If you had to describe yourself in five words, what words would you use and why?
What would your answer to this question be? My answer to this question would be: dedicated, self-critical, friendly, collaborative and passionate. Let’s not dive deeper into the why, but you get the gist.
Well, in fact, this is one of the questions that often gets asked in interviews throughout the hiring process. Yes, you want to know whether the candidate is qualified for the position, yet you also somehow need to be able to figure out whether the candidate will work well within the specific team dynamics and working environment.
What options are out there for assessing the personality fit of candidates? Look no further – just continue reading this blog and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect solution for your needs! 😉
Personality: what is it?
You and I are not the same person, we’re both unique in how we perceive the world, how we act, how we think and how we communicate. Yet, what is it exactly that makes each of us unique?
This has all to do with personality.
To fully grasp and understand a concept, it’s always important to first define it. According to Merriam-Webster, personality is defined as: ” the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group”.
Britannica defines it as follows: “personality embraces moods, attitudes, and opinions and is most clearly expressed in interactions with other people. It includes behavioral characteristics, both inherent and acquired, that distinguish one person from another and that can be observed in people’s relations to the environment and to the social group”. Whereas, American Psychological Association states that “personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving”.
Yes, there are other definitions too, but these three should give a solid starting point.
When it comes to hiring new employees, many companies are looking for a certain type of personality or fit. Research has, in fact, shown that personality contributes to work-related outcomes and behaviours, such as job satisfaction and job performance.
It’s commonly assumed that someone who works for Sales is meant to be more extroverted and social than, for example, a data analyst whose role is primarily focused on doing tasks individually.
Personality fit and hiring for company fit
Personality also influences the fit between a person and their company or team, i.e., the similarity between a candidate’s values, and those of the company or team they are working in. Please do not mistake this for hiring people that are like-minded to sustain a certain status quo (by the way, this is commonly referred to as hiring for “culture fit”).
Instead, company fit is more about the match between the actual working environment and the kind of working environment the candidate would prefer to work in. Whether it be more collaborative vs. individualistic, flexible or rigid, and so on.
Picture this – in a company where there is a high level of autonomy, someone who prefers a more structured environment is less likely to succeed. And vice versa.
From another point of view, however, company matching is not always a good thing. Especially if some values are not forward thinking and serve to exclude large proportions of society. As addressing inequalities and reducing bias in the hiring process, assessing personality fit can help you find candidates in terms of what they could potentially bring to your company and so increase diversity, aka “culture add”.
Hiring for company fit isn’t about finding copy-cats but finding diverse individuals who work well together. It’s about embracing individual differences and celebrating those together.
Assess personality fit interview questions
The question still stands – how can you assess personality fit before making a hiring decision? After all, personality cannot be assessed by simply looking at a CV. A well-written CV and a confident attitude in a face-to-face interview aren’t enough for recruiters to decide whether a candidate is the right person for a role.
The most common way of doing so is by arranging personality fit interviews before making a hiring decision.
What do personality fit interview questions reveal
Personality fit questions focus on how the candidate absorbs and understands information, leadership under pressure, organizational skills and time management, process and rational thought. On top of that, they can also reveal the candidates’ flexibility, team spirit, what are their aspirations, work ethics and openness to change, for example.
What interview structure allows to best assess candidates personality?
According to research, a structured interview is more reliable, valid, and less discriminatory than an unstructured interview. When you structure your interview process, the assessment of personality becomes a designed process. Every question should be carefully chosen to assess the candidate’s skills and knowledge.
On top of that, make sure to consider the following:
- If your organization is cool with open office spaces and employs millennials, ask personality fit questions that reveal how a certain trait might affect their environment.
- For more traditional workers, more closed-ended personality questions may be more appropriate.
By contrasting popular personality fit question styles and consulting with HR, hiring managers can better decide when to use which style.
50 interview questions that will help you assess personality fit
Everybody knows the basic job interview questions. When it comes to interviews, personality and culture fit are extremely important. Candidate personality fit interview questions are only suitable for certain situations, but they can provide tremendous insight into whether or not a person will fit well with your team.
Here is a list of 50 candidate personality fit interview questions that you can ask during your next job interview.
- Tell me about yourself.
- How do you define success?
- If your manager asked you to complete a task you thought impossible at first, how would you go about it?
- Tell me about a time you had to fill in for someone. How did it go? How did the experience make you feel?
- Tell me about a time you missed (or almost missed) a deadline. How did you react when you realized you were falling behind? What did that experience teach you?
- Do you prefer working in a team or on your own? Why?`
- If you could change one thing about your personality at the snap of your fingers what would it be and why?
- Tell me about a time your manager wasn’t satisfied with the results of your work. How did you resolve the issue? Would you do something differently the next time?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is your favourite book and why?
- Do you prefer working collaboratively or independently?
- How do you handle negative feedback?
- If you had to describe yourself in five words, what words would you use and why?
- Would you describe yourself as more of an introvert or extrovert? Why?
- What are your five biggest weaknesses?
- What are your five biggest strengths?
- What makes you unique?
- How do you handle positive feedback?
- What drives you in your professional life?
- Are you easy to talk to and get along with?
- If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?
- Do you have a healthy work-life balance?
- How would you describe your typical work week?
- Tell me about a time when you had to motivate a coworker. How did you go about it?
- Are you good at setting boundaries?
- If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
- Which superhero would you want to be and why?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What role do you assume when you work within a team? Are you more of a leader or follower?
- Do you prefer more flexibility or structure?
- How do you approach problems? What is your process?
- Tell me about a time when you used creativity to overcome a dilemma.
- What’s the best idea you’ve come up with on a team-based project?
- Name three improvements you made in your most recent position.
- What do you do if you disagree with another team member?
- Have you ever made a mistake?
- Are you more casual or informal?
- Do you tend to be big-picture-oriented or detail-oriented?
- Tell me about a time when you had to get your ideas across to your team through written communication.
- Describe a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to someone else.
- Give me an example of a time when you felt appreciated for something you did well.
- Give me an example of a time when you experienced a lot of change at work. How did that impact you?
- What do you dislike doing?
- How do you feel when someone interrupts you while you are in the middle of an important task?
- Would you describe yourself as more analytical or creative?
- What are your hobbies outside of work?
- What’s one personality trait that you’re proud of?
- What motivates you in your current job?
- What’s one personality trait of your’s that needs some improvement?
- Why is it important to this new job to improve this personality trait?
The wrong Personality fit: it's important to see the red flags too
Beyond the obvious like storming off the interview and slamming the door behind their backs, there’s a few other things you should be on the lookout for when assessing personality fit.
Lack of passion for the role, company etc.
Is it important for you to hire someone who is truly passionate about what you do as a company? Or are you hiring this person for more administrative tasks.
Extreme focus on work.
Not always being extremely focused on work is the best way to approach things. Work-life balance is equally important.
Rehearsed answers to questions.
Does this person come across as genuine when they answers your questions, or do their answers seem memorized?
Is cursing something that is a characteristic to the company culture or the team? Or is it a possibly that it will make others uncomfortable?
Complaining or gossiping.
Especially when asked about previous jobs, does this person only complain or gossip?
No learning experiences.
Is the candidate able to reflect on their past & identify what they could have done better and how? Is this important for the role you’re hiring for?
Should personality fit interviews be used in hiring processes? 6 reasons why not.
Inaccurate and unreliable results
There is a high likelihood that the candidates you’re interviewing will answer based on what they think you expect/want them to say rather than what their true personalities are like. This is called the social desirability bias. Be honest with me, how would you answer this question during the hiring process: ‘Do you prefer working collaboratively or independently?’
You might start wondering what this question is intended to measure, and in what way you can respond to get a higher chance of proceeding to the next stages in recruitment.
On top of that, I dare you to take a second and do a simple google search for “how to answer personality interview questions” and I guarantee you will see hundreds of articles pop up on the best ways of answering these questions.
That’s exactly where the danger lies – candidates can prepare their answers to these questions, thus leading to unreliable assessment from your side on whether they are actually fit for the role or not.
No standardized way of presenting results
Personality fit interview questions are more focused on people’s personal preferences when it comes to doing things or their way of approaching certain situations. It is not per se their main goal to explicitly (and accurately evaluate how well each candidate will perform when it comes to specific skills, aptitudes, abilities or other actual job-success related aspects.
Let’s take the following question as an example:
Would you describe yourself as more of an introvert or extrovert? Why?
Categorizing people into groups, in this case – introvert and extrovert, might cause an (over)simplification of interpreting people, ultimately generating unwanted stereotyped filters while screening for candidates. What if you don’t find yourself nor an introvert nor extrovert? Is there a middle ground?
Using personality fit interview questions, thus allows for no standardized way of presenting results as each candidate you interview will give a different answer to your question and it will become gradually more difficult to compare candidates amongst each other. Ultimately, resulting in – hiring decisions made based on gut feeling & influenced by your implicit bias.
Think about it, most of these questions focus on the candidate’s behavioural style rather than their actual knowledge or professional expertise – which means that the bulk of information gathered from these questions is subjective, not objective. And that can lead to a lot of problems in the long run.
Your own implicit bias can impact the way you see a candidate
Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, when we actually screen the candidates for something so intangible such as personality fit, our very own biases can still influence the hiring decisions we make.
Let’s imagine a situation where you think you have found the perfect candidate. They’re likable, friendly, with an amazing educational background and work experiences, and they seem like the most sociable person ever. They answer all the personality fit related questions exactly the way you expected them to. So, based on your first impression and gut feeling – you hire them. It takes one-tenth of a second to make a wrong judgment about someone, and thus, it comes as no surprise that first impressions can be misleading.
We often tend to hire people based on what we can see, while a person’s fit depends on what we can’t see. Think about it this way, can you determine someone’s fit for the job, or their personality and talent right away just by looking at their resume or motivational letter? Or simply by having a chat with them once? Even if your answer to this question is yes, let me remind you that often these judgments are influenced by your very own bias.
It may screen out qualified candidates
Once bias creeps in your hiring process, your talent pool becomes less diverse and inclusive. And based on your assumptions of which candidates are a personality fit, you might end up actually screening out qualified candidates that are better suited for the job.
For many jobs, for example, there isn’t a mainstream personality that fits the job type. Basing hiring decisions solely on personality fit may exclude talented candidates who think outside the box.
Let’s say you receive 20 CVs on a job, and spend at least a minute per application on scanning the resume. Out of these 20 people, you invite 2 to an interview, and eventually, only one gets hired.
Now, let’s say your job posting receives 200 CVs. Now, you not only need to scan 200 CVs, but you also need to decide which candidates out of these 200 will be invited for an interview. And even though that doesn’t sound so bad, it actually is. Because how can you decide which candidates are the best suited for a role by just taking a short glimpse at their CV? You simply cannot. So then you’ll probably end up interviewing more people than you should.
If the process of screening and interviewing candidates takes too much time, it will result in:
- Candidates losing interest in the job and pursuing other opportunities instead (the top prospect candidates are off the market in 10 days).
- When your company has a long recruitment process, potential candidates might feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organisation and withdraw themselves from the job application process.
- Candidates might feel that the company lacks innovation and motivation as well.
- A long screening and interviewing process that will damage your employer brand image and the candidate experience.
- On top of that, this might drive you in a corner – you will start to hire anyone that applies, without taking into consideration their suitability for the role – just to fill the role.
It leads to you blindly guessing who you need
You probably think that you know precisely what would make someone successful in your company, what skills they need and what kind of a person they must be. The fact that you have this idea of what makes someone a top-performer in your team at the moment, does not mean that they are the best out there. Or that hiring someone who possesses the same traits will automatically take your business to the next level.
If you blindly guess what you should be looking for in a new hire, especially when it comes to personality, you will end up:
- Rejecting the best candidates
- Wasting time on unfit candidates during the screening & interview process
- Eventually making mishires
- Decreasing your hiring efficiency and simultaneously – hiring quality
- And ultimately, significantly slowing down your company growth.
What you can do instead: Assess personality fit through traditional personality assessments
According to SHRM, nearly one out of four companies uses personality tests to evaluate candidates in the hiring process. Many organizations understand that personality tests are a powerful tool to use in the hiring process, in order to get to know candidates better. Personality tests measure traits, such as, for example, extraversion or conscientiousness, or give insights into someone’s personality type.
At the core of personality tests or questionnaires is the idea that it is possible to quantify one’s intrinsic personality characteristics by asking a multitude of questions related to an individuals’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Two of the most popular personality tests include: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality traits.
However, many of today’s most popular tests were not designed to be used in the hiring process. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator & DiSC were created for career development and training, and most definitely not for hiring.
It even states that on their websites:
Therefore, using questions from these tests that you found online (or to be honest, the tests themselves) in the hiring process can & will most definitely lead to skewed results. The popular psychology author, Roman Krznaric, even observed that “if you retake the test after only a five-week gap, there’s around a 50% chance that you will fall into a different personality category”. For example, Adam Grant, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, compares the MBTI to “a physical exam that ignores your torso and one of your arms.”
However, personality fit is not the best determinant of future job success…
If your hiring process relies primarily on assessing personality fit through interviews or personality tests, you are choosing to use a process that is significantly less effective than it could be if more effective measures were incorporated.
Yes personality can be useful when assessing candidates fit with the company and team, yet according to research (as you can see in the table below) there are other measures with higher predictive validity, such as emotional intelligence or cognitive ability.
Psst…on top of that conducting interviews with candidates before having prior insights gathered in a objective manner can actually lead to you making mishires…