Updated 25 May 2020
“How would you describe yourself?” generally features in strengths-based interviews and is an extremely common question.
Similar in meaning to “How would others describe you?”, “ What kind of person are you to work with?” or “List three adjectives that best describe you”, the question is designed to show the interviewer how you perceive yourself and reveal the key attributes that you think make you suitable for the role.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing your answer is that this question is not about your character in general, it’s about your understanding of yourself in relation to the job you’re interviewing for. It’s therefore important that you do your research and have solid knowledge of the company and the role before preparing your answer, to ensure you can tailor it effectively.
One of the best ways to start preparing is to make a list of positive adjectives that best describe you and that you feel make you a good fit for the role, based on the job description and your knowledge of the position and the company.
For example, if the position is a sales role and you enjoy negotiating and meeting new people you should include that in your answer, as negotiation and communication skills are key requirements.
Once you’ve completed your list, it’s a good idea to pick two or three adjectives that you feel are the best match for the role and focus your answer around them.
Generally, an interviewer will not want you to respond with a list of words, nor will they want specific examples of times you’ve exhibited these traits in previous roles. Instead, they’ll want you to expand on the adjectives and explain what these attributes and characteristics mean about you, which will in turn show why you’re the best fit for the position.
“How would you describe yourself?” is a tricky question for two main reasons. Firstly, it requires you to strike the right balance of pride and belief in your strengths with modesty.
As you generally won’t be required to backup your answer with examples from previous roles, it can also be difficult to create an effective answer that doesn’t feel vague.
This question is not about your general character; it’s about your role suitability.
The following all make for good answers, based on the type of personality that best applies to you.
“I’m a creative thinker. I think it’s important to approach tasks and issues from different angles, rather than just doing what has always been done. By having an open mind and taking a different approach, I believe you can find new and improved ways of doing things.
"As a manager, I like to foster this approach in my team too. It means they feel comfortable suggesting and discussing new ideas, often generating unusual and effective solutions as a result, which is great for team morale and for the business.”
“I’m detail-orientated and results-driven. I like to look at all the variables of a project in order to set realistic goals and determine the actions required to achieve them. I get real satisfaction from ensuring a plan runs smoothly in order to achieve the optimum projected results to deadline.”
“I love learning new things and am always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow within my role, whether that’s learning new skills, taking on a new project or collaborating with other departments. I’m a positive person who likes to excel at what I do, and I think the best way to do that is to constantly challenge myself to learn as much as I can and to perform to the best of my abilities every day.”
“I’m a good communicator with strong analytical skills. I think I’m at my best when working with a team to solve complex issues, troubleshooting and analysing a problem from different angles to find a solution that benefits everyone. I love a challenge and find working together to solve critical business issues really rewarding.”
“I would describe myself as a real people person. I’m at my happiest meeting new people and using my communication skills to form and maintain effective working relationships. In particular, it gives me a real sense of pride to be able to repair and improve relationships between different departments through listening, discussion and clear communication.”
Now you know how to answer “How would you describe yourself?”, take a look at these other tricky interview questions: