Interview Question: How Would You Describe Yourself? (Examples Included)

how would you describe yourself

By Mike Simpson

UPDATED 5/24/2022

how would you describe yourself

Imagine this: you’re sitting in an interview for your dream job. Everything seems to be going beautifully. You’re knocking every question out of the ballpark, and the hiring manager is genuinely engaged. You’re confident you’ve got the job in the bag. But then, they ask you a dastardly question: “How would you describe yourself?”

Figuring out how to describe yourself seems so simple on the surface, but it’s surprisingly tricky to get right. If you can’t seem to find the words to describe yourself, don’t panic; we’ve got your back. Here’s what you need to know…

Why Is This Question Asked?

In many ways, hiring managers ask, “how would you describe yourself” for the same reason they ask the question, “tell me about yourself.”

No, it’s not to make you uncomfortable or to wax philosophical about how your early childhood turned you into the person you are today. Interviewers ask this question because they are looking for two key pieces of information.

First, they want to honestly know how you perceive yourself, as that can tell them a lot about your personality and character. Second, they’re figuring out how well you’ll fit into the company culture (which 84 percent of hiring managers think is essential) if you’re hired, as certain traits may align better.

In the end, that’s what the hiring manager wants to know. By understanding that, it’s far easier to find good words to describe yourself, ensuring you’ll shine during the interview.

Common Variations of This Question

While “how would you describe yourself” is one of the most popular forms of questions in this arena, it isn’t the only one you might encounter. Some common variations also make the rounds, including alternatives like:

    • If you had to pick one word to describe you, what would it be and why?
    • What three words describe you best?
    • Which of your traits do you feel are most important?
    • What adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
    • How do you think your former managers or colleagues would describe you?
    • Summarize your personality using as few words as possible.

While each of those questions is a bit different, they’re all focused on the same kind of answer. Since that’s the case, knowing how to describe yourself if asked “how would you describe yourself” can help you shine when answering any of these alternatives.

Words to Describe Yourself in an Interview

Before we dig into exactly how to answer the “how would you describe yourself” interview question and any example answers, it’s critical to understand the types of words the hiring manager is expecting. That helps you develop a top-notch answer fast, as you’re using the best possible strategy.

Here’s a look at some words, phrases, and adjectives to describe yourself you may want to use:

    • Action-oriented
    • Adaptable
    • Ambitious
    • Ambitious
    • Analytical
    • Authentic
    • Bold
    • Calm
    • Clever
    • Collaborative
    • Confident
    • Creative
    • Curious
    • Dedicated
    • Dependable
    • Detail-oriented
    • Diligent
    • Driven
    • Empathetic
    • Energetic
    • Flexible
    • Focused
    • Friendly
    • High-achieving
    • Honest
    • Independent
    • Loyal
    • Methodical
    • Meticulous
    • Open-minded
    • Organized
    • Patient
    • Persistent
    • Positive
    • Practical
    • Resilient
    • Resourceful
    • Responsible
    • Self-motivated
    • Self-starter
    • Straightforward
    • Strategic
    • Team player
    • Tech-savvy
    • Tenacious
    • Thoughtful
    • Tough
    • Understanding
    • Upbeat
    • Versatile

Use the list above as inspiration, or pick a handful of words to describe yourself that feel like the best fit. That way, you can start to formulate your own answer to this classic interview question.

How to Answer “How Would You Describe Yourself”

When you answer “How would you describe yourself,” you’re telling the hiring manager about your qualities and how they mesh with the skills you bring by using focused and tailored adjectives. Essentially, it’s an overview of why you do what you do.

Generally, this question needs a short and sweet answer.

Why?

Because it doesn’t typically warrant additional follow-up unless specifically requested by the hiring manager.

Typically, your best bet is to choose three to five words that really reflect who you are, putting them in order based on the ones you feel are the best fit. That way, if you’re asked to describe yourself in three or five words, you have that ready. But if you’re told to use only one word, you know which one is your go-to.

Then, think about why those are the best fit. Reflect on any examples from your past that showcase those descriptions as genuinely reflecting who you are as a professional. With that, you have a strong foundation, making it easier to create a standout answer.

If you get stuck, ask your friends and family the same question. Using just a few words, have them describe your best qualities or characteristics. That can help you see how others view your strengths, giving you direction if you feel struck.

After that, take the words and adjectives to describe yourself that you’ve gathered and reread the job description. What qualities or characteristics would an applicant need in order to be considered the Perfect Candidate? How do all those things relate specifically to the position?

Once you have all that information, you should be able to answer the question easily. Start with your quality or characteristic from the list of words to describe yourself, and then finish off with a specific, tailored example.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Answering This Interview Question

1. Don’t Just Give a List

While we do want a list of adjectives that properly describe the qualities and characteristics you bring to the position, an interviewer doesn’t just want you to just fire off a random string of adjectives. Make sure you list a quality or characteristic adjective, and then back it up with a tailored answer that exactly demonstrates how that adjective makes you invaluable to your potential employer.

2. Staying Relevant

Make sure the adjectives you include actually relate to the job you’re applying to. Save adjectives like “dashing,” “charming,” “hilarious,” and “suave” for your online dating profile.

3. Avoid Terms That Strike the Wrong Tone

While it might sound good to use words like “intelligent,” “visionary,” and “talented,” those are words that can rankle a recruiter. Rather than seeming reflective, they can come off as cocky or egotistical. And since 76 percent of hiring managers reject candidates who seem arrogant, it’s best not to fall in that category.

4. Skip Scary, Generic, or Inaccurate Words

There are red flag words to describe yourself that you want to avoid. This includes options that seem scary, generic, or inaccurate, such as “obsessive (scary),” “goal-oriented (generic),” and “likable” (inaccurate, as nobody is 100% likable).

5. Give the Right Example

You can’t simply list off a string of adjectives that describe yourself without having concrete examples of you demonstrating that quality. Use examples from your past that prove that you are that person (beyond a shadow of a doubt).

Describing Yourself: 5 Different Example Answers

Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for: example answers to the “how would you describe yourself” interview question. Each of these options reflects a slightly different scenario, showing how you might approach the question a bit differently depending on where you are in your career.

Keep in mind that these should only serve as inspiration, as you’ll need to customize your answers to the job if you want to shine. With that in mind, here are five answers that show how to describe yourself to the hiring manager.

Entry-Level – Machine Operator

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“In manufacturing, speed and accuracy are both priorities. That’s why I pride myself on being diligent and detail-oriented, pushing myself to exceed expectations while ensuring quality remains high. In my last role, I was formally recognized for having the lowest error rate in the company, all while exceeding output targets.

“Additionally, I’m dependable. At my last job, we lost a worker to injury and did not have the budget to hire a replacement, so I volunteered to pick up the slack, often working long hours into the night. We didn’t miss a beat.”

Entry-Level – Recent Graduate

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“If I had to describe myself, I’d have to say organized, determined, and tech-savvy. While in school, I excelled at keeping project teams on target, coordinating the efforts of everyone to ensure critical tasks were handled. Additionally, I welcome challenges and enjoy putting my technology knowledge to work. While earning my degree, I had the opportunity to intern with an outstanding company. My main project was to digitize legacy records, a project they anticipated would take weeks. Fortunately, I was able to develop an automated process that streamlined the digital file system, allowing me to complete the work in half of the time.”

Mid-Level – Sales Consultant

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“One reason why I excel in sales roles is that I’m both tenacious and empathetic. In the world of sales, being able to see the situation from the customer’s perspective is essential, which is why my empathy serves me well. The ability to also push past “no” and find a way to get to “yes” is similarly vital, which is why I value my tenacity.

“In my last role, using that combination of traits allowed me to land the second-largest contract the company had ever secured. I used my active listening skills to get a full feel for the customer’s needs and dug in to discover any reasons they may hesitate to move forward. Then, I was able to create a custom presentation designed to address their needs while putting their mind at ease, ultimately securing the contract.”

Management Level – Project Manager

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I’m a self-motivated professional that believes strongly in the power of collaboration. As a self-starter, I thrive when given the opportunity to take the reins and coordinate efforts, which is what drew me to the work of project management initially. However, I’m also adept at collaboration, as well as creating mechanisms that boost cross-team communication. It’s that capability that allows me to exceed expectations in project management roles, as I’m able to get the best out of everyone taking part.”

Executive Level – Department Director

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I’m a strategic, results-oriented professional that understands the value of remaining open-minded. During my 15 years in the field, I’ve been fortunate to learn the ins and outs of the industry. However, I recognize that I don’t know it all. Success, in my opinion, is a team effort, relying on the expertise of everyone and not just my own. By embracing my open-mindedness, I capture opportunities others may miss, which I feel makes me an asset at any company.”

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve covered some example answers for the “how would you describe yourself” interview question, explore your own qualities and characteristics so that you can create outstanding answers. With a bit of reflection and some research into the role, you can find the right words to describe yourself during an interview, allowing you to stand out from the competition with ease.

Good luck!

—-

P.S. Don’t forget we wanted to let you know that there are over 100 other difficult interview questions you could be asked in your job interview. Sounds stressful right?

Don’t worry, because we created a free PDF that outlines the most common questions and gives you word for word sample answers that you can use at your next interview. Click the link below to get your copy now!

FREE: Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet!

Here's what you're getting:

  • Word-for-word sample answers to the most common interview questions
  • Tell me about yourself, why should we hire you?, What's your greatest weakness and more!
  • Free Access to our VIP resources area

Click Here To Get The Job Interview Questions & Answers Cheat Sheet

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.