The job interview includes plenty of tough questions. But for many, the moment for describing your personality might seem like the hardest. It’s not always easy to look at your personality and explain your traits in a way that helps, not hinders, your chances of getting that job.

In this guide, we’ll start by examining the reasons hiring managers quiz you about your personality. We’ll then explore the building blocks of a good answer, how to prepare for the question and what are the mistakes you should avoid. There are even example answers for you to examine at the end. These should help you prepare to talk about your stunning personality in the job interview.

WHY ARE YOU ASKED TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY?

The best way to answer the questions about your personality comes from the knowledge of knowing why the question is asked. If you can understand what the hiring manager is looking for, you can build the answer correctly.

So, why does the hiring manager pop this question? Three things are at the core of the question, as the hiring manager wants to:

  • Know if you are the right fit for the company in terms of the role and the culture. Different personalities work better in certain environments and under certain leadership cultures, for instance. You might tell the hiring manager you love working on your own and this is a good fit for a work culture where taking initiative is supported and cherished but something that’s not applauded in a rigid environment.
  • Understand your personality and whether these character traits support or hinder your ability to perform in the role. If you are going to tell the hiring manager you are shy, they might be wary of hiring you for a role that requires a lot of initiative and stepping up.
  • Get a sense of how you perceive yourself and how this fits with the perception the hiring manager has. Your hiring manager will be evaluating you right from the start – in fact, we humans are quite quick to make judgments – and they will have a specific perception by the end of the interview about the kind of personality you are. As you describe yourself, the hiring manager is looking how their perception relates to what you are saying. If they have a completely different picture than what you are saying, they might want to dig deeper.

THE TWO KEY BUILDING BLOCKS OF A GOOD ANSWER

A good answer is based on the understanding of why the question is asked. You can then start building on from it – knowing you want to highlight your fit for the role, the company culture and give an answer that’s authentic to your personality.

You can use two building blocks when constructing your answer.

Descriptive and positive characteristic

First, your answer must start with a simple and clear characteristic. You need to use a descriptive word that fits your personality and highlights your suitability for the job. Below are some good, descriptive characteristics you could use:

  • Energetic
  • Creative
  • Compassionate
  • Practical
  • Consistent
  • Responsive
  • Cheerful
  • Tenacious
  • Observant

Now, the key thing here is to pick a word that’s positive but authentic and true to your personality. You don’t want to use negative or passive words to describe yourself in this situation. For example, some negative words to avoid include:

  • Go-getter
  • Self-motivated
  • Humble
  • Driven
  • Hard-worker
  • Organized
  • Perfectionist

At the same time, you can’t pick words that aren’t actually part of your personality. You shouldn’t pick the word “Enthusiastic” if you are not easily excitable person. As much as you want to opt for positive and engaging words that outline your fit for the role and the company culture, you always have to remain authentic.

Descriptive justification of the trait

It’s also important to add a descriptive justification for the chosen trait – the proof, as you were. You don’t just want to give just a list of characteristics (unless specifically asked to do so), as it can feel boring. Just saying you are “Creative” doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t give any insight into your ways.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to include a descriptive justification or an example of why you picked the trait. This doesn’t have to be an example of the trait in action but a more in-depth acknowledgement of the trait. For example, you could explain how the action manifests itself in your behavior. You could say something like:

“I’m resilient and focused on solutions. When my previous team was laid off, I created a group for us to get together and seek new jobs as a collective group – helping each other along the way.”

You could also mention who might have mentioned you possess this characteristic. Perhaps your boss or colleagues have often complimented you on acting a certain way. The key is to give a bit more background and insight into why you picked this particular trait or characteristic.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE QUESTION

The question to describe your personality will certainly come up in your job interview so it’s best to be prepared for it. It might not always be laid out in that fashion; you might also hear the question asked like this:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would your family/colleagues/friends describe you?
  • What are your strongest personality traits?
  • What kind of person are you to work with?
  • What makes your personality good for the role?
  • What are those personality traits that would help you succeed in the role?

You want to be prepared to answer all of these and your preparation starts right here.

The first thing to do is create a list of five to ten traits that best describe you. Remember to keep the above tips in mind and focus on positive and engaging terms. These traits should be authentic and you ideally want to narrow them down with these three things in mind:

Traits you’ve been told to have.

Traits you have an example to show.

Traits you think will help in the role.

  • Pick characteristics that other people have described you with, especially your bosses and colleagues.
  • You also want to opt for characteristics you can easily justify having. In short, you want to pick traits that match with an example.
  • It’s crucial to examine the job description and the company culture and to consider what might be the character traits that best fit there.

By using those three guidelines as help, you should get a list of characters to mention. After each character, you also want to write a short example, in-depth explanation and proof of having the trait.

You can pick four of the strongest traits that focus on the two crucial aspects of:

  • Being qualities required to excel in the role and in the company culture.
  • Being characteristics your colleagues would have always applauded you for.

Now as mentioned, you might hear the question presented in slightly different ways. It’s a good idea to look at the example questions listed above and think how it might affect which qualities you choose. For example, if you’re just told to describe your personality, you might pick different qualities to when you need to list three of your strongest personality traits.

A good way of approaching the list would be to simply brainstorm around ten adjectives and phrases you’d use to describe your personality. Then go back to the job description and company culture information and circle those adjectives and phrases on your list that are also mentioned here or relate to your traits. You can then examine what else is mentioned in the job description and think whether your traits and unmentioned characteristics would relate to them.

You should then ask around from colleagues or friends what they think. Do they mention qualities you didn’t think? Do they relate to the role? You can add these to your list and compile a final list of around five to ten adjectives and phrases to describe you.

When you have the traits, start writing down the specific occasions you’ve shown these traits. This can also include things like being congratulated on them or actions you’ve taken to improve and develop those traits.

In the end, you’ll have a list of personality traits that are authentic and true to your personality. However, they will also support your chances of performing well in the role and the company, ensuring you use the opportunity to highlight your fit for the job. If you use these traits in your answer, you’ll end up building a stronger case for being hired.

MISTAKES TO AVOID

When you are compiling your answer, you need to avoid making a few obvious mistakes. The most important thing is to avoid listing characteristics that do not describe you at all.

As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t pick the characteristics you think would help you get the job – if you are not a “bubbly” person, you shouldn’t claim to be one even if the job description specifically asks for a bubbly personality. Your answer must be truthful and authentic. You never want to be something you are not in a job interview. If you feel like it’s the only way to get the job, you might be applying for the wrong roles!

You should also avoid using generic qualities. The hiring manager might sit through ten interviews where each candidate says they are “easy-going”. You won’t be able to stand out. Therefore, you want to find unique terms and examples to make the hiring manager pay attention to your answer. So, play around with different ways of describing a specific trait – look for synonyms and unique examples to highlight the trait. For example, here are two ways of stating the same thing but the latter being a more exciting way:

  • Statement one: “I’m a hard worker.”
  • Statement two: “I like to do whatever it takes to finish tasks, even if it means working longer hours.”

Finally, you don’t want to keep blabbering on. The personality questions are not meant to take half of the interview. The question and its different variants are aimed at being short and sweet. If you’re asked to give a specific amount of characteristics – as in the question, “What are your five best qualities?” – then you need to give the exact amount. If you are just told to “describe your personality”, you shouldn’t keep going on forever but pick three to five qualities.

Remember this is a moment to shine but not brag. You want to make a positive impression and highlight how your personality would shine in the role and the company. But you don’t want to make it out like you are an angel sent from the heavens to save mankind. So, don’t turn the question into a bragging contest.

EXAMPLE ANSWERS – THE GOOD AND THE BAD

Now it’s time for the examples. Below are a few examples in terms of the good and the bad. However, you need to remember – especially when it comes to the good answers – that the correct answers can’t be memorized for the job interview. You can’t take these examples and use them word-for-word. You need to ensure the answer fits your personality (be authentic!) and the role.

But with that in mind, here are a few good ways of describing your personality in a job interview:

“I’m a people person. I really enjoy meeting and working with a lot of different people, and am known for being a great listener and clear communicator, whether I’m engaging with colleagues or employers.”

“I’m an extremely organised person who is focused on producing results. While I am always realistic when setting goals, I consistently develop ways to efficiently achieve and often exceed, those goals.”

“I enjoy solving problems, troubleshooting issues, and coming up with solutions in a timely manner. I thrive in team settings, and I think my ability to effectively communicate with others is what drives my ability to solve a variety of problems.”

Source: The Balance website

The answers are good because they have a strong, descriptive nature. You get directly to the point and you give a bit of context to the traits you have chosen. You keep your answers concise, you tie them to the work environment and you don’t list too many traits at once.

And then here are some of the ways you don’t want to answer the question:

“I’m a hard worker with great communication skills. I am everyone’s friend and very likeable. I can be shy at first but if I need to take charge, I will. I have good leadership skills. I am interesting.”

“I think I am a fun-loving person with a good sense of self and positive nature. I am friendly to strangers and I have a good sense of humor.”

Source: Everydayinterviewtips.com

Now, the first example is just a list of characteristics. There is no context to what you are claiming to be. It also includes a huge number of traits at once; this can look like you just picked a list and went with it. On the second answer, you are just listing good qualities but you don’t tie them to the job in any way. These are not about the fit for the role and company culture, just lovely characteristics to have.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Describing your personality might sound difficult – we are not that good at bragging (or we are too good at it and come off as a narcissist!). But it’s important to practice it and prepare to talk about it in your job interview.

Why? Because it’s an opportunity to tell the interviewer what a good fit you would be for the role. It can help you strengthen your case and highlight how your personality would succeed in the role and the wider business culture. Always remember to keep this in mind when practicing your answer and don’t forget to stay true to yourself!

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