Understanding Personality During the Job Interview, Part 1

Understanding Personality During the Job Interview, Part 1

Would you agree that there are different types of people out there? Of course you would. Would you also agree that you will likely see different personality types among the interviewers you encounter during your job search? I’m sure you would. Let me provide you with some insight into how to navigate various personalities during the job interview.

There are many personality assessments out there: I use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the world’s most widely used personality instrument. I particularly love the MBTI because, as an actual psychological instrument, it can provide people with an incredibly deep understanding of themselves and others.

Here’s the first preference pair I want to discuss:


This facet of personality type has to do with how you take in information. Sensors are the ones who love details and facts, operate in the here and now, are resistant to change, and take things literally. Intuitives are the ones who are big-picture oriented, future-focused, welcome change, and are very good at seeing patterns and relationships between things.


How does this play out in the interview? Put simply, some of the people you will interview with will want answers delivered in a very systematic, linear way, with lots of detail (these are the Sensors). Others will want the overall scope, will appreciate your use of metaphors and word pictures, and are okay if you aren’t linear in your answers (these are the Intuitives).


How do you know which type your interviewer is? Listen for cues in how he/she speaks. If you have contact with the interviewer prior to the interview, pay attention to the tenor of that contact. Here are some key words that may help you hone in on how your interviewer takes in information:


Realistic vs. Inventive

Reasonable vs. Potential

Grounded vs. Imaginative

Literal vs. Theoretical

Actual vs. Figurative

Sensible vs. Conceptual

Experience vs. Possibility

Present vs. Future

Pragmatic vs. Ideas

Detail-Oriented vs. Big-Picture Focus


-Provide rich details for the Sensors, and tell your stories in a linear fashion

-Provide word pictures, associations, and metaphors for the Intuitives—think big picture


If you’re in a group interview, it’s a good idea to do both. Does this seem impossible? Two pieces of advice: Give equally to both groups, and avoid extremes. Provide some detail, provide some big picture. Give facts, offer possibilities. Ever spent any time around someone who you thought lived in “la la land?” Ever spent any time around someone who bored you to tears with details? These are the extremes of Sensing and Intuition, and you’re likely to turn one (or more) of the interviewees off by responding too figuratively or too literally.

Keep in mind that one of these preferences is innate to you and one is more like speaking a foreign language. The bottom line is: you’re in their country, so it’s incumbent upon you to speak their language.

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