Questions About Your Self-Image

All interview questions are designed to establish one or more of the following: your capability, your commitment, and/or your compatibility. The three key questions from the interviewer's perspective are:

1) Can you do the job?
2) Will you do the job?
3) Will you fit in?

Giving an answer that implies a 'No' to any of these things will put you out of the running straightaway. If the interviewer believes that you are incapable of doing the job, you don't want to do the job, or you won't fit in then the interview is effectively over. When this happens the interviewer will almost always continue asking questions until the scheduled time is up. However, the answers tend not to be followed up with more probing questions because the interviewer is simply going through the motions and running the clock down. Another sign that this has happened is that the interviewer becomes noticeably more friendly and relaxed because there is no longer anything at stake.

Thinking about questions in terms of capability, commitment, and compatibility is helpful in both the preparation phase and when actually answering them. If you get into the habit of pausing for a second to consider why a particular question has been asked, you can give a much more focused answer than if you don't.

This applies to all interview questions but there are also some areas where the interviewer is trying to find out something specific. The rationale behind these questions may not be quite so clear cut as those that focus on the three 'C's' and you should think of them as being designed to find the best candidate rather than someone who simply fulfills the basic criteria.

Questions About Your Self-Image

Questions about how you see yourself form part of most interviews and they are important because even if someone is capable and committed and shares the values of the organization, they may lack the 'emotional intelligence' to work well with other people.

Obviously, it would be much better from the interviewer's perspective to see evidence of this for themselves - by observing the candidate's behavior in a group exercise, for example - but this is not always possible. Consequently, 'self-image' questions are sometimes used to gauge someone's level of emotional intelligence. Examples include:

Do you consider yourself a natural leader?
Some individuals will simply say 'Yes' and back this up with an example of either a work or leisure/social example. But not everyone is a 'natural' leader and your answer should be honest. You may prefer to describe yourself as a competent or confident leader, describing an instance of your leadership and its success.

Types of Questions About Your Self-Image

Tell me about yourself
This is often a favorite question in many preliminary or agency interviews and quite disorientating because it provides no focus or purpose. Give yourself a few seconds to structure your answer - take a sip of water, for example. Then open with something along the lines of:

'I believe that if you were to ask my colleagues and friends that question they would say that my best qualities were ... For instance, the time … illustrates …'

Keep your reply focused on the top three or four competencies of the role and use work-related illustrations where possible. It is often beneficial to intimate that this skill has also helped you socially, demonstrating that you are a well-rounded individual.

With carefully thought you could guide the interviewer to ask more direct questions that enable you to describe an event that outlines your suitability. Be relaxed and honest in your reply whilst at the same time being focused on showing you have the right attributes for the role. Give yourself three minutes or so to answer this question but be careful not to take over the interview or go on too long.

What would you say are your biggest accomplishments?
As with the previous question be honest and keep them work-related if possible. If you have achieved something significant outside of work then by all means use it as an example but try to relate it back to how it has helped you professionally.

Commitment question example

Select the most recent, but if a more historic event best illustrates a significant achievement then state why you have chosen this in your reply. For each accomplishment describe the situation, the challenges you faced, what you wanted to achieve, and the significance of the final accomplishment.

The most important thing when answering these questions is to be honest about yourself. The ideal candidate is someone who has the capability and commitment to do the job and has a sense of perspective about how they are going to fit in.

You may also be interested in:
Interview Questions | Interview Behavior | Capability Questions | Commitment Questions | Compatibility Questions | Questions About Your Self-Image | Questions About Your Application | Questions You Should Ask.

Key Points

  • The three key questions from the interviewer's perspective are: 'Can you do the job?,' 'Will you do the job?,' and 'Will you fit in?'
  • Giving an answer that implies a 'No' to any of these things will put you out of the running straightaway.
  • Questions about your self-image give the interviewer an idea of your level of emotional intelligence.
  • The ideal candidate is someone who is neither too egotistical nor retiring.
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