Oh no, that dreaded interview question has arrived: “What three words would you use to describe yourself?”
You’ve probably spent time researching the company and rehearsing answers to the most common interview questions. Maybe you assume that you can skip practicing this one. After all, you already know the subject.
Don’t do it! A lack of preparation might find you stating you were more dedicated than everyone at your last job. Hmmm…sounds like you’re difficult to work with.
Or you might start rambling about how you’re super friendly when actually, you’re starting to appear unorganized. Worse yet, you can start blurting out words that almost guarantee no callback.
Instead, spend some time creating a list of words that appropriately describe you, and then jot down a few notes or experiences that support your claim to them.
What Skill Set Should You Showcase in a Job Interview?
Similar to how you would tailor your resume for each job, study the job description and what kind of characteristics will be considered a great fit. Pick three specific traits and rehearse them.
Which ones should you choose? Well, it depends.
A hiring committee at an accounting firm, for example, might be looking for someone organized, diligent, and hardworking, whereas a team hiring for a sales role may be more impressed with someone flexible and resilient. Consider commonly-used adjectives that are often used to describe individual roles.
Best Words to Describe Your Leadership Qualities (Examples)
Most companies are seeking common traits in their leaders. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not just about the results but also about how you got there. Consider the nuances of showcasing how you support and empower your team, rather than enforcing discipline and boundaries. Great leaders understand that inspiring others will yield better results.
Be cautious that you are describing leadership rather than management. If your answers are bold, take-charge, and assertive, you might give the impression that you’ll get the job done at any cost. When considering how you’ll lead a team, the company may be more impressed with someone confident, proactive, and supportive.
Best Words to Describe Your Work Ethic (Examples)
One of the reasons employers ask you to describe yourself is to understand how you’ll fit into the team culture. For example, someone who enjoys routine and clearly-defined boundaries may struggle in a remote company with flexible schedules. Highlight how you work within a team.
Best Words to Describe Your Soft Skills (Examples)
When showcasing your soft skills, remember to avoid sounding arrogant. While certain terms might be justified and earned, they can come across the wrong way if you apply them to yourself.
Maybe your coworkers always comment on how humble or charismatic you are. But saying you’re humble makes you sound like the opposite.
How to Describe Yourself:
Support the Words You Choose With Stories
When compiling your list of words to describe yourself, choose words that you can back up with an example. For instance:
“I’d describe myself as mindful, responsive, and focused. In my most recent role, I helped lead the transition to a new software system. Being mindful that many team members were uncomfortable changing from their familiar system, I was intentionally responsive during the transition. I quickly answered their questions, and I focused on addressing common struggles so they could feel comfortable supporting one another.”
This answer showcases empathy with the team, a big-picture perspective, and an organized approach to a situation. While you need both hard and soft skills to succeed, soft skills showcase your personality and people skills in ways that a certificate can’t demonstrate.
Prepare and Practice for Successful Job Interviews
What is seemingly the easiest question to answer can be the most difficult without preparation. However, this is an opportunity to showcase skills that might not be as obvious from your resume.
When you are beginning a job search, create a list of your professional traits and keep it organized with the rest of your job-hunting materials. For each interview, pull out the three most applicable traits and rehearse them. With careful preparation, you can help show you’re the best fit for the role.
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