Ask a Recruiter Blog

Ask a Recruiter: How Personal to get During Job Interviews

Welcome to our Ask a Recruiter Series, where our Creative Talent Representatives answer your burning questions related to job hunting, resume submission, portfolios, and more.

This month, meet Suzanne Shannon! Sue is a Senior Talent Acquisition Manager who specializes in sourcing perfect job candidates for new, exciting roles nationwide. 

Q: I've been getting lots of interviews lately, but I'm still unsure about how forthcoming to be with "the real me." How personal should I get in a job interview?

A: Personality and culture fit are an important part of a Hiring Manager’s decision in selecting the right candidate. An interview isn’t just an opportunity to learn more about your work history and skill set — it’s an opportunity to learn more about you. Volunteering some strategic personal information can be a great way to show your passion and strength. There are, of course, topics to avoid such as politics, personal finances, or legal trouble, but when in doubt make sure the information you’re sharing is positive, appropriate, relevant, and illustrative of why you’re an amazing hire. And as with any interaction, pay attention to the cues your interviewer is sending you.

Now, it may sometimes feel as though you must disclose personal information. Maybe you took a year off for a medical procedure or to care for an aging parent or a new baby. Whether or not you disclose the reason for your employment gap beyond "personal leave" depends purely on your own comfort level.

In fact, much of your personal information is considered legally protected if it has anything to do with sex, race, religion, or your (or your family’s) health (see #5 in this post for more info). Interviewers are rarely permitted to ask about these topics. When the answer to an otherwise benign question happens to touch on these protected characteristics, anything you choose to share is at your discretion. Has the company or interviewer touted a compassionate management model or a prioritization of inclusiveness? Then speak your truth, especially if that type of company culture is important to you. If you choose not to share, do so with the assurance that you’re not withholding or omitting information — you're simply exercising best interview practices for supporting fair hiring.

Basically, be confident in presenting yourself as a complete person in your interview.

  • Mention your volunteer endeavors or life-changing experiences as they relate to your career
  • Share stories that exhibit your early interest in your field
  • Definitely mention how you taught yourself coding on a computer you built from spare parts when you were 10

But steer clear of cute stories that won’t set you apart. Every Graphic Designer likely discovered their creative spirit as a kid so opt for the more unique aspects of your history. Finding common ground is also a great way to impress an interviewer. While doing your required pre-interview research, did you learn that you’re both avid gardeners? When it comes to hobbies we’re passionate about, there’s always an organic way to work it into any conversation.

Bottom line: Your resume is likely what got you in the door, but your personal connection to your career is what will get you on the team.

Need more help? Consider signing up with a staffing agency like Artisan. Practicing your interview skills with a Recruiter is a great idea. 

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About the Author

Suzanne is a Senior Talent Acquisition Manager and has been going Suzanne Whitestrong with Artisan for 11 years now.

She has a background in photography and is fascinated by the power of good design. An avid gardener and home renovator, she can build a bike from scratch but simply can't figure out how a modern TV remote works.

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