Interview Tips

Can you use personal examples in a job interview?

I'm Jenna

With over 13+ years experience leading people and a HR designation, I have heard and seen it all when it comes to interviews. I'm here to share my interviewing tips, guidance + perspective on prepping for your next job interview.

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Have you ever found yourself in a job interview answering the question and mid-way through thought, why am I sharing this right now? Maybe you’ve been asked a question about the last time you shared feedback, and you find yourself sharing an example about asking your partner not to leave dirty dishes in the sink. 

While sharing this feedback with your partner may have been a game-changer for you, it might not be the best example to showcase your rockstar communication skills per se.

As a person who’s taken two parental leaves (career breaks), I understand that sometimes our most recent, relevant examples are from our personal lives. I encourage you to share them IF you don’t have a work example.

Note: It is crucial that when you’re sharing all of the fantastic skills you’ve honed during your time away that you tie them back and make a connection to the job you’ve applied for.

Now, going back to answering the question, “can I use personal examples in a job interview’?, you CAN share examples that mix personal life with your career. Naturally, our behaviours and tendencies cross over our personal and professional lives. 

We are who we are. Likely, how you communicate at home is how you communicate at work. 

Keep in mind job interviews exist for you to highlight and share your examples and experiences that best represent you, letting the interviewer know why they should choose you over someone else for the job.

The best way for the interviewer to learn this from you is by using examples that showcase you already performing the role’s duties and applying the expected skills in a work setting. Using these examples helps the interviewer visualize you in the position already.  

To reiterate, when using personal examples in a job interview, consider tying it back and making a connection to the position you’ve applied for.

To support you in navigating this further, here are 3 things to remember to ensure you share the most relevant examples in your next job interview.

Let’s dive straight to #1.

1. Review the job posting.  

What are the top skills, abilities and experiences the hiring manager is looking for based on the job posting? 

Identify them in advance and consider developing a list of examples showcasing your abilities in action.

These are the examples I encourage you to lean into sharing. 

2. Next up, know that the first example that comes to mind isn’t necessarily the best one to share. 

Your job interview isn’t a multiple-choice pop quiz! While for some things in life, the suggestion is to go with whatever comes to mind first, I recommend you take your time before responding in job interviews. 

Pause, and consider your options. 

Write down the question, and take 30 seconds to identify the best example you’d like to showcase your skill and ability. Remember, there’s no need to rush. 

3. And another essential reminder, keep it simple. 

When thinking of examples, you may find that there are so many details in your story. That can make it challenging to determine what to include and what not. Remember, less is more. If the interviewer wants more detail on something, they’ll ask. Only the relevant context is necessary.

For more interview prep advice and tips check out other Own The Interview resources such as the Own Your Career podcast. Haven’t listened yet?

Start with this quick 10 minute episode, Have you ever considered there are NO rules to interviewing?  And don’t forget to tell me what you think!

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Hi, I'm Jenna.
Your new career and interview prep coach.

I'm incredibly passionate about supporting people to walk into their job interviews with confidence. With 13+ years experience leading people and a HR designation, I have heard and seen it all when it comes to interviews.

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