How To Come Up With The Best Words To Describe Yourself In An Interview
You know it’s coming. You’ve answered the other interview questions relating to your experience, education, strengths and achievements.
Though it’s not quite over yet – this is the point where it starts to get a little more personal.
At some point in the interview, most of us will be asked the simple, yet loaded question – ‘how would you describe yourself?’ OR ‘Describe yourself in three words’ OR even ‘describe yourself in one word’.
This question can spark some nervous reactions in many of us, because really – how can we sum up who we are to be true to ourselves, express our personality, and maintain a professional impression for this potential job?
Right now, what comes to mind when you think of words to describe yourself?
We as humans will always be nervous to ‘toot our own horns’ or be too salesy or come across as arrogant, so we may be afraid that the words we use to describe ourselves say a lot about us in themselves.
So what are some good words to describe yourself?
Drawing a blank?
You’re not alone.
You might sense that this question is already a little difficult to answer. Maybe you’ve even internally frozen up when you’ve been asked this in an interview in the past. Fumbling over the best words to describe yourself, when we assume what they want to hear (and we hope they sound impressive).
It’s a normal reaction.
What is the right thing to say?
What words can we use that express the essence of who we are, without sounding like we are trying to hard or just offering the answer we think they want to hear?
If you’re preparing yourself for a future interview, meeting or communication in a professional setting where you have a feeling this question will come up, there is a way to prepare yourself and have a solid answer ready to go.
Not only that, but also one that feels true to you and that will be music to the ears of the interviewer (because let’s face it, there are some words that they’re secretly hoping you’ll say)… You know, those words that when you say them, they instantly think “great”!
Beyond offering some examples of the best words to describe yourself in an interview, we’ll cover a range of good words that can be used as words to describe yourself on a resume and in any professional setting.
It can be tempting to bypass this question in our planning by assuming that we’ll be able to think of the right words on the spot, and that this isn’t really one of the most ‘important parts’ of the interview anyway.
Don’t underestimate the power of the simple interview and application questions. Sometimes the Hiring Manager will look straight to those answers to get a sense of who you are, beyond all of the other regular information you share.
It’s important to be prepared for this question, so let’s look at the reasons why it’s asked in the first place, and we’ll explore a hypothetical example so that you can learn an effective system for answering how you would describe yourself confidently.
Let’s break it down using a hypothetical example that can give you a feel of the system to use to get to your own personal answer.
Follow the steps and use this as a tool for when you’re crafting your resume, or prepping for your job interview.
For our example, here’s the interview,resume,, or application question we’ll look at:
If a co-worker or manager would use three words to describe you, what would they be?
Why this question?
Let’s begin with asking why employers and hiring managers ask you to state some words to describe yourself.
It’s not an open invitation to start telling your life hiring managers is looking for.
As mentioned about, it can be a key place the reader glances to on the application, or a point in the interview where they really note down your answer.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
Step One – know the context
It helps to bring to mind the type of industry and role that you’re applying for, and already have a sense of the characteristics that are sought after in such roles.
For example: A graphic designer will obviously have a higher need to be creative than a data analyst. Words in the creative category, therefore, would make more sense to express.
You already have a feel for this industry, you wouldn’t be applying for a job in it if you didn’t!
So write down some keywords that describe this type of work ethic, general environment and values.
For example: Let’s say you are applying to be a marketing manager for a health club. The following words can be a way to describe the context (which will point to the type of words that would suit how to describe yourself).
Marketing managers are generally there to oversee the creative process in a systematic way, often working to set deadlines.
These qualities are generally needed for the role:
– Innovative, forward-thinking, versatile, prompt, organized, leader, solution-focused.
Now since it’s for a health club, these additional words also suit the context of the industry:
– Vibrant, energetic, active, overachiever, motivated, dedicated, bright, enthusiastic, disciplined
Step two – Refer to Lists
Categorizing certain words under another keyword is a great way for you to find unique ways to express your abilities. Below are some examples lists.
If you want to do your own research into different words, then a thesaurus is your best friend.
Below are some of the most effective words to describe yourself in a professional setting.
To express CREATIVITY:
Inventive, original, unconventional, adaptable, ecclective, innovative, unique, imaginative, thoughtful, dynamic, versatile, curious
To show that you are FOCUSED:
Meticulous, patient, particular, detail-oriented, attentive, precise, diligent, methodical, assiduous, categorical, accurate, careful
If you’re a PEOPLE-PERSON:
Communicator, collaborative, outgoing, sociable, active, cooperative, fair, supportive, receptive, trustworthy, respectful
To demonstrate your AMBITION:
Driven, committed, motivated, determined, energetic, dependable, courageous, bold, initiator, disciplined, committed, responsible
To state that you are DIRECT:
Honest, asserted, realistic, responsible, decisive, disciplined, candid, prompt, real, assured, straightforward, matter-of-fact, point-blank
To show that you are OPEN-MINDED:
Approachable, observant, perceptive, broad-minded, understanding, interested, easy-going, balanced
You can say things like:
“I’ve often been complimented for how approachable I am”
“In the past it has been noticed that I am a very direct communicator”
“I’ve been recognized for being a very committed person”
Step three – Ask Advice
It helps to ask previous or present co-workers, or trusted friends how they might describe you.
This will help to give you ideas that you may not have considered, or confirm how you see yourself. Basically, ask them to share in a few words what your best characteristics and qualities are.
If they don’t answer with a professional term, using something like ‘friendly’ to describe you, you could easily find a matching professional word such as ‘cooperative.’
Cross check their answers to the words and categories above, or again, use a thesaurus to find the best fitting words to describe yourself.
Step four – Refer to the Job Listing
Since you’ll be asked to describe yourself in the interview or in your resume,, there’s a particular role (or roles) you know you’re applying for, which came with some kind of listing describing the role (wherever you found this – online, in print etc).
Go back to this listing and think about the kind of words that you’d use to describe the actual position that you’re applying for.
Is it a leadership role? A team-working situation?
Now think of the types of qualities someone would need in order to fulfill that role effectively. Where do you match these qualities?
Really try to be honest, however.
If you know you prefer to work individually, then don’t describe yourself as a team-player just because the listing states that you’ll be working alongside other people in some realms. .
We can only do what we are so stick to words that describe you the most authentically and accurately.
Step five – Choose Wisely
So now you can make an educated decision on words that feel right to you, as well as the type of words that the hiring managers or interviewer is looking out for. Keep them close, and be ready to expand on these words in case the question turns from ‘how would you describe yourself in three words’ to something like ‘give me an example of how you are a creative person in the professional realm.’
It’s very important to have a story ready to prove that each word you describe yourself with is true. Once I asked a follow up question to one of the interview candidates and it stumped him.
In reality if he had been what he said he was, he should not have had any problem coming up with a way to explain how he had been creative in the past.
Having some examples ready to go is very valuable in the interview process. Of course, if you’re using words to describe yourself in a resume, then you’ll pick those three and just list them down.
If it’s in an interview, be ready just in case it does turn into a longer conversation!
A few more tips on finding and using the best words to describe yourself in an interview:
Just because you managed to think of a bunch of words that apply to you, and the interviewer asks you a more open-ended ‘what words would you use to describe yourself?’ does not mean that this is a free pass for you to list off as many as you can think of.
Especially if they only ask for three (or any set number). Often in the nerves of interviewing, people try to just throw out as many words they can remember in hopes of impressing the interviewer with at least a few of them.
This ultimately makes you seem more scattered, and unable to be clear and succinct. So refrain from using too many words – stick with the most relevant and powerful.
Sweet and simple
Simple can be just as satisfying. Sometimes using impressively long and complex words to describe yourself actually does you a disservice, as it may come across as you trying to brag and please, rather than just be yourself. If you use a word that the Hiring Manager doesn’t know for example, then that could go either way.
They could think you’re smart for having big words, or they could end up feeling silly for not knowing the word. It really depends on how the hiring manager interprets this.
To avoid confusion or mixed interpretations sticking with simple words is generally better than complex. When you confuse them you lose them.
Think about whether it suits you more to say ‘visionary’ or actually ‘dreamer’ or even ‘idealist.’ They’re similar words, saying the same thing, but in a different tone.
If you’re speaking to someone who has been using this kind of language (more complex) during the interview, then maybe it suits to stick with those terms. If for example you hear the interviewer say a word in the interview like, visionary to describe someone else in the company.
You know that is the type of language they use and you are safe to then use that word. Using their words is always better as it will resonate with them more when you communicate with someone.
Generally speaking, it is actually refreshing to sound more like how you would talk in a conversation as the generic way to answer is to use the impressive language, and it is much more unique to be ‘human’ sounding.
Ditch these words
There are some ‘red flag’ words that no one should ever pick as words to describe yourself, as they’re either generic and overused or actually express and energy that no employer wants.
Here are some examples:
Obsessive, compulsive, ruthless, radical, jokester, tolerant, intense, cut-throat etc.
Goal-oriented, team-player, happy, likable, bright, smart, experienced, seasoned (we’re not talking about steak here).
In summary, the system to approach this often-asked question is as follows:
– Know the context of your industry and role
– Make lists and look under categories to organize in your mind
– Ask people close to you for some feedback on describing you
– Cross check phrases and words with the job listing
– Make an informed and truthful choice
– Don’t use more words than necessary
– Sometimes simple is best
– Steer clear of red flag words.
Ultimately, this question can be a telling sign to the hiring manager or interviewer to really get a sense of who you are, and how you perceive yourself and your own value.
This could even be a make or break question, so do take the time to think this through and come prepared so you’re really sure on how to find the best words to describe yourself.
Stories to back up your words are even more important than the words themselves, that’s why I’ve prepared a FREE guide for you that includes 10 examples of stories that will help you get the job offer.
What you’ll get inside the guide:
Top-ten examples of stories that have proven to be impressive interview answers
The S.A.R.I. formula breakdown of how to answer these questions
The step-by-step of why it works
Fill-in-the-blank templates for each question so, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks and get going!
Now you’ll need to come up with your own stories! (You can steal the ones in the guide if they apply to you though too, I don’t mind)
If you are still getting stuck because you can’t think of your own stories…
I’ve included 25 questions that you can ask yourself to come up with your stories much quicker!
You’ll get all this in a beautifully designed workbook prepared specifically for you to prepare for your interviews.
By the end of working through this guide, you’ll be feeling confident and ready for any situational interview that comes your way!
Here is some feedback I’ve gotten from this guide, and I get new emails like this every day, and they NEVER get old!
By the end of working through the guide you’ll be totally ready for any situational interview question that gets thrown your way!
Click below and grab it now.
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And remember, the current system isn’t perfect, but you can outsmart it. I’m here to prove to you that you do have what it takes.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week back here in my digital corner.
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