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When an interviewer asks me to "talk about myself", can I talk about my personality? Can I, for example, say something along the lines of "I am a completely honest man, and I do not believe in telling lies, because they only lead to trouble". Or maybe "I am a man that is very organized and neat, and I pay attention to detail".

Can it be that straight forward? Is it okay to say it like that? If not, then how can I convey this to the interviewer? I believe that these "personality" features of mine help me in performing well at my job, and I want the interviewer to know that.

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  • You certainly can talk about personality in an interview. However to be effective, you have to provide concrete anecdotes to illustrate your points. Just saying, for instance, that you "pay attention to detail" means nothing unless you back it up with an example of exactly how you have paid attention to detail in the past.
    – Angelo
    Nov 11, 2013 at 0:08
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    Saying "I am a completely honest man, and I do not believe in telling lies" would make you come across as a weirdo to me. Obviously nobody will come into an interview and admit to being a liar. And just saying that sentence is not likely to make the employer think any more or less about your level of honesty.
    – jmorc
    Nov 11, 2013 at 16:46
  • Someone said this to my colleague in an interview we were taking : I am a completely honest man. In a heartbeat my buddy blurted : Did you have sex last night ? I and the candidate were thoroughly embarrassed, but per buddy, hey, the question was testing honesty - which if you say you are so honest that its a personality trait, that question is not out of boundaries. Nov 11, 2013 at 21:18
  • @JoeStrazzere You bet. Thats what I told him after. 'Is he subjectively honest ? Why say you are an honest man when you can't answer any question thrown at you' .. and you know how the conversation goes with someone who is bent on getting the last streak of honesty out of someone who just wanted to come across as an honest guy. End of it all, the candidate didn't make it. Nov 12, 2013 at 4:18

4 Answers 4

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When an interviewer asks a question like this, they are wanting to gauge how well you will fit in the workplace or the team; being suitable for a job isn't just about your technical ability, but your ability to get along with others and contribute positively to the workplace environment.

So you want to answer this question is a way that convinces the interviewer that you are going to fit well into the workplace. What makes you normal and able to get along with? Talk about what you do on the weekends, your interests and your passions. This gives the interviewer and impression of what you'll be like day to day, and not just the picture of a person who is putting their best foot forward to secure a job.

This is also an appropriate time to talk about your work ethic, so if honesty and organisation are a big part of who you are, then do mention it. However you want to do this in a manner doesn't make you sound full of yourself, or like you're making things up. A good way to mention honesty and organisation would be, 'In terms of work ethic, honesty and organisation are important to me, for example.... [give specific example of a work habit that reflect this]'.

Summary:

This question is the interviewing gauging how well a fit you are for the team. While it's a good opportunity to talk about your work ethic, the primary purpose of the question is convincing them that you're genuine and going to be a good fit.

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Your personality traits may help with providing some information as to what your work ethic "can be" but it doesn't tell them what your work ethic "is". Some people like to say "I'm x, y, z" when really "I'm d, $, ~", saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear instead of the truth. Interviewers know this as well.

It's also hard not to sound too "into yourself" when you're trying to talk about your own personality. It can come off as egotistical/self-centered if you use the wrong wording. This is a definite turn-off to most employment opportunities, so if you choose to do this, come up with some things you would say in said interviews, and say them to friends and family and get their opinion on how you sound to them.

Side Note Understand that this question is a psychological question. It's there to gauge your personality and attitude, and you should understand that point before approaching this question in an interview.

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Absolutely. Do talk about the positive aspects of your work style and personality that make you a good person to have on a team or as a subordinate. You can even "sell" bad things as good - for example, I'm not a person who can readily disguise her feelings, so I often say "I have no poker face- and I use that to my advantage - I won't ever lie, and I actively look for the best in a situation, so I can continue to broadcast a good attitude to the teams that work for me."

Keep it short and sweet. A facet of your personality, a sentence on why it's great, and maybe a very short example of it is about all you need. Interview time is limited, so keep it short and to the point. And pick 1 or 2 thoughts, you'll never be able to describe all of what you are to an interviewer, so stick with the things you see as most important both to you and to the job.

Almost anything can be a negative to someone, so don't freak out if you state a strong example of your personality and then get turned down because of it. For example, if you're a really honest person with a strong sense of ethics, you may not fit well in a corporation where the culture frequently bends the rules and works on not getting caught. Figure that if they turn you down for being honest, you probably didn't want to work there anyway!

Lastly, actions do speak louder than words. And inconsistencies look worse than omissions. Don't draw attention to anything you just messed up. For example:

  • Don't claim you pay attention to detail and have a typo on your resume.
  • Don't claim you are always punctual and be late to the interview.
  • Don't claim you are very focused and then be continuously distracted and sidetracked in the course of answering questions.

In essence, saying a trait adds emphasis and attention, so make sure that you draw attention to your good behaviors rather than raising questions on whether you are clued in.

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When people volunteer such glowing praise of themselves, I tend to think they're covering up. I may take this as a challenge and ask you to give examples. Your words are going to get put undere close scrutiny. You don't "believe" in telling lies, but does that mean you've never told a lie.

Virtues like honesty and integrity are hard to convince someone in a short amount of time. This is something that must be earned by proving yourself day after day.

Focus on more work-related traits. Your work habits should reflect that you consistently display these skills. How do you take on new projects? Do you go through a meticulous task analysis or just keep waiting for the next fire to put out?

I've been in interviews where the interviewer proclaimed how hyper-organized they were, but showed up late (Maybe their car was parked in a neat and orderly fashion?). It would have been better to show up on time and leave a little doubt instead of making such a statement and removing all of it.

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