How to Answer the ‘Describe Yourself’ Interview Question

The employer’s goal in an interview is to determine whether your characteristics match the role you are applying for. Your response to a broad question like ‘describe yourself’ can help the interviewer get to know you better and give you a chance to highlight personality traits that match the job description. Fortunately, the ‘describe yourself’ question is a fairly standard one, so you have a chance to prepare for it. This article describes how to compose a strong, confident response.

How to respond to ‘describe yourself’ in an interview

Follow these steps to prepare an answer to ‘describe yourself’ during an interview:

1. Firstly, consider your audience

In any speaking situation, you should think of your audience. In an interview, consider how you want to portray yourself and your relationship to the interviewer. It’s best to use a professional focus for the ‘describe yourself’ question, rather than a personal or casual tone. 

2. Secondly, spend time reflecting on your best attributes and interests

Coming up with some good answers may require reflection, which means the answers you develop are likely to be genuine and sincere. From an employer’s perspective, if you see yourself in a certain way, you’re likely to consciously work to embody those attributes. 

Growth comes from being able to honestly assess yourself to find areas that need improvement and areas of strength you want to continue developing, and from this initial analysis, you can direct your growth. Your response to the ‘describe yourself’ question will allow you to show the employer you’re capable of meaningful reflection and you know what traits will make you a valuable member of the company. 

3. Thirdly, make a list of adjectives that align with the job

Use strong adjectives in your ‘describe yourself’ response to show that you understand your personal strengths. The job description can help you find adjectives describing qualities the employer values. Describe yourself by using these in a natural and sincere way to show how your talents and interests align with the job description.

If you don’t find adjectives in the job description, consider the traits you would need for the job, such as a strong work ethic or the ability to work well with people. Other possibilities might be proactivity, being inventive, being someone who creates opportunities, a good communicator, or someone who is committed to professional development. 

4. Next, ask yourself questions

Asking and responding to questions is a good way to brainstorm. As you do this, keep your purpose in mind. You want to help the employer envision how you would fit into the company and how you’ll respond to challenges. Think back to a challenge you faced at your current or past jobs. If you are new to the workforce, think about challenges at school or other organizations you’ve been a part of. Ask yourself what helped you effectively respond in those situations, such as taking the initiative, using your creativity or trusting your organizational skills.

Other than problems directly related to the job, consider indirectly related problems, such as those in the workplace culture. For example, if you noticed the team did not work well together as a unit, you might have spoken to management about team-building activities, perhaps offering to take the lead. You might have arranged something informal, such as group dinners after work. The way you responded to these issues shows your ability to bring value to the company beyond your fulfillment of the job description. 

5. Then, develop personal examples

Part of giving a genuine response is personalizing it with specific examples. Though some adjectives and personality traits like ‘goal-oriented’ and ‘team player’ are common, transferable skills, they’re important for many roles. You can share examples from your own experience to show how you have used these skills. Prepare a response that starts with the adjective or trait. Then, in one or two sentences, describe a situation that illustrates it. Your interviewer might then ask you to expand on the example, so be ready for that as well. 

6. Next, strive for balance in how you describe yourself

For example, it’s generally good to be an employee who is a self-starter and doesn’t require excessive supervision, but it’s also good to value other people’s roles in the company and be able to communicate effectively. This balances independence with teamwork. In striving to achieve balance, make sure your descriptions sound realistic and genuine.

7. Finally, practice with a friend or record yourself

Because it can help you overcome discomfort in talking about yourself, practice can help your response to sound more natural. When you practice your delivery, your response is more likely to sound sincere and honest. Get help from a friend you trust to give you honest feedback. If or when your friend is also in the job market, you can return the favor and support each other. 

You can also record yourself to see how your delivery sounds. This is a great way to become aware of mannerisms, tone and vocal inflections you don’t often notice about yourself. The effort you put into practicing will make the actual interview feel easier and more natural.