How to Answer the Interview Question: "How Would Your Worst Enemy Describe You?"
The interview question, "How would your worst enemy describe you?" is a challenging one to answer. It can feel like a personal question that could throw you off track in an interview situation.
This is why being prepared is key. It would be impossible to construct an adequate reply when you are put on the spot and feeling under pressure.
If you have already considered the question, you are in a much better position. You can then present a response that your potential employer will find engaging and useful.
In an interview, this is a strength- and weakness-based question. Although it appears to be asking about negative traits, it is an opportunity to reframe your qualities in a positive light and show off your personality.
It also offers a chance to highlight traits that will make you a suitable candidate for the particular role.
Make sure you take time to familiarize yourself with variations of the worst enemy question. They are all aimed at uncovering the same information about you as a potential employee.
For example, you might be asked, "How might someone who dislikes you describe you?"
This question is clearly attempting to discover the same thing about you.
All similar questions should be answered in the same way. Don't let slight variations on the wording of the question catch you out at the interview.
Here are some popular interview questions that require similar responses:
- "How would your adversaries describe you?"
- "What do people most often criticize about you?"
- "How do you respond to criticism?"
- "What would the person who likes you least say about you?"
However, there might be questions that are similar but are trying to discover different things about you.
Some examples include:
- "How would you describe yourself?"
- "What are your weaknesses?"
- "Which aspect of the role will you struggle with the most?"
These questions are attempting to discover your personal perceptions of yourself. They aren’t specifically asking about how you relate to and understand other people’s impressions of you.
If you are aware of these variations, you won't be caught out at the interview and can give the appropriate response.
Every employer wants to know if the person they are employing is self-aware. As a potential employee, make sure you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
It may feel counterintuitive to talk about your weaknesses in an interview situation. Drawing attention to areas you need to improve on might seem awkward.
However, your employer wants to know that you have an awareness of things you can improve on. This is also an opportunity to recognize that you can improve your performance.
An employer needs to know that you are willing to take steps to improve your skills. The company does not want to take the risk of employing those who are unwilling to change.
They need to know you can observe your behavior and skills objectively. This gives them the ability to discuss your performance and work alongside you to improve results.
Ultimately, an employer needs a workforce that will strive to enhance their skills and qualities. If they know their team is capable of fulfilling their potential, the company will thrive.
The ‘what would your worst enemy say about you?’ interview question is cleverly designed to uncover your personality traits as well as how you deal with criticism.
They also want to know that you are aware of other people’s perceptions of you. They need to see that you are not nervous of criticism and can discuss it openly.
These are some of the things that an employer is looking for in your answer:
- That you can handle challenging questions
- That you have self-awareness
- That you can confidently turn a negative into a positive
- That you are able to understand how to overcome the weakness
- That you are aware of how you are viewed by your competition
- How you improved on a weakness in the past
Ask yourself, ‘how would someone who dislikes me describe me?’ Giving thought to this question will allow you to see any perceived flaws and counteract them.
You need to provide evidence that you understand how others perceive you and that you can see other people's points of view.
The employer wants to discover if you will be a good fit for the culture of the company. For example, that you are a competitive, driven person or someone with a relaxed and go-with-the-flow attitude.
They need to work out if you will fit in with the workplace ethic and relate well to coworkers.
They are not looking for someone who lists all their negative traits. If you don't explain how it has affected you or changed your perspective, this will not portray you in a good light.
They also don’t want you to avoid the question by saying you get on well with everyone. This isn’t truthful and will show them you have no ability to judge your behavior objectively.
Here are some ideas to think about when faced with this tricky interview question.
Aim to answer tactfully and don't avoid the question altogether – If you gloss over it or try to change the question, the interviewer won't be impressed.
Don’t name people or go into detail – Keep your answer generalized and avoid identifying information.
Think of traits that can be both negative and positive – Competitiveness can be a positive if working in a sales role, for example. Colleagues with different working styles might be frustrated with your working style. For example, if you like to plan before starting a task, whereas they prefer to get started straight away.
If providing an example, use the STAR method – STAR is an acronym that stands for situation, task, action, result. Set the scene by describing the situation. Then explain what task you were faced with. Explain what action you took in response, then what the result was. This technique helps you to clearly describe your example in a way that highlights your skills.
Be positive in your answer, and keep your response light and upbeat – But be careful about using humor in your answer. Only use humor if it seems appropriate. It might not be well-received if the interviewer is asking for a serious response. Focus instead on changing the negative into a positive.
Demonstrate how you deal with competition – They want to know you don't have enemies but do recognize healthy competition or rivalry. Using a situation from a previous workplace will show how you managed this competition.
Discuss how you resolved any negative relationships – This shows you have a good understanding of interpersonal skills and know how to react and respond to coworkers.
Try to provide an example that shows what you did to overcome others’ negative perceptions – Perhaps you asked them for feedback or took steps to change their views by adapting your work style.
Show that you are professional – This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are able to accept criticism and use it to your advantage. Show that you can use negative perceptions of your traits to facilitate your own personal growth.
When responding to the interview question ‘how would your worst enemy describe you?’, begin by explaining that you would hope you don't have any enemies, as you focus on relating well to other people.
In your answer, just highlight one characteristic or trait. There's no need to mention more than one area in your answer.
Take into account the ideas outlined in the section above when creating your example answer.
Here are some example answers that effectively follow this guidance.
This example answer demonstrates awareness of both the perceptions of others and self-awareness of why these impressions are formed.
It shows that you can speak objectively about yourself and explains why you work in the way you do.
I would hope I don't make enemies, but if someone who dislikes me described me, they might say I am annoying. That's because I ask way too many questions. Reflecting on this, it might make me appear nervous or unconfident. They might doubt my ability to get the job done. When faced with a new task, I will question my supervisor and colleagues. I do this to clarify expectations, as to how to carry out the task and to make sure it is completed to the best of my ability. It also helps solve any potential problems by thinking of solutions.
This example answer demonstrates a good understanding of how you cope with criticism. It shows your potential employer that you respond to feedback and look to actively change.
I might be considered as too independent or aloof with others. I like to focus on tasks and give all aspects of my role full attention. They might think that I'm not interested in interacting with others, or I don't welcome their input. I understand that my working style affects how others perceive me. I am taking steps to rectify this behavior by being more mindful and inclusive. I just enjoy using my own initiative to solve problems. But I recognize that others welcome my interactions so I now speak more openly with colleagues and include their opinions.
This example answer takes a trait and transforms the negative aspects into a positive.
It demonstrates an awareness that competitiveness can be motivating for a team.
They would probably be frustrated that I turn everything into a competition. They'd see me as someone who has the drive to win. I can see how this might make me seem like I'm too focused on getting better results than others. So an enemy would probably say that about me. I am motivated by competitiveness, but also understand that my driven nature might be off-putting to others. Since recognizing this, I include others and I help motivate them to reach a goal alongside me. This way, we succeed with teamwork.
Insert or edit information in these examples to make them specific to your situation.
If you want to include a particular scenario to set the scene, follow the STAR method to make it useful and relevant.
Don't give specific details, names or the backgrounds of other people. These are not necessary and make it sound like you are untrustworthy.
Don't say that you don't have enemies or that everyone likes you. You will be viewed as being dishonest or arrogant.
Don't try to avoid the question altogether. If you evade answering properly, you will have lost a chance to impress your future employer.
Try to remain calm and don't allow your interview nerves to get the better of you. You need to demonstrate you can remain calm under pressure.
Don't mention anything that would affect your ability to do the job you are applying for. For example, don't talk about your lack of people skills if you are interviewing for a customer service role.
Avoid the temptation to create a scenario that doesn't highlight your real weaknesses. Your potential employer will know that you are not being completely truthful.
Don't choose a cliched characteristic such as being a perfectionist or that you work too hard.
Taking an honest approach is always the best way. Then you will present yourself as open and humble.
Here are some top tips to help you frame an answer to the tricky ‘how would your worst enemy describe you?’ interview question.
- Switch the idea of an ‘enemy’ with a competitor. This will help you answer this question in a more positive light.
- Think of a negative trait that could be reframed. For example, if someone perceives you as ‘challenging’, explain that you are just looking for ‘clarification’.
- Use traits that link to the job role. If you are applying for a sales job, being competitive is a highly valued skill.
- Look at the adjectives used to describe the role you are applying for. If they are looking for a self-driven candidate, highlight your independence in your answer.
- Practice answering the question out loud before your interview. You will feel more confident in the interview.
Being prepared is a priority when going to an interview. You must have a clearly thought out and decisive answer to the question, ‘how would your worst enemy describe you?’
Consider this question carefully in advance and plan how you will answer it. This will show your potential employer that you are fully prepared.
It is a question that, when answered well, will help you stand out among all the other candidates for the role.
It is potentially one of the most difficult interview questions to answer. That is why preparing fully beforehand can pay off.
Being able to turn a negative into a positive is an important and desired skill. It shows that you can view life optimistically and that you are resilient in the face of criticism.
The interviewer is testing how you deal with the stress of an unexpected question. By preparing in advance, you will show them how level-headed and logical you are.
Above all, answer this tough interview question with confidence, humility and grace.
Remember that everyone is criticized from time to time. If you can show that you are aware of this and how you respond, it is sure to impress your potential employer.