How to Describe Yourself at a Job Interview

Woman in an interview

 
You walk into the interview room and sit down in the chair opposite the desk. The interviewer looks you in the eye and asks you a single question. “How would you describe yourself using a single word?”

You take a deep breath, look the interviewer directly in the eye and … Your mind draws a blank. Describing yourself in a single word is no easy task. You’re a multi-faceted individual. You have a wide variety of tastes, attributes, opinions and experiences. How can you possibly and accurately describe yourself using a single term?

When the answer to this Level 10 question could mean the difference between you securing employment and you tapping your foot in the unemployment line, it might be best to prepare for the worst – you know, just in case this question is asked of you.

Here are some things to consider if you ever find yourself in the hot seat with millions of single term adjectives running through your head, and you can only choose a single one.

 

Showcase the Utmost Value

When an employer asks you to describe yourself in an interview, whether it’s in one term, three or a few sentences, he or she is asking you to list your value.

This is why most people use words like “dedicated” to prove they’re not going to jump ship in a few months in search of greener pastures.

They’ll say things like “hardworking” to prove they can pull their weight. “Efficient,” means they won’t spend a ton of resources to get the job done, including hours spent on the clock.

You can stock up on these words and hope you choose the correct one, but it might pay to get a little more targeted prior to interview time.

Here’s how to narrow down your preference for self-adulation, allowing you to nail the question right out of the gate.

 

What Quality Does the Employer Need?

Before you begin describing yourself, consider the type of position you’re applying for.

What would be the most valuable for the company to have – a personable waiter or a hardworking construction worker?

You get the idea.

Think about the job you’ll be doing and choose a term that best represents the ideal qualities for that position.

An accountant might be astute; a counselor sensitive, and a salesperson persuasive.

But what happens if you’re uncomfortable talking about yourself, especially when it comes to your good qualities?

Simple. Let others do the talking for you. Sort of …

 

Draw On Previous Affirmations

In many cases, the employer’s question won’t be so restrictive. Instead of asking you to describe yourself in one word, the person may only say: Tell me about yourself.

That’s how it’s presented in Monster.com’s list of top 100 potential interview questions asked by employers. Asking you to describe yourself made number one.

Here’s where you can embellish a bit. Instead of uttering a single term, you can say things like:

“My previous boss always said I was the best at managing my time because I never missed a deadline.”

Putting your self-description in such a way shows that others are willing to vouch for you, even though it’s technically hearsay. It won’t hold up in a court of law, but it works in the interview room.

You can also say that your co-workers used to say that you were more reliable than anyone else because you never slacked on your duties; or that you were born to lead because you excelled at management.

 

Boast, but Be Humble

While the interviewer’s question does give you license to toot your own horn, you don’t want to run the risk of sounding as though you’re full of yourself.

You may offer the best value out of all the other candidates applying for that position, but absolutely no one wants to work with a know-it-all. And very few people want to work with someone who assumes their excrement is odor-free.

To keep you from coming across as Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, preface your statement with something like this:

“I’m just a regular guy/gal, but my previous boss used to tell me I was the hardest worker he’s ever known.”

Or you might say your one word – ambitious – because you always strived to surpass your sales goals each month. But then you can follow that up with, “But that’s how I was raised, to go after what’s important while remaining humble through it all.”

You might say that you’re always willing to learn new things and improve by learning from the examples set by your coworkers and new employers.

This shows that you’re a team player and valuable at the same time, which is what all good companies want.

Large or small, the organization wants to know that you’re in it for the long haul, that you’ll pull your ow weight while remaining enjoyable to work with, and that you’ll go above and beyond in the time of need.

Can you encompass all of those attributes in one word? Sure you can. Can you do it in a statement? You can now.

By memorizing some value terms, then pinpointing the exact word that will represent the most value for the position you’re applying for, and by talking yourself up while expressing humility and a desire to improve, you’ll come across as the ideal candidate for the position.

There’s a reason Monster chose this job interview question – describe yourself in one word – as the most often asked out of a hundred. Out of all the job interview questions and answers, this one is the most revealing.

If a person hesitates to answer, it shows a lack of confidence. The person may not be able to offer any value at all.

And the longer the person waits to answer, the more likely the response will be an embellishment or outright lie.

By answering quickly and with surety to this most important of all the job interview questions, you’ll show that you have what it takes to succeed, and that’s what every company on earth is looking for.