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When to Talk About Your Personal Life in a Job Interview

“Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.”

It’s one of the standard interview questions, granted, but one that can make or break a job interview much easier than others. While you can say something like “I’m a hard worker. I pay my taxes. I’m punctual and functional, and just renewed my nuptials,” all the employer is hearing from you is, “I am as average and generic as the response I’m giving you.”

The best way to avoid that is to use interview questions like this to talk about your personal life and be liberal with embellishing how you go through your day with workplace precision and efficiency. Tell them about how you’re taking that class on programming because even though school’s out you like learning and love challenging yourself. It shows you’re a self-motivated worker bee that lives life by rising to the occasion. If you’ve ever saved someone’s life (or been the first to call in a car accident) tell that story. It shows that you can react quickly and know exactly what to do under pressure. Do you see the pattern?

However, remember that this is a treacherous tight rope you’re walking. It is easy to get carried away or even go on a tangent with personal life stories, and that can lead to fewer solutions and more problems during the job interview. Be concise and focused with your responses. For those who have never heard of this, a good idea would be to check out the STAR Method of Behavioral Interviewing. This is more or less the standard for answering these character interview questions and will safely guide you home if followed correctly. It’s a great tool for practicing responses in the job interview and is a great confidence builder for those who are not great at thinking on their feet.

The STAR Method of Behavioral Interviewing is great because it keeps you from making the biggest mistake you can: giving too much unimportant personal information.

Unless your employer has a talking bass mounted behind his or her desk and a deer-antler picture frame from Bass Pro Shop with a picture of him or her wearing a shirt saying “Live for Fish,” do not talk about the catfish you caught on the annual family getaway. These homey quips only serve to lower your esteem in their eyes because they show that you do not know how to analyze a situation and that you are prone to nervousness or buckle under pressure. None of these look good on any resume- or in a job interview.

If you are unsure of how to answer these interview questions about your personal life, stick to the STAR Method and it’ll make your whole job interview go smoother. Interview questions are not the end of the world and should not be seen as hurdles that need to be overcome. Instead, you should look at them as windows that allow you the opportunity to show the best part of you to the only person you need to impress at that moment: the employer. Good luck in your interview!

Have you struggled with answering interview questions focused on your personal life? Let us know about it in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Written by

Bane is a Purdue graduate and has been through a lot of the trials and tribulations every job seeker goes through. He is looking to spread his knowledge so that other job seekers don't make the same mistakes. Learning by doing is fine, but knowledge is king.

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  • seangraw

    I think talking a bit about family can be positive in an interview. A job candidate doesn’t need to give a play-by-play recap of the birth of their first child, but letting a prospective employer know that you value your family will let them know you’re a responsible individual who knows how to look out for someone other than yourself.

    • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

      @seangraw Certainly. Talking about family can also be a great small talk topic. Of course, small talk is also a great time to talk about things that truly matter in terms of the job interview. Check out our article on “how to make small talk count:” http://blog.sparkhire.com/2012/03/23/making-small-talk-count/ Thank you for your comment!