The interview process isn’t just about understanding the technical strengths and weaknesses of a candidate, it’s also about getting to know their personality.
It all comes down to asking the right kinds of questions.
To help you understand exactly what we mean, we’ve put together the ultimate cheatsheet to assist any hiring manager looking to know a candidate’s personality, mindset, and outlook on work and life.
Grab a cup of coffee, relax, and enjoy our complete guide to personality interview questions.
Tip! If you already know the difference between good and bad personality traits, and why you should ask personality questions in interviews, skip straight to the part with the questions!
TL;DR – key takeaways
- Personality questions help hiring managers understand what kind of person the candidate truly is and what it would be like to work with them in a professional setting.
- Hiring managers should be on the lookout for candidates with the right mix of “good” and “bad” personality traits for the role and team they are hiring for.
- Choose personality questions that are related to the position and aren’t too broad, in order to get a more accurate picture of the candidate.
- Although there is no right or wrong answer to these types of questions, candidates can reveal a lot about themselves by answering personality interview questions. However, keep in mind that personality tests and interviews do not predict future job performance!
- Combine personality interview questions from the list below with job-specific skills assessments to evaluate candidates’ soft skills and personality traits without any bias.
Why ask personality questions in an interview?
Asking personal interview questions will help you to understand the job seeker’s personal and professional life. They’re also a great way to compare candidates with similar hard skills and select those who are a better fit for your company culture.
In addition to knowledge and experience, personality interview questions reveal how they might fit into the company culture and what it’s like to work with them, while helping match personality traits required for the role with potential candidates.
Here’s a summary of why they’re important:
- Evaluate critical soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and presentation.
- Understand how the potential candidate might interact with internal (colleagues, managers) and external (customers, suppliers) peers and stakeholders.
- See whether they are a fit for the team, company culture, mission, and values.
- Create an open atmosphere for bonding and conversation in addition to the more difficult or technical types of interview questions.
Should you assess for good and bad personalities?
Job seekers are only human, each naturally possessing a unique mix of “good” and “bad” personality traits. When assessing personality, hiring managers look for self-awareness, as well as those traits that are unique to them. For example:
- “Good” personality traits are honesty, integrity, responsibility, accountability, or empathy.
- “Bad” traits usually include arrogance, impulsiveness, tardiness, or carelessness.
What’s important is that the candidate is aware of their own “negative” traits and has the right personality profile to succeed in the company and in their role.
Let’s look at an example, say, a brilliant engineer who is honest and hardworking but also arrogant and consistently late to meetings. However, if the engineer is only expected to attend a handful of meetings and works mostly on their own, the positive traits outweigh the negatives.
Whereas for a different position, such as a customer service representative who speaks to clients and attends meetings on a daily basis, these negatives would eliminate the candidate from consideration for the role.
In sum, hiring managers use personality questions to help them discover the mix of positive and negative personality traits of a potential candidate, to ensure they have the right level of emotional intelligence, social skills, and attitude for the role.
9 examples of positive personality traits
Now that we understand the importance of looking for good and bad traits, here are a few more examples of which positive traits to look out for, and why:
- Integrity — Demonstrates honesty, accountability, and responsibility in both their professional and personal life. Important for roles with a lot of responsibility.
- Passion — Exhibits excitement, ambition, and commitment to their work and team. Especially relevant for roles that require a lot of energy and dedication.
- Humor — Possesses a great sense of humor that uplifts the atmosphere. And understands when it is appropriate, and when is is not.
- Leadership — Can motivate and direct teams. Of course, important for manager and leadership roles, but also team leads, and candidates with high potential.
- Organization — Possesses excellent organizational skills and consistently meets deadlines. Essential for managerial and administrator type roles.
- Communication — Expresses ideas and concerns clearly. Necessary for most roles, and critical for positions that require strategic planning or persuasion.
- Optimistic — Possesses an optimistic attitude. And a winning combination with natural problem-solvers and perseverance to find solutions where others cannot.
- Honest — Is honest and transparent with themselves and others. Not to be mistaken with bluntness, honesty is important for roles that have a high level of accountability.
- Respectful — Shows courtesy and respect to all. A trait that is important for people and customer-facing roles.
6 examples of negative personality traits
We all have our share of negative personality traits. But sometimes, they can have harmful effects on a person’s relationships and work. When evaluating candidates for a role, gaining an understanding of their negative traits can make all the difference in who gets the job.
- Tardiness — Poor time management when it comes to working hours and deadlines. But often tolerated for creative types or roles where the individual can work to their own schedule.
- Short temper — A person who is easily angered and will only see the negatives of their coworkers. Common amongst leaders under pressure, but usually a poor fit for roles that require a cohesive team to succeed.
- Unorganized — Poor prioritization and disorganization in filing or managing daily tasks. Lack of organization can be inconsequential for certain roles, and inexcusable for others!
- Arrogance — Thinking they know it all and are unwilling to listen to the advice of others. Often confused with confidence, some finance professions are famous for this trait, while it wouldn’t take you far in others.
- Selfishness — Always looking out for their own interests at the expense of others. Undesirable for roles that require empathy, teamwork, and strong collaboration.
- Manipulative — Using people and their emotions to their advantage. Probably the hardest trait to detect, but one that can have huge consequences when combined with roles of power.
The best way to unearth a candidate’s negative personality traits is by asking behavioural questions along with personality interview questions.
Note! Be aware that some “negative” personality traits can be part of mental disorders, such as ADHD or depression. In no way does it mean these workers will be bad at their jobs, nor should they be discriminated against.
There are a few “negative” personality traits that may actually benefit your organization.
For example, someone who is pessimistic might bring some much-needed hard truths to the team — just having ‘yes men’ is a quick way to having a company implode!
How Do Personality Questions Relate to a Job?
As we’ve already touched upon, different occupations demand different personality traits, as well as diverse soft skills for success.
Here are some examples:
- Court lawyers must possess strong persuasive abilities, communicate effectively, and pay attention to details in order to prevail in legal arguments before a jury.
- Surgeons must exhibit poise, resilience, and focus in high-pressure situations.
- Marketing professionals must be creative and good at problem-solving to identify opportunities and create effective campaigns.
- Developers must be analytical with high attention to detail to test and troubleshoot software programs.
- Police officers must stay calm and focused under pressure and deal compassionately with people from all walks of life.
- Even entry-level positions often require good communication skills, interpersonal skills, and the capacity to work well with others.
All clear? Brilliant.
Next up, we’ll dive into our curated list of 30 questions a hiring manager can ask to learn more about the candidate’s character, traits, and job suitability.
10 personality interview questions to reveal a candidate’s traits
A job interview is the perfect setting to have a face-to-face (or camera-to-camera) chat about the individual’s personality, traits required for the job description, and the work environment.
Here are 10 personality interview questions you can use (and remember, there are no right or wrong answers):
1. If you could change something about your personality, what would it be?
This question is designed to show self-awareness. It can reveal their willingness to receive feedback, openness to learning, and how they tackle personal difficulties. It also assesses their honesty and attitude towards self-improvement.
2. Tell me about your hobbies.
By asking about an activity that the candidate participates in after hours, you can gain better insight into their passion and creativity. A candidate with no hobbies might have their hands full caring for loved ones, so it’s important to dig in! What did they do before?
3. What sets you apart from your coworkers?
Their response will show their strengths and weaknesses, unique qualifications, and level of competitiveness. It can also be used to evaluate teamwork, outlook on collaboration, and professional growth.
4. Have you ever lost your temper at work? Why did this happen and how did you resolve it?
A candidate’s response to a difficult question can provide insight into their emotional intelligence, ability to resolve conflicts and manage difficult situations. It can indicate whether they remain composed and professional when faced with stress, frustration, and disagreement.
5. We give you money to buy lunch for the team, but the cashier gives you too much change. What would you do?
Does the candidate possess a strong ethical standard? This question evaluates their honesty, judgment, and decision-making abilities, along with their attitude towards ethical conduct and responsibility.
6. Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
Through their answer, the hiring manager can gain insight into the candidate’s social skills, energy levels, management and communication style.
7. If you’re watching a movie in the cinema and someone behind you keeps talking, what would you do?
This question is aimed at determining a candidate’s competency in resolving conflict, being assertive, and dealing with difficult scenarios.
8. Describe your biggest failure and how you bounced back from it.
Their answer can reveal how they handle setbacks, how they learn from their mistakes, and how they take ownership of their actions.
9. How do you evaluate the strengths of your co-workers?
The answer will reveal how they assess peers’ abilities, their approach to collaboration, and how they give feedback and support colleagues.
10. Have you ever needed to have a difficult conversation with a coworker? What happened?
By asking this question, the hiring manager should gain insight into how the candidate handles difficult situations, approaches challenging conversations, and navigates interpersonal dynamics.
Hiring for a manager role?
10 personality interview questions about work/life balance
Asking questions about the candidate’s work/life balance will help hiring managers understand how they handle the workload, their pace, ethics, and more.
Here are a few of our favorite sample personality interview questions you can ask:
11. How do you manage stress?
This question will help you better understand how the candidate will manage stress and handle their emotions. It will also provide insight into their attitude towards wellness, self-care, and balance.
12. Use three words to describe your work ethic.
Just three words will allow you a better understanding of the candidate’s values, attitude, dedication and commitment to their work.
13. Describe your current/last place of employment.
The answer to this will provide insight into the job seeker’s relationship with their current/former employer and how they perceived the organisation.
14. Name one professional accomplishment and one personal accomplishment.
This question will reveal the job seeker’s personal and professional goals, their ability to set and meet goals, and their attitude towards individual success.
15. Describe a time when you had to handle a heavy workload. What did you do?
Their answer will shed light into how the candidate organizes and manages their time, how they prioritize tasks, and how effectively they work under pressure.
16. Do you install work email and chat on your phone? Why?
This question will give you insight into how the job seeker balances work and personal life and whether they prioritize their personal life over work.
17. When do you like to take leave?
It’s always best to have an understanding of when a candidate needs downtime. They might work all through the summer holidays or prefer to take off every Friday and have a long weekend.
18. Describe an instance when you exceeded expectations in your job.
Asking this question will give you insight into the job seeker’s motivation, dedication, and ability to go above and beyond expectations.
19. Your manager asks you to work on the weekend. How does it make you feel?
Working overtime can be a particularly sensitive issue. If the team for which you are hiring for is known to work weekends, this could be an important question to ask.
20. How do you interact on social media?
The answer to this question will help you understand the job seeker’s attitude towards technology and social media, how it affects their life.
10 personality interview questions to test for culture fit
Culture fit is an important factor for success.
Finding the right culture fit usually involves discovering those candidates whose personal values, traits and behaviors best align with the company’s culture, work goals, and objectives.
Asking these personality interview questions will help determine how well-suited they are for your company:
21. How would your current/previous manager describe you?
It reveals the alignment between the candidate’s self-evaluation and the feedback from others.
22. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
Ask the candidate a creative question that displays their creativity, and demonstrates self-awareness, and they should provide you with an honest answer.
23. What is your ideal work environment?
It reveals which type of workplace setting the candidate is most comfortable in, whether it’s collaborative, solo, structured, remote, hybrid, or flexible.
24. Would you prefer to own an expensive car and a small house or a small car and an expensive house?
This reveals a candidate’s decision-making strategies and financial mindset. It also helps to determine their priorities and how they weigh their personal and professional objectives.
25. What motivates you?
By asking this question, you will have a better understanding of what kind of rewards and recognition they value most.
26. Where would you like to see yourself in five years, personally or professionally?
It provides insight into a candidate’s career aspirations, goals, and potential for growth within the company. You’ll also find out if the candidate’s long-term goals align with the company’s objectives and culture.
27. How do you seek out knowledge and what do you like to learn?
Asking this question can provide insight into the candidate’s learning style, level of curiosity, and motivation to acquire new knowledge and skills.
28. Who is your favourite author?
Everyone should be reading — books are a valuable medium to gain knowledge about every single industry — and their choice of titles can say a lot about their interests and goals.
29. What does success mean to you?
It provides insight into what motivates the candidate and what they prioritize in their personal and professional life.
30. Do you prefer to work collaboratively or independently?
And, finally, this question reveals a candidate’s approach to work, e.g. preferring teamwork, managing workload, and adapting to different environments.
How to assess candidates’ answers to personality interview questions
When assessing candidates’ answers to personality interview questions, it’s important to keep in mind the soft skills that are required for the job.
Look out for answers that show the candidate’s values and how they fit with the company culture, as well as their communication and problem-solving skills.
Be aware of red flags, such as inappropriate or exaggerated responses, an inability to admit to a mistake or weakness, or answers that don’t demonstrate the required skills or qualities for the job.
Here are some bonus tips for you:
- Don’t ask personal questions, and never ask about race, religion, or politics.
- Try asking questions that can’t be answered with “I don’t know.”
- Don’t ask questions that may place the candidate in an awkward or difficult position.
- Don’t lead the candidate with an example answer.
- Always be aware of your tone of voice when asking questions.
- Be cautious of an interviewee who answers with too many jokes.
- Encourage applicants to answer honestly.
- Look out for candidates that appear to answer personality interview questions with pre-made or canned answers.
At Toggl Hire, we offer skills assessments that include a comprehensive list of personality-based interview questions to help you assess soft skills and make better hiring decisions, so you can focus on what you do best.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.