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Top Personality Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Male interviewer looking at a resume on a clipboard holding a pencil asking the candidate in front of him personality interview questions

An employee’s personality can make or break their ability to be a successful team member. Personality influences how a worker makes decisions, interacts with others, juggles projects, and more, which makes it a necessary facet to address when hiring. 

Personality interview questions can help you uncover important characteristics, preferences, and soft skills that can ultimately help you decide on the best candidate. 

What Are Personality Interview Questions?

Personality interview questions ask about topics that aren’t directly related to a person’s technical skill level–for example, how they would approach a task or how they would react in a given situation. Personality interview questions also cover areas of life outside of work, like a candidate’s interests, habits, and hobbies.

Personality interview questions can help you better identify whether a candidate would be able to get the job done and if they’re the person you want on your team. 

What Is the Purpose of Asking Personality Interview Questions?

Identify soft skills

Personality questions can help you learn more about non-technical skill sets, also known as soft skills, like communication, organization, punctuality, and professionalism. Depending on the role, soft skills can be just as important or even more important than hard skills for a new hire’s success.

Related: How to Assess Soft Skills in an Interview

Learn about work preferences/habits

Personality interview questions can help you gain perspective on how a candidate thinks and works. Details like how they keep track of tasks and their preferred communication style will help you understand how they might collaborate with the existing members of the team.

Assess culture fit

Team dynamic impacts how enjoyable it is to come to work every day, heavily impacting employee engagement and retention. Ideally, you want a new hire to “mesh” with the rest of the team, which will help them be more successful at their job and find greater satisfaction in it. 

What to Look for When Asking Personality Interview Questions

Personality interview questions differ from other types of interview questions in that there may not be a correct or incorrect answer. It can be trickier to assess candidates against one another because one answer isn’t necessarily ‘better’ than another. 

Overcome these nuances by using personality interview questions to supplement your list of questions about technical skills, behavioral, and situational questions. If you’re deciding between two candidates with very similar resumes, personality questions can help you decide which would be the better fit for your team and company. 

The Best Personality Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Questions about team dynamics

Describe the role you take when working on a team

The word ‘leadership’ comes up often when hiring, but not everyone on a team can be the leader. The fact of the matter is that effective teams need people in all capacities: leaders, executors, innovators, planners, communicators, and so on. This question helps you understand where a candidate might fit within your team dynamic. 

Tell me about a situation when you had a conflict with a colleague. How did you resolve it?

Conflicts come up even within the most positive team environments. The healthiest teams are those whose members can successfully handle the inevitable conflict with constructive rather than destructive strategies. 

Tell me about a time when you had fun with your team.

We don’t focus on fun in interviews, and it’s a missed opportunity. What a candidate considers ‘fun’ will determine their happiness on a team and their ability to develop camaraderie with their colleagues. While these aspects might be secondary to hard and soft skills, they’re important ingredients for a thriving culture. 

Questions about problem-solving

Describe your approach to problem-solving. 

Everyone approaches problems differently. A candidate should be able to walk you through their decision-making process, citing steps like gathering information, asking for input from others, weighing pros and cons, and mapping out an action plan. 

How would you handle a situation where you aren’t able to deliver on a deadline because of circumstances outside of your control?

From time to time, unavoidable circumstances can throw deadlines out the window. Power outages take down computer systems. Illnesses make team members inaccessible. This question helps you understand how a candidate would do damage control in the event of a missed deadline, which can give you insight into their broader ability to overcome challenges. 

A customer calls you at 4 pm on a Friday and says they need something urgently. How would you respond?

Customer-facing roles require balancing great service with the practicalities of business operations. Use this question to assess a candidate’s skills in this area and see if their answer aligns with how you would resolve the same problem. 

Questions about work style/habits

Describe your communication style.

Asking candidates to describe their communication style can provide insights into their interpersonal skills and self-awareness. It helps assess whether their approach aligns with your team’s standards, which will foster effective collaboration. Understanding a candidate’s communication style aids in building a cohesive and communicative work environment, enhancing overall team performance.

How do you deal with stress?

This question provides valuable insights into a candidate’s emotional intelligence and coping mechanisms. It can help you assess their ability to manage pressure, prioritize tasks, and maintain composure, all of which are necessary to perform in challenging situations.

How do you handle constructive criticism?

A candidate’s response to constructive criticism tells you a lot about their ability to take feedback and adapt to changes, which will define how easily you can manage them. It also showcases their ability to learn, grow, and collaborate effectively, shedding light on whether they can contribute positively to the team.

How do you adapt to changes?

Being adaptable is one of the most desirable characteristics in any type of role. It means a person is resilient and won’t be thrown off course when things don’t go according to plan (which is bound to happen sooner or later). A candidate’s response to this question reveals their ability to embrace innovation and thrive in a dynamic environment.

Questions about values

What motivates you?

Asking about what motivates a candidate can help you uncover their personal and professional drives, ambitions, and goals. The specifics of a candidate’s motivation don’t matter as much as the fact that they have motivation—something beyond the paycheck that keeps them showing up for work and striving to do a good job each day. 

What do you consider to be your greatest professional accomplishment? 

This question is dually helpful. First, it helps you to ascertain what types of accomplishments a candidate considers important, which should be aligned with your own perspective. Second, it gives you a glimpse at how they’ve created positive outcomes in previous roles, which can help predict the impact they might have on your company.

Personal questions

What do you like to do outside of work?

Inquiring about a candidate’s hobbies outside of work gives you a more complete understanding of who they are as a person, which can help you make the most accurate hiring assessment. A candidate’s interests, personal activities, and sense of work-life balance can all contribute to their suitability for a role. 

What are you reading?

Asking about a candidate’s current reading materials can give you insights into their curiosity level, intellectual interests, and pursuit of continuous learning. Generally speaking, people who are avid readers also tend to be strong communicators and are more open to new perspectives than people who don’t read often.

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Important Tips for Asking Personality Interview Questions

Questions should serve a purpose

While some personality questions can feel a bit like ice-breakers (i.e., ‘What do you like to do for fun?’), there’s a noteworthy distinction between these questions and the off-the-wall queries that are simply meant to throw the candidate off (‘What fruit would you most like to be and why?’). The difference is that personality questions serve a purpose pertaining to the job opening–they’re meant to help you identify traits that make a candidate a stronger fit than others. The most appropriate personality interview questions will be different for every position, so they should be chosen for relevance with the job description in mind.

Some topics are off-limits

Some things just aren’t fit for discussion during a job interview. Some topics, in fact, are outright illegal to bring up. Keep yourself safe from legal repercussions by avoiding questions about candidates’ age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and family/children. Even questions that could be construed as probing about these topics should be eliminated. 

Be mindful of bias

One downside of asking personality interview questions is that they can invite personal bias–the tendency to prefer candidates who seem most like ourselves. A person can be likable while not being well-suited to a role. Keep subjectivity out of the hiring process by focusing on identifying traits that are relevant to performance and team dynamics rather than prioritizing a candidate for being personable. 

When used as part of a well-rounded interview process, personality questions can be a useful tool for assessing culture fit and identifying soft skills that aren’t always obvious on a resume.

Related: Beware of These Hiring Bias

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn