Let’s start by first breaking down exactly why hiring managers ask this question.
But first, we wanted to let you know that there are over 100 difficult interview questions you could be asked in your job interview. 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. In many ways, for the same reason they ask the question “Tell me about yourself.” No, it’s not to make you uncomfortable, and it’s certainly not an opportunity for you to sit back and treat them like a therapy session and go into deep detail about how your early childhood turned you into the person you are today.
For instance, instead of writing, "I selected 50 surveys at random and determined most students agreed with the policy," write, "Fifty randomly pulled surveys revealed that most students agreed with the policy." Revise so that you eliminate the need for pronouns entirely in your sentences, creating the succinct language more appropriate for formal writing.
For example, as explained by The Lincoln University, the sentence, "The researcher's method required that students explain their survey answers if they choose 'unsatisfied'," could be more effectively written in the third person as, "Respondents needed to explain survey answers if selecting 'unsatisfied.' " Phrases like "this writer" create awkward language.
Start with your quality/characteristic from the list of words to describe yourself and then finish off with a specific, tailored example. (Again, this isn’t your life story.) Now before we get into how to properly answer this confusing question, let’s hit on the ways NOT to answer it. While we do want a long 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 as though this were a grown-up version of “fill in the blanks” or “Hiring Manager Mad Libs.” 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. Speaking of adjectives, let’s not venture too far off the path and make sure your adjectives actually relate to the job you’re applying to. You can’t simply list off a string of adjectives that describe yourself without having concrete examples of you demonstrating that quality. I take my job seriously and once assigned a task, will see it through to completion.
Save adjectives like “dashing,” “devastatingly handsome,” “hilarious” and “suave” for your online dating profile. You also want to make sure that the words you’re using are words you’d actually use about yourself. Use examples from your past that prove that you are that person (beyond a shadow of a doubt). 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. I really enjoy working with a wide variety of people to achieve a common goal efficiently and realistically.
Finally, determine exactly how all those things relate specifically to the position you’re applying to.
Once you have all that information, you should be able to answer the question easily.
Imagine this: you’re sitting in an interview for your dream job. You’re knocking every question out of the ballpark and the hiring manager is genuinely laughing at all your jokes. You can tell the interview is wrapping up and you’re already figuring out what thoughtful bit of insight you’re going to include in your follow up thank you note that will make the hiring manager smile and bring you in for round two. Suddenly all that certainty dissolves in a puff of confusion and fear and the only words you can think of are “screwed” and “dazed,” with a dash of “perpetually unemployed” thrown in just to really mess with your psyche. Before you slink off defeated with your tail between your legs, ready for an endless cycle of help wanted ads and disappointment, we’re here to tell you that answering the question ‘describe yourself’ isn’t the end of the world.
All it takes is a bit of prep work before you get to the interview.