How to Answer ‘How Would You Describe Yourself?’

Find out how to best describe yourself in a job interview and make your unique traits and qualities stand out to employers.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of two men sitting across each other and having a discussion

There are several common questions that may arise during your job interview, one of them being ‘How would you describe yourself?’ You could answer this question in several different ways, but the key is to provide a response that makes a remarkable first impression to the hiring managers.  

Describing your best qualities and attributes can prove to be a difficult task. You don’t want to be generic, boastful, or fake, so what kind of response should you give? 

If you’re wondering how to describe yourself in a job interview, read on. Our in-depth guide will walk you through all the steps of answering this question. 

Why hiring managers ask this question 

Let’s get one thing straight – hiring managers aren’t asking this question to get to know you better or hear your life story. While it may sound like a friendly thing to ask, interviewers are trying to determine whether your character traits will help you succeed within the company. 

In other words, hiring managers want to know if you are a good fit for the role. 

Your skills and experience are essential for determining whether you’re an ideal candidate, but your personality is also a deciding factor. Interviewers want to evaluate whether your attributes are compatible with the company’s culture, its work environment and the job position in question. 

This interview question also demonstrates how you perceive yourself and whether you are self-assured and confident or doubtful and insecure. So, how you choose to answer this question could be quite telling for the interviewers.

How to craft a response 

Once you understand why hiring managers ask this question, you can start preparing for your interview. Here are some tips that will help you provide a desirable answer to this question: 

1. Be honest 

When asked to describe yourself (especially to people you want to impress), it’s easy to create a gleaming façade that makes you seem perfect. 

In an interview, you may focus too much on impressing the hiring managers, which ends up with you offering an exaggerated or false perception of yourself. Interviewers will often sense this, or worse, realise it after they’ve hired you. 

It’s therefore essential that you describe yourself with honesty and candour, so you can prove yourself to be a trustworthy and reliable candidate. 

2. Maintain a positive attitude 

You may feel compelled to mention your negative traits, such as being shy, bossy or fussy when describing yourself. This a quite a common interview mistake

However, unless you are asked specifically about your weaknesses, it’s important to avoid mentioning traits that could count against you. Your aim here is to impress hiring managers and present the qualities they’re looking for in a candidate.  

Therefore, focus on your most positive traits; think of qualities that best describe you. You are quite literally selling yourself, so use positive vocabulary that proves why you’re a strong candidate.

Here is a list of adjectives that may apply to you: 

  • ambitious 
  • passionate 
  • organised 
  • sociable
  • reliable 
  • focused 
  • disciplined 
  • creative 
  • flexible  

Come up with a list beforehand, so you’re ready to answer this question breezily. You can even ask friends and family for help if you’re unsure of what to say. 

3. Show confidence 

Almost everyone has the jitters before an interview. Nervousness can cause you to stutter or give rushed answers, so you must shake off the nerves before the big day. When you answer the question ‘How would you describe yourself?’ try to stay relaxed - the interviewers will pick up on your confidence right away. 

When you give a prepared, well-rounded and authentic response, you show hiring managers that you are confident about your skills.   

However, be careful - being confident is one thing, being cocky is another. Avoid boasting or exaggerating your best qualities as you could come off as arrogant, which could cost you the role.  

4. Relate your answer to the role 

When asked to describe yourself in an interview, make sure to choose qualities that match the job role. While ‘energetic’ is a positive trait for most job positions, it won’t fit right for the role of an accountant, for instance. Align your qualities with the skills required for the role. 

Research the company beforehand and get a clear idea of what they want from an employee. This interview question aims to uncover how your character can bring value to the organisation. Having a good understanding of the company culture can help you describe yourself in a way that appeals to the interviewers.  

From reading through their website and scrolling through their social media, knowing about the company’s mission, values, and culture will help you formulate a successful answer.

5. Support your answer

Make sure to support your answer with examples. It’s great to call yourself a natural leader, but it’s even better when you provide evidence to back up your claims. 

To support your answer by referring to past work experiences and personal stories that highlight your personality and prove the value you will bring to the company. This way, you’ll give the interviewers more reasons to hire you. 

For example, if you apply for a graphic designer role, describe yourself as a creative person and mention a project you partook in that received accolades and positive reviews. 

Example answers 

These example answers will help you tackle this question successfully: 

If you are persuasive 

‘I would describe myself as a persuasive person. Over the years, I have developed the unique skill to push my preferences onto prospects without being pushy. In my last sales job, I convinced more than 12 clients to switch over to our products, which resulted in several signed contracts. I believe my skills would benefit your firm tremendously, as they would allow me to attract and close potential clients.’ 

In this answer, the person demonstrates their key trait and shows confidence in their skills. It gives hiring managers an idea of how you have succeeded in the past and how you plan to bring the same success rates to their company in the future.  

If you are creative 

‘I believe creativity is my most valued trait. Not only does it help me come up with innovative concepts, but it also allows me to come up with great solutions when a problem arises. For example, as a graphic designer for my previous employer, I came up with a new logo for a demanding client who turned down every other design that was pitched to them. I decided to use a more creative approach and succeeded in obtaining a positive review for my company. I can show you this design in my portfolio if you wish.’

This answer highlights your creative personality and offers some concrete evidence of it. Creativity can be a difficult skill to prove, so bringing up your portfolio can help convince hiring managers of your abilities. 

If you are dedicated

‘I consider myself as someone who is passionate and dedicated to what I do. I have a natural desire to help children develop a love for learning, and it’s my goal to make them feel excited about coming to school each day. My dedication to teaching is so strong that I have started creating educational activities for my 5-year-old. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been promoted from kindergarten assistant to early years’ teacher, and I think my dedication played a key role.’ 

This answer gives a brief description of your attributes and also powerfully incorporates a personal example to back them up. It explains how dedication has helped you receive promotions throughout your career, which gives hiring managers an inkling about your ability to succeed. 

Describing yourself can be more complicated than expected, but with our tips and helpful guide, you can hopefully answer this interview question with ease and confidence. 

What other interview tips would you suggest when describing yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! 

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 23 May 2017.