Personality Questions to Ask in an Interview


By: Anastasia Iliou

As you’re looking through resumes, you’ll probably find that there are at least ten applicants who have very similar backgrounds. So, how do you pick the best candidate for you and your company?

Any hiring manager who skips questions relating to a candidate’s personality is missing half the interview. Some of the top reasons why people leave their jobs are poor relationships with coworkers, lack of purpose, and distaste for the company culture. You can alleviate those issues by hiring people who mesh with your people, your purpose, and your culture.

Figuring out whether or not a candidate’s personality will work with your team is not easy, but it is crucial for your success as a leader. Start by thinking about your current employee’s personality traits. What is it about their personalities that allow them to be productive in your work environment? That’s what you need, and here are the questions you can ask to find it.

What’s your story?

This question can either throw your candidate off guard or turn your interview into a wonderful, engaging conversation (or both)! For this question, judge not on a candidate’s ability to answer quickly, but on the amount of detail that they provide. Someone who tells you about where they grew up, where they went to school, and how they got to where they are is probably very practical and logical. A candidate who answers with just a few sentences is probably a more private individual. Meanwhile, someone who makes you laugh with their answer is probably a very open and fun employee.

How do you spend your time away from work?

Interviewers ask the “hobbies” question all the time, but the answer doesn’t usually give you a clear picture. Asking instead, “how do you spend your time away from work?” gets candidates thinking about their free hours. This question can tell you how open a person is, how productive they are, and what other hidden skills they might have.

For example, let’s pretend that a candidate tells you that he spends his nights watching Netflix, and his weekends baking cupcakes. Right away, that tells you that he is most likely introverted, and if he bakes, he probably has great attention to detail. Then, let’s pretend another candidate says that she spends her free time running marathons and traveling. You can tell that she is most likely very dedicated to accomplishing goals. You can also tell that she is a lifelong learner, because travelers usually are. Athletes are competitive, musicians are creative, travelers are learners, and bakers are detail-oriented. You can use just about any hobby to asses a person’s traits.

Are you left or right brained?

The answer to this question can tell you whether a candidate is going to be an organized, logical thinker or a spontaneous, creative person. However, you have to be open-minded when you hear the answer.

Left-brained people are usually more methodical, while right-brained people are typically the creative ones. However, for example, you may find graphic design candidates who are actually left-brained. All that means is that they are better at staying organized and executing projects than brainstorming and playing with new design tactics. You may also find an accountant who is actually right-brained. That person might be what your team needs because he might have great ideas for simplifying your processes and making your financial presentations look better.

What drives you?

Purpose is such an underappreciated factor in hiring. Whether or not a person has thought about the answer to this question can tell you if they are goal setters and if they are ambitious. Plus, their answer can tell you whether or not their goals align with not only the position but also with your company as a whole. If you’re hiring for a temporary role, maybe it doesn’t matter if your candidate is only driven by money. However, EVERYONE is driven by money. If you’re hiring for a high-level position, you may want to look for someone who answers this question in another way, like “I’m driven by the people around me,” or “I’m driven by my purpose to help others.”

What are YOU looking for in company culture?

Hiring managers are sometimes scared to come right out and say things like this - but why not? Why not just ask what the candidate is looking for to find out if they are the right fit? A candidate who is interested in a casual, comfortable environment with an open door policy is probably not going to be happy in your stiff, corporate office. A candidate who tells you that he wants a clean, professional setting with a private office where he can work by himself is probably not going to be happy in your Silicon Valley-style communal working space.

If chosen, what is one thing that would convince you to work here vs. anywhere else?

This question can tell you a lot about what your candidates are looking for. You don’t want to hire someone who is going to leave for a better offer in just a few months. For example, if a candidate is mostly worried about salary and you can’t move your budget, there’s a chance that they won’t stick around. On the other hand, if the candidate wants a team environment and the chance to be friends with their coworkers, you might have a lifelong candidate in your hands.

What questions do you have for me?

It’s equally important for your candidates to answer honestly as it is for you to be honest about what you can offer. Leading a candidate into an environment that doesn’t match with their personality is going to eventually result in another empty chair. Remember to leave your candidates time to ask their questions and remember to tell them about your people, your purpose, and your culture. Interviews go both ways!

About the Author: Anastasia is a songwriter, blogger, and freelance writer living in Nashville with her fiancé and their four fur babies. When she's not writing her heart out, she's traveling (looking for more things to write about).