Why Interviewers See Attitude and Personality as Job “Skills”

I’ve recently gotten some comments that express frustration about interviewers who seem to place more emphasis on personality than skills when assessing whether a candidate is right for the job. And more than a few of my Work Coach Cafe posts also suggest these are important areas to think about, both in interviews and the workplace.

I know that seems unfair to some of you, but here’s the basic truth behind who we want to hire: a successful employee not only has technical skills and talents that fit the job, s/he has to be someone we want  to work with on a daily basis – and who, in a time of crisis or when faced with challenges, will rise to the occasion with positive supportive energy.

So how can an interviewer know all THAT about you?

No guarantee they can. But their job is to use the interview process – as well as references of course – to try to see what you’d be like to work with. Basic skills are important, but in many cases they can be learned. Who you are as a person in the workplace and how you deal with people and the demands of the job rise to a different level – let’s call it a 3rd dimension that goes beyond the ability to perform day-to-day tasks. In many cases, your success as an employee depends as much on how you handle yourself day-in and day-out as on how well you do the required tasks.

I’ve seen talented people fail miserably at their jobs because they didn’t know how to navigate the human obstacle course that is the world of work. Your personality and attitude can make all the difference. And when I say personality, I don’t mean you have to be the star of the show – in fact that can be annoying if never lets up. It just means someone who would fit well with the office culture and be someone they enjoy interacting with day after day.

And so the stories you tell in an interview about how you handled things in the past and the way you behave during the interview provides important information to the interviewer. When you read articles on this or other blogs that talk about things an interviewer is looking for or impressions you might have left, rather than seeing this as “wrong” and therefore dismissing the validity of the entire interview process (not that there aren’t many MANY flaws), please know that interviewers are just trying to find a great fit for the company as well as the specific job. Since there is no way to know for sure, they have to look for cues.

It’s not just a skills thing

If it were just a skills thing, then every potential employee would be given a test and the highest scorer would get the job. That would sure be easier for those of us who do interviews. But it would not make for the most pleasant or effective workplace. People skills and how you handle things in life are probably your most valuable work skills.

If you really get that, you have an important key not only to the interview process, but to the rest of your career. And the best thing is, you can take those skills with you wherever you go!

More from Work Coach Cafe

15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After an Interview

10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Although I have been on both sides of this issue (interviewee and interviewer), I must agree. These days that “fit” thing is very important. The right person in the wrong enviroment will make themselves and possibly everyone else unhappy.

    • Hi jcny!

      Really appreciate your visit and comment. Since I know this is something that really frustrates some job seekers, helps to have other people say this really does matter. Hope you’re doing well.

  2. I know…I wish it WASN’T such a big part of the search. In my 18 month job search in ’09-10, I cannot tell you how many times I would come out of an interviewing knowing I could do any part of the job and still I didn’t get it. Many times it was the fit thing.

    Incidentally, almost all the struggles I have had in my new role are cultural issues…..or “fit”.

    • Thanks, jcny. It’s one of the toughest parts about the workplace. I’m on vacation now and just met a friend who went through quite a few wrong fit, but I am happy to report she finally found a great fit. I wish the same for you either in your present job or elsewhere one day. ;-)

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