80+ Best Answers to "Describe Yourself"
How would you describe yourself? When we walk into an interview, we’re trying to project the best possible version of ourselves. We want to appear confident, qualified, and ready to take on the job position. It’s difficult to keep up appearances in an interview, no matter how good you are in the interview itself. This is especially so when the hiring manager starts throwing curveball questions. One such question is “describe yourself in one word.”
It may seem simple enough to pick one positive word. The problem is, that question could be followed by a request to elaborate on your answer. And that could present a much more challenging answer.
When you think about it, it's the ultimate elevator pitch request. And if you're asked this question in a job interview. Then how can you break down everything you can bring to the table in just one single word? Or a series of words?
In this guide, we’re going to tackle why interviewers ask this question. And how to craft the best answer. And what answers to emulate and which to avoid.
Why Do Interviewers Ask “Describe Yourself?”
Hiring managers do this for the same reason they ask most questions in an interview. They want to know more about you to determine if you are a good fit for the company or position.
The hiring manager is trying to get to the essence of who you are as a person. And as a professional addition to their team. Or, at the very least, they want to confirm based on first impressions, which you think you may be. The relationship you have with yourself can have a tremendous impact on how you live and work. And this question is meant to put you on the spot to reveal your confidence or insecurity.
Pro tip: In a Job Outlook Survey performed by NACE in 2019. They mentioned that communication skills were amongst the highest hard skills desired by employers. Interview questions like "describe yourself in one word" challenge that ability.
This question is usually used as a setup question to probe deeper. Since many potential hires will use a grand word to describe themselves. But will then struggle to give an example of how that word is exemplified in professional day-to-day behavior. “Describe yourself in one word” also gives the hiring manager insight into how realistic the potential hire is being in their own self-reflective view. We’ll dip more into this in the next few sections.
What Are Hiring Managers Trying to Find Out by Asking “Describe Yourself?”
As we mentioned before, the hiring managers want to paint a picture of who you are. And who you think you are. And how well you can elaborate on a simple one-word answer. Or in a short introduction that uses key skills, keywords, and benefits for the company to describe yourself.
When it comes down to it, they are looking for specific answers in your initial short answer and a subsequent longer answer. And they are looking for honesty, humbleness, and accuracy as well.
For example, let’s say you are interviewing for a position in customer service. Your hiring manager asks you to describe yourself in one word. The word you choose is “friendly.” They ask you to elaborate on this. A negative answer would be one that doesn’t relate to a professional setting. And if you answer with something along the lines of “My friends all say I’m very friendly.” That says nothing about your friendliness in the workplace. However, a good answer would contain an example of an experience in which a customer told you that you were very friendly. And did a great job of taking care of their issue. This shows the interviewee that you have real-world professional examples to back up your claims.
It’s also worth noting that your hiring manager is also likely looking for inconsistencies. And if you came into the interview with an attitude. And then describe yourself as “friendly.” It could make you seem inconsistent, unaware of yourself, or plain dishonest.
How to Answer “Describe Yourself” Effectively
This question is usually used as a setup question to probe deeper. And since many potential hires will use a grand word to describe themselves. But will then struggle to give an example of how that word is exemplified in professional day-to-day behavior. “Describe yourself in one word” also gives the hiring manager insight into how realistic the potential hire is being in their own self-reflective view. We’ll dip more into this in the next few sections.
What interviewees should really do is think about the position and the company. And what qualities would be excellent for someone to be successful in that role. Then, choose one of those words that apply to you.
When describing yourself, pick keywords that connect together and describe what can be offered to the business. An answer example would be the following.
"I'm a reliable, dependable, adaptable professional. Looking to utilize my skills as a sales professional to apply myself to a business looking to disrupt a major industry."
Describing yourself in one word
Take the time to brainstorm some possibilities for good words to choose from. And make sure that you are prepared to follow up your answer with an explanation. Your hiring manager may or may not do this, but most of the time will do so.
When it comes down to it, the “one word” part is easy. The explanation is a whole other ballpark.
The safest answer to rely on would be a work ethic word. Answer with a work ethic word that best describes you as accurately as possible. And while also having a specific behavioral example from past professional experience or academic experiences. This is an excellent opportunity to tell a brief but relevant story. A story about when you went above what you were expected to do in your work or school life. It’s wonderful to take time while answering this question. And to show that you're thinking about the answer. But this is definitely a question you want to think about in advance. Be prepared in advance for how to answer the question and explain your answer with examples or brief stories to back it up.
Describe Yourself Examples
Here are example answers for when a hiring manager asks you to describe yourself.
Using skills to describe yourself
"I'm an adaptable professional with previous sales experience. Looking to utilize my software engineering skills to assist marketing teams to increase leads. And subsequently, increase sales and growth."
Utilizing keywords to describe yourself
"I'm a trustworthy and open-minded professional. This work environment is one that embraces innovation. And when I work with my colleagues, I want to encourage them to ask broad questions. And use quantitative research to address major problems. I aim to influence, encourage, and lead a meticulous team of engineers toward success."
27 Bad (SHOULDN'T use) Example One Word Answers to "Describe Yourself In One Word"
These answers are less than ideal for a number of reasons. Some of them are just too underwhelming while others are a bit too boastful. Avoid these at all costs.
84 Best Example Answers (SHOULD use) To "Describe Yourself In One Word"
Take the time to consider whether that one-word description is true of your personality. Your hiring manager may ask you to elaborate on why that word is such a good descriptor of you as a person.
If You're Asked To Explain Why
If the interviewer asks you to explain why you chose that word. Then you're going to need to line it up to a reason that makes you unique. And if you use the answers above, you should find an ample reason for why you chose that word. Be sure that you use some mixture of your personality along with the reason why you value that word.
A good reason for the word choice will be a small working story. Integration of your personality. And the reason why you value the word for the work environment.
Related Hiring Resources
- 55 Top Interview Questions and Best Answers
- Thank You Email After Interview (Samples, How to Write It)
- 85+ Resume Objective Examples by Job Title
- 200 Phone Interview Questions (+ Answers)
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
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