Interview Q&A: List Five Words That Describe Your Character

Gabriela Hernandez
by Gabriela Hernandez   Career Advice Contributor 
Last Updated: June 22, 2023 

Stepping into a job interview can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you’re not used to boasting about what makes you great. However, you’ll need to get comfortable doing this, specifically when employers ask you the classic interview question: “List five words to describe your character.” While somewhat cliché, this question holds significant weight in the eyes of hiring managers.

In this article, we will delve into:

  • Why do employers ask this question
  • Practical strategies for crafting compelling responses
  • Examples of strong answers
  • Crucial mistakes to avoid

By mastering this interview question, you can confidently present yourself as an ideal candidate, leaving a lasting impression on prospective employers.

Why employers ask this question

Understanding why employers ask this question can help you develop an answer strategically and tailor it to your desired job. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most common reasons employers ask you to describe yourself in five words.

Assessing self-awareness and introspection

You need to know yourself to be a better professional. Possessing that self-awareness brought on by introspection will show employers you know your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing when to put your skills to good use and when your shortcomings ask you to delegate is valuable in the workplace.

Evaluating alignment with company culture

Every organization has a unique culture, values and mission. Employers want to ensure you will thrive in the work environment and complement the existing team. By asking you to describe yourself, they can determine if your professional abilities align with the company’s culture and the role’s requirements.

Gauging communication skills

The question about character description provides employers with insights into your communication skills. They are interested in how effectively and concisely you can articulate your qualities. It demonstrates your ability to convey information clearly and succinctly, a crucial skill in many professional settings.

Identifying key qualities for the role

Employers already have the skills they want you to have. When they ask you to describe yourself, they’re most likely expecting you to list at least a few of the most essential skills. If you list these critical characteristics from the get-go, it’s because you self-identify with them strongly.

Understanding these underlying motives behind the question “List five words that describe your character” can help you approach your answer with clarity and purpose. The following sections will discuss effective strategies for crafting your response, provide examples of strong answers and highlight crucial mistakes to avoid.

How to answer this question

Crafting a compelling response to the question “List five words that describe your character” requires careful consideration and preparation. Here are some strategies to help you answer this question effectively:

  • Identify relevant qualities

    Before the interview, reflect on your strengths and qualities that align with the job requirements. Consider the skills and attributes that make you a valuable asset to a team or organization. Choose words highlighting your professional competencies, personal characteristics and values relevant to the role.

  • Be specific and provide examples

    Instead of merely listing adjectives, demonstrate how these qualities have positively impacted your work or contributed to your achievements. Providing specific examples helps employers understand how you implemented your skills.

  • Balance a range of qualities

    Aim for a well-rounded response that showcases a diverse set of qualities. Include a mix of hard skills, soft skills and interpersonal skills. This demonstrates your versatility and adaptability, which are highly sought-after traits in the workplace.

  • Stay concise and focused

    Remember that you have a limited number of words to describe your character. Keep your answer concise and focused. Use impactful language and avoid rambling or going off on tangents. Practice delivering your response clearly to ensure a confident delivery during the interview.

  • Align with the job description and company culture

    Tailor your answer to match the job description and the organization’s culture. Review the job posting and company website to identify the key qualities they prioritize. By aligning your response with these expectations, you demonstrate you’re fit for the role and understanding of the company’s values.

By following these strategies, you can craft a compelling and tailored response to the question. The following section will provide examples of solid answers that effectively utilize these techniques.

Sample answers

Here are some examples of strong answers to the question “List five words that describe your character,” tailored to specific job roles:

Sales representative

Persuasive: I excel in convincing and influencing others, which has led to consistently exceeding sales targets.

Tenacious: I have a relentless drive to achieve results and overcome obstacles, ensuring customer satisfaction.

Customer-focused: I prioritize understanding customer needs and providing tailored solutions to build lasting relationships.

Resilient: I thrive in a fast-paced and challenging sales environment, maintaining motivation despite rejection.

Team-oriented: I collaborate effectively with colleagues, leveraging collective strengths to achieve team goals.

Registered nurse

Compassionate: I genuinely care about patients’ well-being and provide empathetic care during their healthcare journey.

Detail oriented: I closely monitor patient histories, medications and treatment plans to ensure accurate and safe care.

Adaptable: I quickly respond to changing situations and prioritize patient needs to provide optimal care in diverse health care settings.

Critical thinker: I analyze symptoms and data to make informed decisions and deliver the most effective treatment interventions.

Strong communicator: I effectively convey information to patients, families and medical teams, fostering collaboration and trust.


Patient: I understand the unique learning pace of each student and provide support and guidance to ensure their success.

Creative: I develop innovative lesson plans and teaching methods that engage students and enhance their understanding.

Organized: I teach six different classrooms while maintaining organized lessons and records with effective time management.

Inspirational: I strive to foster a genuine love for learning by incorporating the students’ interests and suggestions into their lessons.

Collaborative: I actively collaborate with fellow educators, parents and school administrators to create a learning environment that puts students first always.

Human resources manager

Strategic: I align HR initiatives with organizational goals, implementing strategies that enhance employee performance and engagement.

Trustworthy: I handle sensitive employee information with the utmost confidentiality and build trust with employees at all levels.

Analytical: I utilize data-driven insights to make informed decisions on talent acquisition, development and retention.

Problem-solver: I approach HR challenges with a solutions-oriented mindset, seeking innovative ways to address complex issues.

Empathetic: I understand and address employees’ concerns, fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

Marketing manager

Creative: I bring innovative ideas and concepts to marketing campaigns, effectively capturing the attention of target audiences.

Analytical: I use market research and data analysis to identify trends and optimize marketing strategies for maximum impact.

Strategic: I develop comprehensive marketing plans aligned with business objectives, ensuring a cohesive and focused approach.

Results-driven: I consistently achieve or exceed marketing goals, leveraging metrics to measure campaign success and ROI.

Collaborative: I work closely with cross-functional teams, such as designers and copywriters, to execute all aspects of marketing campaigns excellently.

Mistakes to avoid

Although listing five words to describe your character is simple enough, you should be aware of common mistakes that can put off employers. Here are some key factors you should avoid when answering this interview question:

Vague or generic words: Avoid using overly vague or generic words that lack specificity and fail to differentiate you from other candidates. Words like “nice,” “friendly,” or “hardworking” are often considered cliché and do not provide meaningful insights into your character. Instead, choose more specific and impactful descriptors that highlight your unique qualities.

Lack of alignment with the job: Be cautious not to provide words that do not align with the job’s requirements or the company’s culture. Tailor your response to showcase relevant and valuable qualities in the specific role you are applying for. Ensure your words reflect the skills and attributes contributing to your success in that position.

Neglecting soft skills: While technical skills are essential, don’t overlook the importance of soft skills. Employers value qualities such as collaboration, communication, leadership and problem-solving. Focusing solely on technical abilities may give the impression that you lack the interpersonal skills necessary to thrive in a collaborative work environment.

Overwhelming with unrelated qualities: Avoid overwhelming the interviewer with excessive qualities that may not directly relate to the role or question. Keep your answer concise and relevant, choosing a reasonable number of qualities that best capture your character and suitability for the job.

Lack of self-awareness: One of the underlying purposes of this question is to assess your self-awareness. It’s crucial to avoid overestimating your abilities or misrepresenting yourself. Be honest and genuine in your response, focusing on qualities that accurately reflect where you are in your career today rather than trying to present an idealized version of yourself.

In conclusion, responding to “List five words that describe your character” requires more planning than expected. However, showcasing your relevant qualities and providing a response that aligns with the job requirements and company culture can show employers you’re the right person for the job.

As you navigate the job search process, update your resume to fit each job application. Doing so maximizes your chances of getting called back for an interview. And, if you need help updating or writing your resume from scratch, make sure to check out our user-friendly Resume Builder! With our prewritten content you can copy and paste to all your resume sections, you’ll have a custom resume in no time!

About the Author

Career Advice Contributor

Gabriela Hernandez Career Advice Contributor

Gabriela Hernandez is one of LiveCareer's resident writers. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Journalism. Throughout her career, she has tackled copywriting, blog articles, journalistic writing, academic writing, resume writing, and even prose and verse.


Please rate this article

Average Ratings
1/5 stars with 1 reviews

As seen in*

brands image
*The names and logos of the companies referred to in this page are all trademarks of their respective holders. Unless specifically stated otherwise, such references are not intended to imply any affiliation or association with LiveCareer.