a job.

Common Personal Interview Questions and Best Answers

Before you head out to a job interview, review these personal interview questions and sample answers to get an idea of what you'll be asked and the best way to respond.

Interviewing works both ways, so you can also use these questions as a way to determine if the job is what you're looking for in your next position. These types of interview questions can help you – as well as the hiring manager – determine if the role is a good match for what you're looking for in your next job.

Once you have sat down and come up with honest answers to these questions, you can feel confident in your ability to answer almost any question that will be directed your way during a professional job interview.

Interview Questions About Your Personality

What They Want to Know: Your interviewers know the personal strengths and quirks of their current team members, and thus they will be most interested in hiring the candidate they feel could enhance their team dynamics. Your tone and body language in answering these questions are as important as your actual responses – use them to express your enthusiasm and demonstrate how you would be a personable and dedicated colleague.

Interview Questions About Your Background and Expectations

What They Want to Know:  These questions are designed to clue the interviewer in regarding your career path trajectory. How have you trained and prepared yourself for this job? Are you likely to be an employee who will stick around for a while? 

  • Tell me about yourself. - Best Answers
  • What has been the greatest disappointment in your life? - Best Answers
  • If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently? - Best Answers
  • What are your salary expectations? - Best Answers
  • More job interview questions about your abilities. - Best Answers

 Interview Questions About Your Self-Awareness

What They Want to Know: Personal questions that require you to demonstrate self-awareness and evaluate your own actions and opinions can be tricky – especially when they address your potential weaknesses. The best strategy is to answer these questions confidently, describing instances where you recognized and capitalized upon opportunities for self-improvement.

Questions About Your Work Habits

What They Want to Know: Every employer has established ways in which they operate. Depending upon the industry, you may be required to work independently, or you could be expected to contribute to a team. Perhaps management insists that its employees work overtime or on holidays when requested. Research the organization before the interview so that you’ll be able to show how your personal work habits would dovetail seamlessly into their operational model.

Questions About Teamwork

What They Want to Know: When hiring managers ask questions about teamwork, it’s because the job absolutely requires the ability to collaborate and work well with others. Have examples ready to use of times when you have been a strong team member and when you have proven yourself to be flexible, coachable, and supportive of others.

  • Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? - Best Answers
  • Give some examples of teamwork. - Best Answers
  • If you knew your boss were 100% wrong about something, how would you handle it? - Best Answers
  • Describe a difficult work situation/project and how you overcame it. - Best Answers

Tips to Answer Personal Interview Questions

Here’s how to ensure you can answer personal interview questions with confidence.

Research the company. Before the interview, take the time to research the company. Doing so will allow you to predict which personal interview questions they are most likely to ask. Read the “About Us” section of the company website to get an idea of their corporate mission and / or company culture. If you know people who have worked for them, ask their opinions of management, their peers, and the workplace climate. What personal attributes does the company value in their personnel?

Take a quiz. If you’re the type of person who has never thought much about your personality traits, there are a number of fun and informative personality tests and career assessments that can help you to define which of your characteristics are desirable to employers (sometimes hiring departments even make job applicants take these tests before an interview so that they can narrow down their field of candidates).

Do a mock interview. Armed with the questions here, ask a friend or family member to roleplay the part of an interviewer. Rehearsing your answers to personal interview questions a few times will ensure that you don’t become tongue-tied during the actual interview.

Have questions ready to ask the interviewer. Along with preparing answers to common interview questions, you should also come up with a few questions to ask the interviewer. In almost every interview, hiring managers will end the discussion by saying, “Do you have any questions for us?” Make sure that you do – a simple “No” suggests that you might not be entirely interested in the job or the company.

Key Takeaways

PRACTICE SELF-AWARENESS: List the personality traits and soft skills (“people” skills) that would make you a desirable employee, then be sure to talk about these in your interview.

RESEARCH THE EMPLOYER: Learn as much as you can about the employer’s operations, mission, and culture so that you can assess whether your personality would be a good fit for their expectations.

BE POSITIVE AND CONFIDENT: Personal interview questions provide a great opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the position; they’re a lot like the questions you might ask or receive on a first date in that they are meant to evaluate one’s compatibility with others. Answer honestly, and don’t forget to smile.