How to Describe Your Personality in a Job Interview

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 09, 2022

Job interviews are an inevitable part of life and the anxious preparations made for them are akin to school exams, auditions, or even blind dates. The questions are coming. The scrutiny. The judging. The measuring up against everyone else. The timeline is finite and you’ll almost never get a second chance for this exact opportunity.

If your resume closely matches the job description and your experience proves you’ve done the legwork to be qualified, then you can focus on what makes or breaks the interview: personality.

TopInterview and Resume-Library conducted a study showing that a whopping 70% of employers consider personality to be among the top three factors considered before extending a job offer. Education was 18% and appearance was only 7%.

If you can describe your personality in a job interview to your advantage, your soft skills will come shining through. Every employer wants to know if you’ll be a good fit for the team or office and the only way they can find out…is if you tell them.

But how?

Here are some common questions posed during interviews. They come in different flavors, but the bottom line is that they are all trying to find out who you are and how you tick. Decide which answers best resonate with your particular personality and use them to relax, be your true self, and maybe even enjoy the process.

1.  Tell me about yourself. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be? How would you describe your personality? Can you explain your personality in one word?

When the interview begins, you’re nervous. After all, you don’t know them, either. Don’t let this first and rather ambiguous question throw you off. This is the introduction. Keep it brief and to the point. Only speak words that pertain to this exact job opportunity when telling them where you are in your career path.

Pull single words or complete sentences from your Myers-Briggs 16 Personalities type that could resonate with this job opportunity. A good cheat is to browse this company’s website and see which words they like to describe themselves with. See any matches? You’ve found your word. Animals? After you have the word, pair an animal to it that exemplifies that trait.

“I have an adventurous personality and have no problems taking risks. I tend to be the innovator in the room asking, “Why not?” which leads to great discussions about possibilities.”

2.  Why should we hire you?

They want to know how you specifically could solve their problem. If you researched the position, you know what they need and already have ideas about why you are the perfect one to fill it. This is not the time to be hesitant, vague, arrogant, or modest. Make the minutes count and use a storyline that incorporates your personality, your success, and your understanding of the abilities required.

“I’ve always been altruistic, patient, and empathetic, and was recognized at the end of the year for my teaching methods with special education students.”

“My personality is highly organized with a meticulous attention to details. This saved my previous company money on a major account.”

3. What is your greatest strength? What can you do for us that other candidates can’t? What three positive things would your last boss say about you? How would your coworkers describe you? What makes you unique?

Some questions seem to circle back on themselves. Question number one was a warm-up so don’t be surprised if they use more than one way to try peeking beneath your exterior. They know how you describe yourself, but how do others? This is where your honesty shines through. Nothing is better than being authentic. Your answers should remain in harmony throughout the interview.

Once again, you need a two-line story with a fact or example that brings your personality forward. Don’t name something that is irrelevant to this particular job.

“I won Employee of the Month twice in my last position because of my people-centric personality. I’m known for being attentive, positive, and resourceful.”

“I’m the investigator on the team. My strong analytical personality was key in the research I did that led to…”

4. What is your greatest weakness? If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be?

Certainly, we all have them. Because you are a self-aware personality pro, you are equally at ease pointing out a flaw or two. Rise above the pack and don’t give the interviewer a worn out cliché. What they want to know is whether you are aware you even have any—key to your level of trainability and ownership—and if you’re capable of working on yourself if there are future issues in the workspace.

 “My facial expressions tend to be misunderstood as being aloof or disengaged during a project or meeting. On the positive side, it’s useful to have the appearance of being calm during times of stress. On the other, it can lead to others feeling unappreciated or minimized. I’m working on staying aware of my expressions when they need to be more energetic to the occasion.”

5.  Why do you want to work for us? What drives your professional life? Why do you love coming into work?

This is company-speak for, “Why would a guy like you want to hang out with guys like us?” This answer is going to matter, because they want to know if you plan to consider yourself as an integral part of the team, use them as a stepping-stone to somewhere else, or just show up and collect a paycheck. They’re fishing for a compliment that counts, so once again, find a place where the personalities mesh.

 “This company prides itself on customer service and nothing makes me happier than converting a client who might be merely pleased with their purchase to a loyal customer for life.”

 6.  Why did you leave (or are leaving) your last job?

In other words, “Why did you break up with your last relationship?” The answer is the same. They no longer had what you needed to thrive, and this company obviously does. Never bash the old boss. If you were fired, put it out there and tell them in one sentence about the mistake you made and will never make again. Then, give them a pointed, positive reason for your new direction.

 “I realized in my last position that I do my best work in a more independent environment where I can focus on the task at hand and deliver twice the work for the time allotted.”

 7.  What is your greatest accomplishment? When were you most satisfied in your job?

Not to be confused with question number three, this one is inviting you to brag. They want to hear passion and pride that directly pertains to their job description. It isn’t about how grand your accomplishment was, but about the possibilities you are bringing to their company.

“I was so excited when my team accomplished the big project under budget and on time. I thrive in collaborative efforts and would love to bring my skills and passion to this company’s group.”

8.  Describe a difficult work situation (or a stressful scenario) (or a change) and what you did to overcome it. How did you manage the stress of your job? Can you remain calm under pressure?

They don’t want to hear about the source of the stress as much as they want to know how you handle it. No job comes without stress. This is not the time to ramble. You can bring out the tried and true STAR method to formulate a sentence and use a personality keyword or two along the way.

S: There was a situation

T: And a task needed to be done to resolve it

A: So I took this action (based on my personality strengths)

R: And this was the amazing result

The pandemic affected every company on earth, making it an instantly relatable situation to employers. If your personality strengths contributed to overcoming the stress, changes, or pressures in your work space, this is the time to show them your leadership and contributing skills. Adaptability, integrity, dependability, teamwork, and professionalism under stress are valued in every employee.

Go from a stranger to someone they’d like to chat with again in the near future by using some of these ways to describe your personality during a job interview.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

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