How to answer personal questions at a job interview?

When preparing for a job interview, many job seekers think through answers to possible questions in advance – about professional achievements, reasons for leaving their previous jobs, and career goals. But personal questions often catch you off guard. What does the recruiter want to know, asking, for example, about the reasons for divorce or the presence of chronic diseases in a child? How do you answer such questions, and should you? The team of made a few tips for you.

Why do recruiters ask these things?

In the vast majority of cases, it is not the idle curiosity of the recruiter but a particular goal – to create a more or less accurate psychological portrait of the candidate. Experienced hiring managers know that often the information that at first glance is not related to the applicant’s professional qualities says more about him than he says about himself. That is why many HR managers go into trouble with ethics and take an interest in the candidate’s private life.

For successful employment, psychologists advise not to neglect to answer personal questions if possible. “Why do you care?”, “Why do you need to know that?” – such counter-questions to the hiring manager are hardly suitable for your career. Try to find an opportunity to answer, and if the question seems too personal for you, politely and gently turn the conversation in another direction.

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The Apartment Question

“Do you live with your parents or separately?” – it would seem, what does this have to do with the future work as a sales manager? Meanwhile, a detailed answer to this question can tell about such personal characteristics of the applicant as maturity, independence, and responsibility towards family, as well as about their level of income. For example, suppose a candidate talks about high earnings at a previous job but lives in a one-room apartment with his parents or other relatives. In that case, the recruiter may question his sincerity and, therefore, his level of professionalism.

“Do you have your apartment or do you rent?” – is another general question at a job interview. At first glance, why does the recruiter care about the applicant’s real estate? Most likely, in this way, the hiring manager is trying to figure out your cost structure. It is one thing if the candidate has his place, another if he has to save a lot of money each month for a rented apartment, and a third if he is paying a mortgage. In addition, the answer to this question will help provide valuable information about your psychological profile – whether you are ready to respond thoughtfully to the credit institution.

About a woman’s 

Many young women have heard questions in interviews like, “When do you plan to have a baby?” But, of course, this is a very personal question, and it’s not uncommon for applicants to be at a loss for an answer. After all, having a baby is not always possible to plan precisely: it’s not just a matter of desire, but health.

The recruiter’s desire to know about your plans is understandable: not all employers are willing to invest resources in adapting an employee who plans to go on maternity leave soon. So how to answer this question, either directly or evasively? “We are not planning to have children shortly” – such an answer does not commit you to anything and, at the same time, somewhat dispels the employer’s fears.

“How often does your child get sick?” – is another personal question women often ask at job interviews. The recruiter does not care what kind of fever your baby has with a cold – he is more concerned about the frequency and duration of your sick days. It’s better to answer frankly because it makes a big difference for you, too: the hiring manager is asking you to prioritize. If your career is as important to you at the moment as raising your offspring, feel free to answer that you have someone to look after him. “The child is sick no less often than other children, but his grandmother (nanny, husband, etc.) is ready to stay with him,” such an answer will quite satisfy the employer.

About the secret

“Are you married?”, “Are you seeing anyone?”, “Are you planning to start a family?” – this is asked less often because information about marital status, in most cases, is listed on the resume. Psychologists believe that married people are more balanced and less prone to do unexpected things. And although one can argue with this, some employers still prefer, all other things being equal, to take married men as more reliable. Answering this question is, of course, better than being honest, especially since such information is easy to verify.

“Why aren’t you married?”, “Why are you divorced?”, “Why don’t you still have children?” – such questions, despite their obvious tactlessness, are also sometimes heard during interviews. So why do recruiters ask about such personal things? There are two possibilities – either the hiring manager is trying to create a psychological portrait of you in a particular way, or he is testing you for stress tolerance.

Whether or not to answer such questions is up to you since it is you and no one else who defines the boundaries of your personal space. The main thing is not to behave aggressively and thus demonstrate that you are a balanced person.

Free time

“What are your hobbies?”, “Do you have any hobbies?” – By asking these questions, the recruiter is trying to understand your temperament and character and whether you are suitable for the position in terms of personal qualities. If, for example, a candidate for the position of PR manager in a young and actively growing company said that they spent all weekend in a chair knitting, the hiring manager would have reasonable doubts about his sociability.

Are you a bookworm? 

“What was the last book you read?” – is a question for the candidate’s general development. What does he read – only professional literature, or does he find time to reread the classics? Although the objectivity of this methodology can be disputed, it still applies. You don’t need to make up a list of literature that you think will make you more competent in the eyes of the hiring manager. Better yet, name two books you’ve read recently: one on the profession and one on fiction. Doing so will show that you are developing not only as a professional but also as a person.

Personal questions are not uncommon at job interviews, and the way you answer them to some extent determines the decision to admit you to the new team. So when talking to a recruiter, be polite, diplomatic, and sincere. If you do not want to answer a particularly personal question, calmly and kindly say that you are not ready to discuss it now.

Your attitude toward people of certain religions, nationalities, backgrounds, languages, etc

In a normal society, such things should not be outside of a healthy relationship, both working and personal. However, suppose an employer poses such questions. In that case, he probably either wants to test you to see if you conform to company values, such as accepting diversity, or, conversely, if you have radical views in that direction.

From an employer’s point of view, the right thing to do is to ask the candidate if they are willing to work with people of different opinions. In some cases, however, this personal question helps identify candidates who do not fit the company’s values.

How much do you currently earn, or what is your family’s combined income?

This question does not concern the recruiter at all. In this case, you can get away with saying you can’t disclose such information – you and each of your employed family members may have signed a non-disclosure of business information with your employer, which includes salary information. Therefore, this question is more than incorrect.

How often do you get sick?

Such a question shows not that the recruiter cares but the culture in the company, where it is not customary to take sick leave, and illnesses are experienced “on their feet.” No matter how you look at it, even people with health, like astronauts, can sometimes get seasonal colds and get sick. No one is immune from this, so that’s the answer.

Do you have any bad habits?

Usually, the recruiter implies cigarettes and alcohol and wants to know how their consumption affects your work process and whether you will constantly go out for “smoke breaks.” If you smoke, for example, tell the recruiter that it will not affect your work. That said, it is also a personal choice of each person, so your main task is to emphasize that it does not affect the quality of your work.

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