Answering "Describe Yourself" In A Job Interview
"Describe yourself." or “How would you describe yourself?” is an interview question that can throw you off. Questions like these can throw you off. It's helpful to be as prepared for them as possible. A good start in interviews is essential to build confidence and calm your nerves down. Being one of the first questions you could face, you must do your best to approach and answer this question appropriately.
Let’s see how you can do that.
Step 1: Know What The Job Demands
ny job post in an organization will have certain duties for which you need specific soft skills.
A manager's position requires excellent management skills and decision-making. A market analyst job demands the ability to present and communicate facts and opinions properly regarding the market.
In this regard, you have to see what qualities does the job demand.
Let's say you are applying for the position of an animator. Apart from the technical skills, you would need qualities like creativity, communication, and teamwork to discuss ideas and work details with your colleagues or the higher authority.
It is about identifying the soft skills involved in the position; then knowing if and where you lack, which brings us to the next step.
After knowing what the job demands from you, it is time to be self-acquainted.
Step 2: Know yourself
If you do not know your strengths and weaknesses, you will struggle to respond to this question. Hence, you have to prepare yourself in this regard, i.e., get to know yourself, identity what you are good at and not so good at.
It helps with two things:
- You realize your ability.
- You realize what aspects need improvement.
Without knowing where your abilities lie, it is impossible to develop yourself for the better. So, realizing your ability is vital, which lets you know of your strengths and weaknesses. Then comes the point of putting in the necessary time and effort for self-improvement.
That said, there is one thing that lies between ‘realizing your ability’ and ‘improving’ – acknowledgment. It is also the thing where you are most likely to commit mistakes. So, the actual process is realizing, acknowledging, and improving.
Doing a bit of research and introspection will reveal your qualities, after which comes the task of accepting the facts about yourself. If you fail to acknowledge the facts, you are only ruining your chances of self-improvement.
Maybe you are weak at speaking, or perhaps you could benefit from some boost in confidence.
No one is perfect; everyone lacks something or other. The people who look ideal today were once bad at something. What helped them was acknowledging their shortcomings and putting in the energy to make themselves better.
Never overlook over aspects you lack in. If you find that you are poor at something that could help with some improvement, accept the fact. Do not underestimate yourself into thinking that you would be fine without any effort.
So, how do you go about knowing yourself, you ask?
The best thing would be to talk with your close ones, the people who know you the best.
Discuss with the hiring manager how you act and respond to things around you. Gather multiple opinions and derive a consensus from it. It should give you a fair idea about your strengths and weaknesses. Accept the feedback and move on to the next step of working on aspects where you lack.
cknowledge the fortes that will help you with the job and see the qualities that could help you improve. That way, you have a basic idea of where to start.
Step 3: Improve Yourself
Following steps 1 and 2, knowing the job demand and your skills, you should have an idea about what aspects (or qualities) of you need improving.
Speaking about self-improvement, the number of sources to help you are pretty much endless. Again, you could discuss this aspect with your close friends and relatives and take their help in this regard. Alternatively, you could seek professional help by referring to a specialist or enrolling in courses and classes aimed at improving the aspect you are struggling with.
Then again, you must put in the right amount of effort in the right place. Until this point, all the things you did was to make you realize where you stand. From here on, it is about using this knowledge and taking actions to improve yourself. Also, make sure you are doing things that benefit and improve you where you lack.
If you struggle to converse (communication skills), only reading books won't help. You will have to practice speaking with others to improve your conversation skills.
In the above case, though you are putting effort (to improve communication skills), it is not in the right terms (only reading books, instead of practicing conversation). Thus, your energy goes in vain as you did not put it in the right place. Hence, always ensure that you are doing the right things to improve yourself in proper regard.
After all this preparation, it is time to respond appropriately to this question of self-description.
Step 4: Present your suitability
By now, you know the demands of the job and have prepared yourself in that regard. The next step is to advocate your suitability for the job by stating the right things.
Since you know what qualities the company wants in a person for the role in question, it is only about describing how you match the requirements and hence, are sufficiently capable of performing successfully in the position.
Preparation is key to your self-presentation as it will inspire confidence in your talks. This confidence comes from the fact that you have developed yourself, being equipped with the right skills and attitude over the past time to perform the role without any doubt.
That said, failing to present yourself accurately will defeat the purpose of your preparation for the job to date. Therefore, you have to practice self-presentation beforehand to be good at it during the interview.
What makes for an excellent self-description, you ask?
An excellent self-description has the following elements:
- Citation of the required qualities
- Support claim by examples
Your self-description should talk about your relevant skills with appropriate cases portraying the described skills.
Suppose you are applying for a job that requires you to regularly be in touch with other employees while also demanding some leadership.
When asked to describe yourself, you could say you are a team player and can act as a leader if the situation requires, along with the examples supporting your case.
Here are some examples to help you understand better.
Examples to answering “Describe yourself.”
“I have always been a team player and love to collaborate with others when working on a project. In my previous job, I had to work in a group of eight members for a project. Though not much of acquaintances initially, we soon found ourselves in sync with each other, with me leading the group. With this newfound synergy, we were able to work faster and completed the project in three weeks, which was scheduled for four weeks.”
"I'm an excellent communicator and use this quality to help me in my job. My previous job as an Assembly Line Manager went quite well. I regularly communicated with supervisors and in-charges under me and ensured a smooth assembly line operation."
Both of the above examples have all the right elements to make for an excellent self-description, i.e., :
- Citation of right qualities (team player, collaborate with others, leading the group)
- Examples (working in a group of eight members and completed the project early, regularly communicated with supervisors and in-charges)
Having the right elements with the correct information will help you approach and respond to this question appropriately.
Then again, do not ramble about your characteristics. Your response should last anywhere between 60 to 90 seconds. Keep your answer short and precise.
Finally, if you are unsure if the interviewer got all the information he or she wanted, ask them if they would like to know more.
You could ask something like, “I hope that answers your question, or would you like to know more?”
This way, you avoid the uncertainty of whether you provide all the details that the interviewer wanted while also having a chance to elaborate your case further.
The other question you might be asked
Sometimes, interviewers are not so direct about asking this question about self-description. Instead, they will as something like:
"Describe yourself in one word."
“How would you describe yourself in one word?”
How should you respond to such a question?
Understand that, for this question, you have to concentrate on a specific quality – quality that is most important for the job in question which you possess. Then use this characteristic to describe yourself.
Let’s say you are applying for a manager's position.
What are some of the essential qualities of being a manager?
People management, delegation, communication; there are quite a few.
Let's say you are good at delegation. So, when asked, you could respond with something like:
“The one word that describes me best is ‘delegator.' I'm very good at the delegation of tasks. In group or collaboration tasks, I tend to assign work to the members based on their strengths. That way, everyone feels valued while also helping in the overall work."
With the standard question of "describe yourself," you have the freedom to speak about multiple characteristics that could help you with the job. However, with the question of "describe in one word," you are limited to state only a single quality that can help you in the job in question.
It is a way for the interviewer to get acquainted with the best quality you possess to help you in this role. Hence, state your best characteristic that’s related to the available position.
Final Words On "Describe Yourself" In An Interivew
“Describe yourself.” As with anything, preparation is essential. To answer this simple question of self-description, you first have to know what the job demands, then identify and improve yourself in that regard. Finally, when the question is asked in the interview, present yourself appropriately.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
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