How to prepare for the personal element of an interview

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Have you prepared for this vital part of the interview process?

So you have researched the company and can confidently discuss why you are right for the role, but are you prepared for the other vital elements of the interview? It’s important to consider how you want to present yourself through more than just your professional experience.


Candidates should prepare for the personality based questions just as fully as the competency based questions. Not only is the interviewer looking to build an understanding of who you are as a person but by asking these types of questions they can also then compare candidates with similar hard skills and select the person who best fits there company culture. Your answers should aim to show flexibility, team spirit, work ethic as well as fast thinking.

Interview favourites can feel like a real curve ball if you haven’t experienced this style of questioning before. They can vary from the standard to the obscure, below are a few examples.

  • Do you prefer working in a team or on your own? Why?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • If you could change one thing about your personality what would it be and why?
  • Would you drive through an amber traffic light?
  • Tell me about a time you have been asked to do something you didn’t agree with at work. How did you handle it?
  • What types of activities or hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
  • What three words best describe you?
  • Do you prefer to be right, or be liked?

A good answer to several of these questions will cleverly connect back to the job role and ultimately why you are the best person to employ. We see many candidates use the term ‘perfectionist’, which is considerably overused and can be seen as both a strength and a weakness. We would never recommend using this as an example. Instead use it as a springboard to be more original perhaps saying ‘I try to solve problems by myself’ as a weakness or ‘I have a thorough attention to detail’ as a strength and support with an example.


As much as we may not like to admit we judge a book by its cover the reality is that we do, especially in the workplace. A survey led by ‘Twin Employment and Training’ states that of 2,000 hiring managers, 33% knew whether they would hire someone in the first 90 seconds. So it goes without saying that first impressions are very important.

We would also suggest dressing for the job you want, think about the type of dress code the office you’d be in may have and choose an outfit accordingly. For instance if you are going for an interview as a graphic designer at an ad agency a plain black suit, white shirt and tie won’t be in keeping with the creative and inspiring environment.

Good personal hygiene, tidy nails, brushed hair and clean, ironed clothes are all a necessity for a positive first impression – before you leave the house look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you would hire you.  It’s always a good idea to give yourself some breathing room by arriving at least 10 minutes early so you give yourself time to do a final check, gather your thoughts and be calmly waiting for the interviewer to collect you.

Body Language and Manners

Regardless of how nervous you may feel it’s important to present yourself as confident in an interview. The ‘Twin Employment and Training’ survey also showed that 40% of interviewers stated that the quality of a candidate’s voice and their overall confidence was a reason for not taking their candidacy further as well as not smiling. A lack of eye contact from a candidates resulted in 65% of interviewers not taking the application any further and 20% disregarded candidates who sat with their arms crossed. Positive and engaged body language is vital and an easy way of working towards a successful interview. A top tip we often give to candidates is to ensure you greet people with a smile and treat everyone you encounter as if they are the hiring manager as they may be asked for feedback.

Ask the right questions

The final part of the interview normally gives candidates the chance to ask any questions. This can be a stumbling block for many when the role has already been talked through in detail and further questions haven’t been prepared but this is a great opportunity to determine whether you would be happy working for this company and your values and goals are aligned. It’s also a chance to make sure you have answered all of the interviewer’s questions clearly by asking something like ‘I am wondering if I've sufficiently answered all of your questions. Would you like me to explain anything further or give any examples?’ Preparing a mix of questions will ensure you have a considered list to pull from regardless of what has already been discussed.

It’s important to remember that you can be the best person for the specific role but you are less likely to be hired if your presentation and attitude aren’t right. By taking a 360 degree preparation approach to an interview you are far more likely to be successful and secure the job you want.