Dec. 22, 2020

How would you describe yourself?

How would you describe yourself?

How well candidates fit into the company’s culture is as important for the hiring manager as their skills and experiences. In this episode, I show you a simple 5-step approach to help you craft an answer to the common interview question “How would you describe yourself?” that shows that you are the right candidate for the job.

Click here for a list of words that might help you describe yourself


Hi and welcome to today's episode, in which I show you how you can answer the common interview question, "How would you describe yourself?" With this question, the interviewer wants to get to know you better, understand how self-aware you are and determine if you are a good cultural fit for the company and the role. In other words, they want to find out whether or not you are the right person for the job who will be easy to manage and work with and who will thrive in the work environment. And, when evaluating applicants, how well a candidate fits into the company's culture is a significant aspect for hiring managers. Even candidates with perfectly matching skills and experiences will most likely not get an offer if their values are not aligned with the company's. So, it is well invested time to have a thought-through answer to the question, "How would you describe yourself?" Here are five steps that might help you:

Step 1: Try to list at least 5-10 things that characterize you. A good answer should cover three aspects: your personality, motivation and working style. So, try to include all of these elements. And keep it to the positive; for example, use "I like autonomy" instead of "I don't like to be micromanaged." If you need some inspiration, check out this episode's show notes at for a list of words that might help.

Step 2: Ask at least three people that know you well how they would describe you. If you can, ask current or former colleagues or managers, as they know best how it is to work with you. If you can't, for example, because you don't want them to know that you have applied for a new job, then ask friends or relatives. Add their descriptions of you to the list.

Step 3: Read about the company's culture, and if you can, talk to people who work there. Also, reread the job description. This step aims to get a clear picture of how it is to work there and what kind of person can succeed in the role and thrive in the organization. Write down a couple of bullet points to capture the most important aspects.

Step 4: Choose 3-5 things that describe you and that are well-aligned with your findings from the previous step. For example, let's say you added "thinking outside the box" to your list in step 1 because working in an environment that encourages coming up with new and creative ideas motivates you. And in step 3, you identified that the company has "innovation" as one of its core values. In that case, this is a good match and you might want to include this aspect in your answer. Remember to cover all of the three earlier mentioned aspects: personality, motivation and work style.

Step 5: Formulate your answer by briefly summarizing what you identified in the previous step. It should not be much longer than twenty seconds. And try to use your own words. So, in the earlier example, pick "thinking outside the box," as this is much more authentic than trying to re-use the word "innovation" just because it is used on the company's website.

Let me give you an example from when I was a hiring manager at a company known for its high-paced work environment and entrepreneurial and collaborative culture. One candidate told me, "As a person, I am curious and driven. I thrive in agile environments that encourage innovative thinking and calculated risk-taking. I take ownership of my tasks, and it motivates me to keep several balls in the air. I like seeking other perspectives and have often heard from my colleagues that I am very collaborative and helpful." I liked this answer as it helped me get to know the applicant better and demonstrated that she was self-aware. It also made me feel confident that she would be a good fit for the team.

These were the five steps. Before closing this episode, I would like to bring up one final aspect. When preparing your answer, you might end up in a situation where you see a mismatch. For example, when researching its culture, it might turn out that the company is in a constant state of transition with mergers, acquisitions and re-organizations. Many people like this kind of dynamic environment, while others don't. If you prefer certainty and stability, then this is something you might want to dive deeper into. After all, you want to make an informed decision as to whether or not to accept the job once it is offered to you. However, you should not bring this up when answering the question, "How would you describe yourself?" I will show you in a later episode, when I talk about what questions you can ask during the interview, how you can address this without creating any red flags for the interviewer.

That was all for today. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.

Words that could be used to describe yourself:

Analytical Customer- focused Entrepreneurial Inspiring Structured
Collaborative Decisive Focused Listen to / give feedback Supportive
Communicative Diplomatic



Proactive Take ownership
Creative Empathetic Helpful Calculated Risk-taker Team-player
Curious Engaged Inclusive Seek diverse perspectives Trust building