When you go for 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.
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.
Get an idea of the types of personal interview questions you can expect, and insight into why interviewers ask these questions.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
By asking personal questions, interviewers will get to know you. Personal questions can touch on your passions and motivations, as well as inquire about your personality and how you work. For interviewers, the main goal behind these questions is 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. Other companies might be looking for a certain personality type to join the team; they may ask questions to try to uncover if you're passionate or more even-keeled, or if you're introverted or extroverted.
There aren't any right or wrong answers to these interview questions, but make sure your responses match what you know about the job and the company. The company is looking for candidates who suit its 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.
- What are you passionate about? — Best Answers
- Are you easy to talk to? — Best Answers
- How do you handle stress and pressure? — Best Answers
- What makes you unique? — Best Answers
- What motivates you? — Best Answers
- When was the last time you were angry? What happened? — Best Answers
- More job interview questions about you. — Best Answers
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? Often, these questions are very open-ended. That's a gift for candidates, since you can focus on painting an advantageous look at your experience and background.
- Tell me about yourself. — Best Answers
- How would you describe yourself? — Best Answers
- What has been the greatest disappointment in your life? — Best Answers
- What are your salary expectations? — Best Answers
- More job interview questions about your abilities. — Best Answers
Interview Questions About You
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.
- How do you evaluate success? — Best Answers
- What are your pet peeves? — Best Answers
- What do people most often criticize about you? — Best Answers
- If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? — Best Answers
- What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? — Best Answers
- What is your greatest weakness? — Best Answers
- What is your greatest strength? — Best Answers
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 Style
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 its operational model.
- Describe a typical work week. — Best Answers
- Describe your work ethic. — Best Answers
- Do you take work home with you? — Best Answers
- How many hours do you normally work? — Best Answers
- How would you describe the pace at which you work? — Best Answers
- What type of work environment do you prefer? — Best Answers
- Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it. — Best Answers
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 was 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 for Giving the Best Response
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 its corporate mission and/or company culture. If you know people who have worked for the company, seek their opinions of management, their peers, and the workplace climate. What personal attributes does the company value in its personnel?
Take a quiz. If you’re the type of person who has never thought much about your personality traits, there are many 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.
- Take time to practice self-awareness. Try listing 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.
- 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.
- Personal interview questions provide a great opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the position. Answer honestly, and stay positive.