How Would You Describe Yourself in a Job Interview?

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Besides questions about your work history and qualifications, one you'll inevitably hear at a job interview is "How would you describe yourself?" It may be framed differently, with an interviewer perhaps asking you to tell them about yourself. Whichever form of this question you get, consider carefully how you want to present yourself and prepare your answer in advance so it flows easily during the interview.

You don’t want to answer this question the same way you would on a date or in a new hobby club. You should always be authentic, of course, but at the same time, make sure to keep your answer professional. You don’t need to talk about your personal life unless it’s relevant to the position you’re interviewing for. If you do, the recruiter may think you’re socially inept, conceited, or lack the professional skills employers value.

So, what should you say? Here are some ideas based on the type of candidate you consider yourself to be. If you need help preparing for the interview, try our mock interview service

The client pleaser

If you excel at client retention and give your all to customers, share that when the interviewer asks you to describe yourself. Employers know that it's much easier and more profitable to keep an existing client happy than to go out and find a new one. You’ll want to come up with various ways to communicate to the hiring manager that you’re outgoing, friendly, and genuinely invested in ensuring customers’ satisfaction.

Here's an example of what you could say: "I'm great at keeping customers happy and enjoy going above and beyond to meet their needs. I'm compassionate by nature and genuinely care about clients' concerns. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they're satisfied and to keep their business."

The dedicated employee

Stressing loyalty will put your potential employer at ease and assure them that they're getting someone who will be around for a while. They don't want to waste their time and resources on someone who will go chasing the next shiny object in a few months, even if that person is exceptionally qualified and can do excellent work during their short tenure. 

Highlight your loyalty by saying something like this: "In my past jobs, I've stuck with my employers through thick and thin. I’m not into constantly switching jobs just to advance my career. I prefer stability and will gladly commit to a company that treats me well."

The bottom line-focused one

One of the most important things a hiring manager looks for is how you can help their company move forward. Will you be able to meet or exceed goals? Are you someone who will help the organization grow financially? They need to know you’re worth the investment. If you indicate that you can give them a better-than-expected return on that investment, they’ll be more likely to take you on.

Consider saying something like this: "I love challenges. I work hard to do whatever I can to drive the company forward, and I’m known for always exceeding my goals. Your bottom line is just as important to me as it is to you."

The leader

If you're someone who likes to take charge, mention that when you're asked to describe yourself. It’s a good way to stand out from the competition. Companies want to hire someone who will hit the ground running and go above and beyond, so convince them you can give more than they expect. Don't be afraid to brag about your achievements in past leadership roles, but don’t be arrogant about it. 

Here's an example of what you could say: "I'm a natural at taking charge and leading teams. At my last job, I led a team of 10 to exceed the company's targets by 20%."

The upfront candidate

It's not a bad thing to share with a hiring manager a professional mistake you’ve made. In fact, it could show that you think on your feet and promptly correct errors.

Employers know that mistakes happen. There won’t be a candidate who’s never made a mistake, so pointing yours out will not detract from your appeal. On the contrary—being able to admit a slip takes courage and honesty, which are two traits that could help you get the job.

Say something to this effect: "I don’t have a problem admitting when I've made a mistake. I take complete responsibility, fix the problem, and evaluate what I’ve learned from it. At my last job, I was in charge of designing our marketing materials. I somehow missed a typo in a postcard after it went out to clients. I was terribly embarrassed but owned up to it. To keep it from happening again, I assigned an additional person to proofread all marketing material."

The ladder climber

Another thing hiring managers look for in a candidate is a passion to pursue professional growth; they cringe at the thought of an employee who just wants to do the bare minimum for the paycheck. If you're interested in moving up the ranks, make sure to express that desire. Ambition is a good thing. Just be careful with your answer here—you don’t want to give the recruiter the impression that you’ll soon leave the company for bigger and better things.

You could say: "I'm the type of person who can't get enough of learning and growing. I don't believe in stagnating at work. If there’s an opportunity to advance at this company, I will work hard to earn a promotion."

Since you'll almost certainly have to describe yourself during a job interview, prepare a thoughtful answer that will immediately indicate self-assurance and reflect positively on you. Use the examples above to guide you so you can speak with confidence. Remember to be yourself and turn up prepared, and everything else will fall into place. If you need help getting ready for this important event, check out our mock interview service.

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