Be the candidate with all the answers.
Hiring managers are known for their infamous and common interview questions. Some ask you to solve an unsolvable problem, while others focus on personality traits or problems you've overcome. The one question that strikes fear into the hearts of every interviewee is the broad, dreaded “How would you describe yourself?”
All job applicants should expect some form of this question. And expect it to pop up at an inconvenient moment. The question itself is meant to draw out your first thoughts and see how you react to “on-the-spot” questioning.
Don't fear the dreaded question. Prepare for it in advance and know how to describe yourself in an interview. There are no right or wrong answers - not entirely - as long as you don't answer with an embarrassing barrage of old stories. The most important advice to remember is “be honest and be yourself.” Carefully consider your answer, and don't just spit out the first thing that comes to mind.
Here are some tips on knowing how to describe yourself in an interview:
The money maker.
The bottom line for every hiring manager is, well, the bottom line. How much money can you make for their company? They're not interviewing you to just fill a spot or perform a task. Employers want candidates who will give something back and make the investment worthwhile. Try these examples of how to describe yourself in an interview to start your answer:
“I'm a client-focused negotiator who places emphasis on helping clients determine their needs and providing resources to meet their goals.”
“I'm a proactive goal-setter who focuses on aligning my goals with the company's mission.”
Along those same lines, companies want candidates who can step up and make the tough decisions. While the bottom line is important, performance and dedication are at the top of every CEO's list. Show the hiring manager you know how to set goals, get the job done and have a commitment and drive that surpasses other applicants. Try these answers as a starting point:
“I believe a person's worth is measured not by what they can do, but by how they do it.”
“Team members are the most valuable investment a company can make.”
The loyal candidate.
Dedication only comes from loyalty and the desire to help your company succeed. CEOs recognize this is a rare and exceptional trait necessary for company and individual success. Using the right adjectives to describe yourself in an interview can help signify you're a loyal employee! Hiring managers look for answers that show you will stick with the company through thick and thin. They never want to hire a candidate who may jump ship at the first chance for advancement. Use these answers to show loyalty to your potential boss:
“Goals and success are important to me. But I don't measure success by completing a project or winning a contract. Success only comes from sticking with your goals and fighting through the tough times.”
“Stability is important to me. But I recognize there are rocky roads ahead. I believe difficult times are what define a company and a team member.”
Loyalty only goes so far. You may be able to rough it out when the company hits a snag, and long-term dedication may be important. However, hiring managers look for personal growth, not stagnate or passive workers. Show them you have the desire to move ahead and want to learn more about the industry. These answers show a dedication for growth and learning:
“I attribute my personal and professional success to a desire for growth. I am curious by nature and want to learn everything I can about the company and industry.”
“One of my personal goals is to learn a new skill every month. Whether I learn a new tool for email management or take a marketing class, each new skill advances my career another step.”
The goal-oriented candidate.
We discussed goals earlier in this segment, creating a roadmap for success and making plans and sticking with them. However, hiring managers want to know you can do the same for the company and align your personal goals with the company's mission. There are two basic ways to do this when practicing how to describe yourself in an interview. You can take the direct approach and reword the company's mission – reword not repeat – as your own personal goals. The less direct approach requires you use answers and adjectives to describe yourself in an interview that show you are versatile and take the company's desires into account:
“Personal success is one facet of my career. I wouldn't have made it to this point without learning to deliver results within the constraints of desired company outcome.”
“Before I take on a project or negotiate with a client, I look at the project goals, client needs and company values. I believe it is important to make my work speak for the company and let others know for what we stand.”
The customer caregiver.
Being loyal and dedicated to the company is one thing. Client dedication is whole other ballgame. Employers know their business success comes from happy customers and successful clients. Strong client communication and customer relation skills are a requirement for any position. This goes beyond “the customer is always right” motto. Try these answers when practicing how to describe yourself in an interview to show you can take the business and their clients to the next level:
“My friends have always regarding me as a 'people person.' I attribute this to empathy and respect. I look at the client's problem and show genuine care and concern.”
“I've always been an outgoing person. This is a trait I take advantage of in my career. Clients want solutions based on their needs. We cannot offer that unless we listen to their concerns and show compassion.”
The accountable candidate.
We all make mistakes. Go ahead and admit to it. The hiring manager knows you aren't perfect and have miscalculated at least once in your career. Don't be afraid to share an account of something that may have gone wrong in a past position, then be sure to tell how you handled the situation afterwards and how you learned from it. It's refreshing to hear honesty from a candidate. So many applicants fill their resumes, cover letters and interview answers with fluff, the interviewer rarely sees the real person. Here are a few honest examples:
“I like to acknowledge my errors. Humans make mistakes, but the lessons learned define the individual. Once I emailed a client named Sam and referred to the client as a “him” several times. After my supervisor informed me we lost the sale, I learned to use genderless pronouns and words in communication.”
“Communicating with a client is very important. A data entry clerk clearly misspelled the name of a client. I took the liberty to correct the mistake. Not only was I wrong, but the client was very upset since they took great care to ensure the clerk spelled their name correctly. Since then, I ask all clients if we have the correct spelling. “
Bottom line: be prepared.
Answering the dreaded “how do you describe yourself” interview question may be daunting at first. Just relax. The hiring manager doesn't want to know everything about our life. It isn't an interrogation. Prepare for the question and have several answers ready. Customize your responses to fit with the job. Don't try too hard to impress, just be yourself. Hiring managers respect honesty above all else.
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