Unless your potential employer goes for a very unconventional approach to interviewing, you’re guaranteed to run into some variation of this question: “How would you describe yourself?”. While it may seem like an innocent conversation starter, there are right and wrong answers here. It is crucial to at least have an idea of how you will answer it before you go in for an interview.
When an interviewer asks this question, they are looking for how your qualities align with the role they are looking to fill. When preparing your answer, keep that perspective in mind. In this article, we will give you some ideas of what to say in this situation.
How to answer
There are two important points to keep in mind when thinking about how to describe yourself professionally. First of all, this is an opportunity to focus on soft skills and how your personal characteristics make you perfect for the job. Read over the job posting and the description of what will be expected from the employee to get an idea of what the “perfect” person for the job would be like. For example, the job may involve a lot of social skills and require you to be friendly and patient. Or it may be an intense, results-driven position which would require a person who is goal-driven and ambitious. Think of some of your qualities that make you a good match and focus on them.
Second, the way you answer this question is a demonstration of your spoken communication skills, much like how your cover letter is a chance to show off your written communication skills. This is why it’s important to come prepared and have a formulated, professional answer so you don’t talk in circles or trail off topic. If possible, practice answering this along with your answers of the most common interview questions with a friend or family member. This practice will also help you feel less nervous when you go in for the real interview.
The most common variations
Depending on what version of the question you are asked and your specific qualities, there are countless ways to describe yourself. Prepare for each of these common variations, and you’ll be ready to answer this question.
“Describe yourself in three words”
It’s best to think of three words in advance so you don’t find yourself stumped and take too long to think. Even if it doesn’t get asked, you can use these words in other parts of your interview. Alternatively, you could get asked to describe yourself in one word. In this case, simply choose the most important out of the three. Here are examples of words you could use:
“Describe yourself in a sentence”
This question is very similar to the previous one, so you can simply use the same three words you prepare and formulate them into a sentence. For example, if your three words were “hardworking”, “sociable” and “ambitious” you can say “I would describe myself as a hardworking, ambitious individual who is also very sociable and works well in a team.”
“Tell me about yourself”
This is a more general question so you have an opportunity to focus on different aspects of describing yourself. Try to keep it succinct, a 2 minute answer is plenty. It’s a good idea to start by talking about your previous experiences, what skills you have that helped you excel in previous positions, and finally, how you hope to progress in your career. Make sure to keep all of it relevant to the job you’re applying for and focus on professional qualities as well as personality traits that make you a good fit for the work you’d be expected to do.
“How would your friends describe you?”
This question focuses more on your personality, rather than professional skills. In advance, try to think of qualities that make you a good friend. You can even ask a few friends for their opinions! Then choose some of the best qualities that can be applied to a professional environment. For example, maybe you are a reliable person who can be counted on. Or you are the friend who takes initiative and organizes activities for your friend group. These are qualities that can be very helpful in all kinds of jobs.
- Keep it positive. This is not the time for self-deprecation (even in the form of jokes). Show off your best qualities and try to make the interviewer believe you are perfect for the job.
- Don’t brag. While it is important to focus on positive traits, you need to find a balance so you don’t look too boastful. Be sure not to compare yourself to others and say you think you are better or the best.
- Be honest. It may be tempting to craft the perfect answer that matches the job requirements, however there’s no point in it if you lie or exaggerate. You can answer both truthfully and convincingly.
- Keep it short. This is not the time to go into a full autobiography. Give short, well-formulated answers. Your interviewer will not appreciate you dragging on and taking up time with your answer to a single question.
It is important to prepare to describe yourself in an interview, as this question is very likely to come up. Plan in advance by brainstorming some of your best and relevant qualities, and even asking friends and family what they think makes you a good friend and worker. By preparing, you also ensure you can answer quickly and eloquently while feeling more confident. Before you go into your interview, be sure to read about the best questions to ask your potential employer. This opportunity to ask a question often gets overlooked, but it can greatly improve your chances of landing the job.
Good luck in your job hunt! Remember to do your research and be prepared.