If all that mattered were the skills you can bring to a job, a potential employer would need only to look at your resume and hire you based on what she sees there. However, there's so much more to finding the right person to fill a job opening. An interviewer is responsible for making sure the person she hires is a good fit. What that means is that the job candidate's personality must mesh well with others in the workplace. It also means that the candidate has what it takes to do the job effectively. Aside from tangible skills, that can mean energy, ambition, patience, and other things that make up who you are. That is why an interviewer will ask you questions that might seem to have little to do with your ability to do the job for which you are interviewing.
Tips for Answering Personal Questions
When answering personal questions you want to be honest, but you certainly don't want to reveal more about yourself than necessary. Keep your answers short and to the point. Only answer the question the interviewer is asking you. For example, if you have a short temper, but can manage to control it on the job, no one needs to know about that. You want to present yourself in the best possible light.
Make sure your answers highlight your professional character, including thoroughness, diligence, and accountability. Demonstrate how you gather resources, predict obstacles, and manage stress. Offer proof of your effectiveness, including your creativity, initiative, resourcefulness, and leadership. Think of examples you can provide for each.
Focus on how you overcome problems, how you take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked, and how you rally the support of others to accomplish goals. Talk about the management style and the interpersonal skills you use with peer groups and leaders. Demonstrate the kind of boss, colleague, and employee you will be.
Sample Personal Questions
Tell me about yourself.
This seems like a very broad request — one that can go in many different directions. Your goal when answering this question is to provide the interviewer with information that reveals things about yourself that make you the perfect employee. Use this opportunity to talk about an accomplishment or something that sets you apart from every other job candidate. Did you win a special award? Did you complete an important project? The employer doesn't want to know how many siblings you have, if you have children, or if you are married. He wants to know what you can bring to his company.
What is your biggest weakness?
This is where you can really mess up. The trick here is to pick a weakness that can be seen as a strength, or one that you have turned into a strength. For example, you can say you are a perfectionist, but that may be a problem since perfectionists sometimes can't get their work done quickly enough. So you can say you were a perfectionist, but have learned to do an excellent job quickly and efficiently. Alternatively, you can talk about a weakness that is fairly innocent. For example you can say, “My weakness is chocolate.”