When asking you to describe yourself, an interviewer is seeking general information about your priorities. This can be both for the purposes of determining whether you seem able to commit to the job or to establish that you have the right makeup for the job itself. For example, someone who describes him or herself as quiet, solitary, and regimented may not excel in a fast-paced environment.
Likewise, a prospective employee who describes themselves as a fun-loving free spirit might not earn first consideration for employment at a law firm. Employers want to know that your priorities and your personality will mesh well with their company.
Points to Emphasize
It's a good idea to give some insight on both sides of the coin: talk about your professional demeanor as well as your general personality.
- Talk about the personal attributes which pertain to the job you're seeking to secure.
- Consider general traits desirable to hiring managers: promptness, dependability, friendliness, etc.
- Try to be confident and outgoing without coming across as arrogant.
- Stay balanced: it's acceptable to mention that you're strong-willed if it's tempered by talking about your ability to compromise and work well with others.
Hiring managers don't expect you to be perfect; honest, measured responses are the best policy here.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Disingenuous responses are usually easy to see through, so stay grounded. Even if it is instinctive only to talk about your good qualities, it might seem to represent a lack of self-awareness.
- Don't trail off into too much talk about your personal life—stay focused on job-related traits.
- Strive for an honest and realistic response, but don't dwell on negatives too much.
- Don't be dubious. When stating qualities about yourself, express confidence.
- Formulating your response as you go is acceptable; unfocused thinking aloud often results in meandering. Keep it concise.
You are your own best salesperson here. In sales, remember it's always critical to strike the balance between honesty and highlighting key benefits to help close the deal.
While potential responses for this type of question will be extremely varied, this is an example starting point to consider:
I would describe myself as an energetic person who is easy to talk to, reliable, and focused on the details. I can sometimes be a bit of a perfectionist but I've learned to be satisfied as long as I've put forth my best effort. I also enjoy working with others and being part of a close-knit team.
Don't get too hung up on squeezing everything about you into a few sentences. A good interview will give you plenty of opportunities to show exactly who you are.