3 Answers To "Describe Yourself" Interview Question

When an interviewer asks you, “Can you describe yourself?” you might be thinking to yourself, well how do I answer that? Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question. The answer is about being prepared and having the perfect mix of relevance and specificity that will impress your future employer.

Let’s dive right into how you might describe yourself in a job interview.

What The Interviewer Is Looking For

An interview question like, “Describe yourself?” is an ice breaker question. This is similar to “How did you hear about this position?” or “What do you know about your company?” It means they are looking to begin the conversation and have that be a leading force for the future questioning they’ll give. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a wrong way to answer this question.

The interviewer is looking for a short and direct way of ensuring that you are the right type of person for the job. By asking a little more about who you are they can try to decipher if you are a good candidate for the open position.

That means we need to have some relevance to the description of ourselves to what the job function requires. The ideal scenario is that the interviewer is saying in their own minds, “Yes, this is exactly the type of person we need for the job.” Notice how I said “type” of person. It is about evaluating your persona, not your skills.

What A Good Answer Contains

A good answer contains relevance. The way to make your answer relevant is to look up the requirements for the job function. Let’s presume for a moment that you are applying for a job within the customer service department. If you are applying for a role there then you’ll know that the requirements will be communication, diligence, ambition, resourcefulness and collaboration.

Once we know that those are the requirements to perform that job function, we can tell a story about ourselves that’s more relevant to that job function.

Here’s an example answer for the customer service department:

“I’ve always had the ‘gift of gab’ in a sense. The willingness and desire to meet new people and see where that leads me. I’ve found it’s always led me to wonderful places. Humans are truly special. Because of that, I would describe myself as an empathetic people person with good communication skills.”

See how our answer tells a small story of our roots or beginnings as a person but then adds a small amount of relevance to the position we’re applying for? That’s what makes up a perfect answer to this interview question.

What If They Ask “What’s One Word To Describe Yourself?”

Another variation to this interview question is to ask “What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?” The variation of this question is intended to challenge you further. Instead of giving you the opportunity to tell a story, like in the previous example, it forces you to pick only one word.

There’s a certain set of words which will always be a good choice. Here’s the top two best words used to describe yourself and why:

Yes, empathetic and humble are the two best words to use. Words like ambitious, organized, diligent, resourceful, collaborative, ambitious or eager are also great answers. But empathetic and humble are always going to be the best.

The reason for this is that these are the two qualities which make the absolutely perfect employee. Think about it, being empathetic allows you to perform your job function well when working with colleagues. Additionally, it proves that you can do a great job when speaking with customers. Because customers appreciate someone who is empathetic.

It is the two best qualities to have because it provides the most flexibility. When you say humble, you might get questioned as to what makes you humble. The best answer you can give is to say that your work is about something greater than yourself. And that you are always willing to put your name on your work but appreciate the greater purpose of the company.

What A Bad Answer Contains

A bad answer, regardless of if they are asking you to describe yourself in a single word or with a sentence, is one that’s braggadocios. Don’t use this as a platform to talk about how great you are at this job function. Secondly, don’t use it as a platform to tell your life story.

Most interviewees make the mistake of thinking the interviewer is asking you to “tell them about your past” when in actuality they are looking for an opening statement to the interview. Most of us would answer with our origin story. How we got to where we are today. And that’s the incorrect answer.

If the interviewer asks you to tell them about your past, specifically how you got started in this business, then maybe tell them your life story. But unless it’s explicit, avoid telling them your origin story.

Here’s what to avoid:

3 Examples Of Good Answers

“I’d describe myself a humble and empathetic person. I find that the best focus to have is on the customer. And because of that, I take my own needs out of the equation. When working with teams, I also find that is our true north star, the customer. If we can remain empathetic and humble, we’ll continue to deliver an amazing experience for our customer and client.”

“I’d describe myself as someone who is diligent and energetic. I use the two words to describe myself because I don’t get discouraged easily. I’m always eager to continue to move forward even if there’s a setback. The diligence is part of that, the willingness to continue trying until we succeed.”

“I’d describe myself as a collaborative and ambitious person. I love to use the word collaboration because I truly think that all great things are built when we hardness everyone’s greatest strengths. And by being able to harness those strengths we can compete in the market and continue to advance ourselves.”

FAQ’s

Why does the interviewer ask this question?

It is a leading question, one that is intended to break the ice and begin the conversation you’re going to have in the interview.

Where does this question get asked?

Normally this question is asked during the in-person interviews. It is not normally asked over the phone.

What should I avoid when asked to describe myself?

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