7 Common Personality Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

We’ve all heard the line before–failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 

And that’s exactly what you’re doing if you go into an interview only expecting questions about your hard skills–your work history, qualifications, education, etc.  Now, more than ever, it’s vital that you prepare yourself for questions on topics other than your work experience and skill sets.  Employers are putting an emphasis on personality interview questions and character interview questions to see if you’re the right fit for the company and its culture. 

Let’s discuss the most common personality interview questions you’ll encounter during your job search so you never go into an interview unprepared.  

You’ll learn the logic behind each question and tips on how to answer them during your interview. Let’s get started. 

How Do Personality Questions Relate to A Job?

Personality interview questions will typically revolve around your character, work style, and work ethic.  These questions relate to the job because they provide the employer with a better understanding of how you deal with certain situations and how you work with others.  The employer already knows what the strengths and quirks of their current team members are.  By asking personality questions and character interview questions, they can get a better sense of how you’ll mesh with the existing staff. 

Hiring managers can also use personality questions to understand more of who you are outside of the work environment.  

Nonetheless, these questions are applied to gain more insight into the candidate beyond the technical qualifications of the job position. 

Each interview aims to reveal certain personality traits within a candidate, such as: 

  • A willingness to accept criticism 
  • Adaptability 
  • Having a sense of team spirit 
  • Goals 
  • Integrity in the workplace 

While there are no wrong answers to personality questions, it’s important to understand why interviewers ask them.  With this knowledge, you’ll be able to answer the most common personality interview questions appropriately. 

What personality interview questions aim to reveal in candidates

7 Most Common Personality Questions

Here is a list of the most common questions interviewers ask job candidates to understand the type of worker they are dealing with and tips on how to effectively answer each. 

1. “Tell me the most difficult decision you have had to make in the last (X) months.”

With this question, interviewers will evaluate candidates on their reasoning abilities, problem-solving skills, judgment, and perhaps even their willingness to take calculated risks. 

Employers want to hear that decisions are made based on two factors: data and consequences.  They want to hear that the candidate can make decisions that aren’t based on personal feelings or agendas.  At the same time, suitable candidates will consider their fellow employees and the effect decisions can have on the team. 

Using data to make decisions is essential, but nearly every decision also has a human impact. All sides of an issue are important to the best candidates, not just the business or human side. 

2. “Describe a mistake you made. What did you do to correct it?”

Big or small, everyone makes mistakes; what matters is what you do about them.  

With this question, an evaluation is aimed at determining how the candidate accepts responsibility, learns from mistakes, and handles errors.  Interviewers want to hear how the candidate corrected mistakes and the actions taken to ensure the error doesn’t happen again.  They don’t want to hear that a candidate “never makes mistakes.”  

The best answer is honesty, which also shows integrity (meaning you’re capable of owning your mistakes when asked). 

3. Tell me about the last time a customer or a coworker became angry with you. How did you handle it?”

In this evaluation, candidates are evaluated for their interpersonal skills and ability to deal with conflict, especially in a professional setting.  

Conflicts can arise from both customer interactions and coworker/team member interactions.  With questions like this, employers want to know what kind of person the job seeker is. It’s important to be honest with personality interview questions, as there is no right or wrong answer.  

Everyone makes mistakes or finds themselves within conflict. How these conflicts are handled determines whether the candidate is the right person for any company setting. 

The most important thing to do in this scenario is to tell the truth.  If you’ve had a coworker or customer get upset with you, own up to your mistakes or tell your side of the story.  If you haven’t had a coworker or customer get upset with you, let the interviewer know how you would plan to handle the situation if it occurred.  

4. “Tell me about a time when you knew you were right, but you had to follow policy and procedure.”

The purpose of this is to determine how well a candidate can follow company policy and procedures, as well as determine when the candidate can take the lead and make educated decisions given specific situations. 

Employers are looking for new hires who can maintain professionalism, even when they disagree with policies.  No one wants an employee that will ignore company guidelines because they believe they’re right.  On the other hand, good leaders are empowered to make the best decisions given unique circumstances that may not always apply to every scenario. 

The answer you want to give your interviewer when asked this job personality question is that of professionalism.  A candidate should maintain composure when faced with an issue and be willing to address the issue behind closed doors if they disagree with the policy.

5. “I would like to know about a time when you were responsible for motivating a coworker.”

The objective behind this question is to determine a candidate’s ability and willingness to serve as an informal leader. Responses given are often considered one of the best indicators of leadership potential. 

Employers never want to hear that someone isn’t a team player or willing to help out coworkers.  Even if you weren’t previously in a role that requires motivation, everyone should naturally want to encourage their coworkers, especially if morale is low. 

The best way to answer is by detailing how you’ve encouraged your other team members. This can be anything from inspiring them with ideas on a project they’re working on or can be something non-work-related that helps boost the overall mood or productivity of the office.  

This shows not only that you have a leadership drive, but you’re able to assess those around you and uplift them, which is a quality all good leaders possess. 

6. “Describe a situation where you had to confront your boss with a problematic issue.”

A candidate’s ability to be candid and open is evaluated by observing their willingness to speak openly and honestly when it’s easier to remain silent.  It’s common for most people to avoid conflict with their boss. However, as previously covered, everyone makes mistakes, even those in higher positions.  

This question tests the ability to create dialogue, hold others accountable, and shows great future leadership qualities. 

If you don’t have a story to relate to, don’t stress, you likely won’t be penalized for not having an answer for this one – not everyone has experience raising tense issues with those in higher management.  However, if you do have a story to tell for this question, it could help you stand out from the crowd. Candidates who are bold enough to ask those tough questions are invaluable to any company or organization. 

7. “Tell me about a goal that you were unable to accomplish.”

If you haven’t noticed a trend yet, here’s a hint: all these questions concern real-life scenarios most people experience in their careers at one time or another. 

Everyone has a goal or aspiration they tried and failed to achieve. Employers ask this question to learn how job seekers deal with the frustration of setbacks and failures.  Not only is learning to handle disappointment important – but knowing when to stop while you’re ahead is also a valuable tool. 

With failure, a lot of lessons are learned. By detailing a past unachieved goal, you’re letting the interviewer know several key aspects of your personality: 

  • You can set a goal and try to see it through completion 
  • You can accept responsibility when the goal isn’t met 
  • You have learned why the failure happened and how to work harder next time 

Just make sure your answer doesn’t push the blame to someone else. 

RELATED: Don’t Make These Common Interview Mistakes (As A Manager)

Believe in yourself and be confident

Every employer wants to know what a candidate’s hard skills are.  But it’s a person’s soft skills that can push them ahead of the competition and land them that dream job offer. That’s why personality interview questions and character interview questions are becoming an integral part of today’s interview process. Sure, you may have all the skills and experience needed to fulfill the role, but how well do you work with others? Are you someone who has good work habits? 

The interviewer wants to learn more about you as a person, rather than just someone qualified for the job. Review these seven common personality interview questions and you’ll be well-equipped to crush your next interview.  And don’t forget – keep your answers honest, smile, and let your personality shine through.