“How would you describe yourself?” is a common question asked at the start of a job interview. This question is similar to others like: “tell me about yourself” or “how would other people describe you?” The question is meant to help the interviewer identify your main characteristics.
Although this question sounds simple, you may feel stressed about being asked to explicitly describe yourself to an employer. What should you mention? What should you leave out?
In this guide, we’re going to talk through how to answer this common interview question. We’ll also walk through a few examples to help you craft your answer.
Why Are Employers Asking Me to Describe Myself?
There are a couple of reasons why employers ask this question. The first is that it gives an employer a clear insight into how you think about yourself. If you say that you are ambitious, an employer will be able to quickly learn how much you value long-term personal and professional growth.
This question also helps a recruiter evaluate whether you are the right culture-fit for a particular position. An employer will use your answer to analyze whether your personal attributes meet what the business looks for in team members. For instance, if the role you are applying for involves working on a team for most of your day, the company will want to make sure that you have good team working skills.
How to Answer “How Would You Describe Yourself?”
When you are asked this question, an employer wants to learn more about the specific qualities you have that you think best describe you. Here are a few tips you can use to answer this question effectively:
#1: Reflect on your core strengths
While the fact this question is open-ended may make it feel more intimidating to answer, this is actually to your advantage. Because the question is open-ended, you can take your answer in whatever direction you want.
Before your interview begins, take some time to think about your core strengths. What characteristics have set you apart in your previous positions? For instance, if you have always been good at staying organized, you may want to mention this in your response.
#2: Ask others to describe you
Asking former colleagues to describe you is a good way to learn more about the main characteristics you possess.
Suppose you ask a former co-worker to describe you. They may tell you that they thought you were reliable, honest, and always followed through on the tasks to which they had committed. Having this information will help you craft a more effective response to this interview question.
However, you shouldn’t give too much weight to what other people say about you. Ultimately, an employer wants to know how you would describe yourself. They want to know about the attributes that best reflect who you are as a worker. With that said, having a good understanding of how other people with whom you have worked perceive you is still helpful and may help you identify personal strengths of which you are not aware.
#3: Think about the job description
When answering this question, you should avoid just listing a few words that describe who you are as a worker. Instead, you should match your skills and qualifications to the description of the job for which you have applied.
If you are applying for a job as a sales manager, you may want to highlight how you are a good leader. Leadership is an essential skill in any managerial role, and if you say that you are a good leader, that will make it easier for an employer to see that you are qualified for the position.
#4: Use examples
“Show, don’t tell” is a useful rule to follow when answering this question. While it may feel tempting just to talk about why you think a word describes who you are, it is best to instead focus on specific examples of where you have applied a particular attribute.
If you can give an example or two of how you have applied a character trait, an employer will find it easier to relate to your experience. They’ll also be able to gain more context into how you work, which will help them gain a firmer sense of your past experience and how it has prepared you for the position.
Example Answers to “How Would You Describe Yourself?”
How you respond to this question should be based on the unique attributes you think you possess. So, if you are not a people person, you would not want to mention that in your response to this question.
Here are a few example answers which you can use to craft your response to this question:
Example #1: I am reliable.
A reliable candidate is someone that an employer can trust to follow through on all their commitments and deliver work of high quality by the required deadlines. This quality is highly valued in all jobs, especially those which are fast-paced and involve adhering to strict deadlines.
I am a highly reliable person. I take a lot of notes and make use of a number of software tools to help me keep track of my commitments. This allows me to prioritize my work appropriately, and ensure that I am always working on the task that deserves my attention. In my last role, for example, I was able to exceed my customer service performance metrics every month.
Example #2: I am a people person.
People skills go a long way in business. Workers who work well with others are more likely to be effective team contributors and boost morale among colleagues. People skills are especially useful in outward-facing positions, like working in sales or a job where you need to work directly with customers.
I am a people person. I love meeting and working with new people, and I enjoy empathizing with others and getting to know the specific problems they are facing. In my previous position as a retail associate, I built up extensive experience responding to the needs of customers who entered our store. This helped me boost customer satisfaction, and led to a number of customers leaving a positive review to my manager.
Example #3: I am resourceful.
Being resourceful means that you can use the materials and information you already have and come up with a creative solution to a problem. Resourcefulness is an especially useful attribute in creative environments, where you may need to stretch a limited amount of resources to solve a difficult problem.
I am a resourceful person. I enjoy breaking down complex problems, analyzing their components, and figuring out how I can come up with an effective solution to those problems. I also enjoy working through problems with tight boundaries, as it encourages me to think of more efficient and cost-effective ways to do things. In fact, in my last job as an office manager, I was able to indirectly boost client retention by 20% in one year, as a result of a number of improvements I made to the work environments with a limited budget.
Example #4: I am dedicated and persistent.
A dedicated and persistent worker is someone who will work hard to achieve a goal, even under difficult circumstances. People with these character traits are valued by employers because they are more likely to keep going even when they face professional challenges, and are more committed to their work.
I am a dedicated and persistent person. I take great pride in working hard on every task that is assigned to me, and ensuring that work meets my own set of standards before I complete it. Also, I don’t like giving up when I encounter a tough problem. Instead, I enjoy analyzing problems in-depth, and trying as many different approaches as necessary until I find an appropriate solution to the problem. These skills helped me exceed my quarterly sales goals by at least 10% in every quarter last year in my last job.
Example #5: I am ambitious.
An ambitious candidate is someone who can think big and spends their time actively thinking about their future. Ambitious candidates are valued by employers because they are more likely to strive to improve themselves and the quality of their work.
I am incredibly ambitious. I enjoy setting high goals for myself, so that I always have a clear set of direction in my work. I work best when I am either learning new skills or applying skills I have recently learned to the job. I enjoy actively receiving feedback from team members as well. In my last job, I was able to improve the speed of one of our core web applications by 15%, even though the initial goal was 5%.
Being asked to describe yourself may feel awkward. There’s so much you could talk about and so little time in which to craft a response.
Before you commence a job interview, you should spend time thinking about your core attributes and how they relate to the position you’re vying for. Then, identify where there are overlaps between your skills and the skills required by a position. This will help you clearly communicate your value in a job interview.
By following the tips in this article, you should be able to effectively describe yourself in a job interview. Your answer to “how would you describe yourself” may be what encourages an employer to schedule another interview with you, so you should make it count!
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