While we can’t know exactly what an interviewer will ask, “Describe yourself” is one of the most common interview questions.
Practice and interview preparation can help you feel more confident and increase your chances of landing a job offer.
From talking too little to criticizing your former employer, make sure you plan ahead to avoid making common interview mistakes.
Answering the dreaded interview question “Describe yourself” is often easier said than done. Although it might seem like an easy win, the answer can fluster many job seekers.
For this question, your primary goal is to let the interviewer know why you’re there, demonstrate what you have to offer to the company, and give them reasons to choose you as the best candidate. While it might seem breathtakingly simple, crafting a strategically designed answer requires some thinking and a lot of practice.
Keep reading below to see how you can make the best of this common question while leaving the anxiety and stress behind.
Why Do Interviewers Ask You to Describe Yourself?
As with any interview question, the key to making an excellent first impression is understanding what the interviewer really wants to know.
When employers ask this question, they are looking to see whether your experiences and values are a good fit for the job and the company’s culture. It’s an opportunity to showcase why your skills and work experience match this role and how your values align with the company’s mission. Based on your answer, seasoned interviewers will know whether you did your homework or not.
Beyond serving as an introduction to getting the conversation started, recruiters and hiring managers often ask you to describe yourself to set the foundations for the next job interview questions.
How Should You Answer “Describe Yourself” During an Interview?
If one question sets the tone for the entire interview, this is it. Answer it well, and you’ve already positioned yourself for success.
Although interviewers might have their own versions of this simple yet nerve-racking question, they’re essentially asking the same thing. “Tell me about yourself,” “Walk me through your resume,” or “I’d love to hear more about you” are some of the variations you’ll likely come across.
While it’s not an easy question to answer, our interview tips and example answers below can help you structure your sample answers and prepare for your big day.
Highlight Your Experience and Knowledge
The typical “describe yourself” prompt grants you the steering wheel for a few minutes, and you should definitely take advantage of it. Providing a concrete answer that showcases your work experience and highlights what you’ve accomplished can undeniably give you a head start over other candidates.
Make sure your answer is relevant, and don’t go off on a tangent that doesn’t add value to the discussion. The key to making this happen? Practice, practice, practice.
Let’s say you’re applying for a role in marketing. Here’s an example answer.
Example: “As a Marketing Strategist, I have more than 10 years of experience working with international B2C companies. I am deeply involved in strategizing and executing marketing campaigns based on market research and data-driven insights. One project I am proud of is the launch of a new household product. With the support of holistic marketing, we exceeded our sales target by +58% and doubled our market share.”
Describe Your Personality with Traits That Add Value
Although your work experience, accomplishments, and communication skills are key areas to discuss, drawing on your personality and traits can color your answer.
Your personality makes you unique, and the interviewer wants to hear how you plan to bring your individual characteristics to the office. Although it might seem like an obvious thing, being prepared ahead of time can help you choose the traits that matter to the company while keeping stress at bay.
It’s all good in theory, but how does this translate into reality?
Suppose you’re applying for a role in a fast-paced, dynamic industry. In that case, highlighting your agility, adaptability, and openness to change is crucial for demonstrating that you’re a good fit for the role.
Example: “I believe that the only constant in life is change. The world around us is moving fast, and I’d say that I am someone who can handle change and adapt to new circumstances. I pay attention to what caused the change in the first place and then try to build a support system around the new reality. This is because I understand that the success of an organization lies in its ability to evolve, and transform.”
Describe Traits That Fit the Job and Culture
The truth is, traits are subjective. What might be important for one company might not be for another. Have a look at the company’s website and social media before the interview, and craft your answer based on what’s relevant for them, not you.
However, you want to be true to yourself. There’s no need to embellish your answer with false bravado to make a good first impression. Being truthful and honest about what personality traits fit the role and team can save you a lot of time in the long run.
Here’s a good answer that showcases your time management skills for a project manager role.
Example: “For everyone to do their part effectively, it’s important to have a clear project scope. I always organize each project based on priorities and deadlines, keeping an open line of communication so everyone is on the same page. Communicating the progress of the project is also key for smooth execution.”
Back Up Your Claims With Examples and Actual Results
Backing up your claims with examples and numbers can really make the difference in landing the job of your dreams.
Use past examples, actual results, and stats to provide solid evidence on how your traits and accomplishments translate to metrics. This is your opportunity to stand out, so use it wisely.
Imagine you describe yourself as someone who’s a people person. You might want to start by saying the following:
Example: “I enjoy meeting and networking with new people. Working on multiple team projects has allowed me to develop into an efficient communicator and a great team leader. I find these skills especially helpful when managing a team. In my latest role, my team’s satisfaction score was 13% over the company average.”
Always Describe Yourself in a Positive Way
Instead of dwelling on what could go wrong, get some positive energy flowing. When the interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, make sure you use positive adjectives and characteristics.
Here is a list of words to describe yourself and your work style when prompted.
Don’t forget to smile. It can set a friendly, more relaxed tone for the conversation.
Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “How Would You Describe Yourself?”
Don’t talk too much or too little. It might be tempting to say everything at once, but the interviewer doesn’t want to hear your entire life story. Striking a balance between not giving enough information and going on a tangent can be tricky, but it’s essential to land that new job.
Don’t let the anxiety take over. Interviewing for a job is never easy. Shaking hands with CEOs, being assessed on your skills and experience, and selling yourself can fire up the nerves. So what do you do? Taking proactive steps for managing stress, like taking deep breaths, visualizing success, and preparing well, can help you handle the anxiety that bubbles up before your interview.
Don’t criticize your former employer or team members. When mentioning past examples and accomplishments, leave out any criticism about your previous job. Save that for your friends and family. No matter the reason you leave your last job, make sure that you are diplomatic about your work-related experiences and former co-workers. For example, instead of complaining about the mistakes of others, highlight how you approached the problem and provided solutions.
Practice Describing Yourself for a Job Interview
Can you imagine going to your exam without opening a book? Don’t do the same for your interview. Before your big day, make sure you reread the job description, research the company’s LinkedIn, and practice your answers out loud.
Remember, you’re less likely to stumble or freeze if you’re well prepared. With the right amount of practice beforehand, you won’t have to worry.
Land Your Next Interview With Joblist
Now that you’re ready for your next interview, it’s time to start browsing Joblist for your dream job in the United States, Canada, UK, or Australia. Answer a few questions about your situation and job preferences so we can get to know you better, and we’ll help you find your ideal job!
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