The best way to describe yourself in an interview

The best way to describe yourself in an interview
JobStreet content teamupdated on 08 August, 2023

Do you feel nervous when asked to describe yourself in a job interview? There's no reason to be. "How would you describe your personality" is a common interview question that you can learn to answer effectively.

Consider it an opportunity to share your unique qualities, achievements, and enthusiasm. You can also make a positive impression on the interviewer and increase your chances of landing a job.

To answer effectively, offer a thoughtful and well-crafted response. It should tell the employer what makes you stand out from all the other job seekers and why they should hire you. This article will prepare you to do just that.

Understanding what the interviewer wants

a jobseeker describing herself in her interview

"Give me a description about yourself" may seem like a simple request, but it isn't. Because it's open-ended, there's no framework to help you build a response. How will you answer this, you may ask yourself—shall I start with my family background? My education? My work experience?

Your response will help the interviewer assess how fast and logically you can think, and how well you can communicate in a high-pressure situation.

This question also sets the stage for other questions, such as, "Why are you leaving your current role?" and "Why do you want to work here?"

According to professional presentation coach Joel Schwartzberg, when asked to describe yourself, what the interviewer is actually asking is for you to introduce yourself, get to the point, and not waste anyone's time. They want to see how well you can explain without going off-topic, telling unimportant stories, or giving too much information.

In other words, approach all interview questions "as an audition," advises career strategist John Lees. An audition allows a performer to display a sample of their best skills and talent. Similarly, in an interview, show the interviewer the best of yourself.

When they ask you to describe yourself, what the interviewer also hopes to learn about you is your own unique story and how it shows your personal qualities. Many employers seek a particular personality type for specific jobs, and knowing your personality traits will help them decide if you are the most suitable person for the role.

Ultimately, the employer wants to know: Why should we hire you ?

Different ways the interviewer can ask the same question

The interviewer might ask, "How would you describe yourself?" differently. Here are some ways interviewers might ask you this question:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • How do you see yourself fitting in with our team?
  • What would you say are your most vital personal qualities?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Can you walk me through your experience and background?
  • What are some of your biggest strengths?
  • How do you approach problem-solving?
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you demonstrated leadership?
  • How do you handle challenges or difficult situations?
  • How do you think your past experiences have prepared you for this role?

Be alert for word cues signaling what the interviewer wants to know. They might analyze you to learn how you respond to different scenarios.

Identifying your personal qualities

Giving a short description of yourself is an excellent opportunity for you to showcase the personal qualities that make you the ideal person for the job.

Personal qualities are deeply rooted in your personality. They relate to your creativity, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and values.

Identifying your personal qualities

Be aware that personal qualities are different from skills. Unique attributes are rooted deep in the individual, while we learn skills through education, training, and experience.

There are two types of skills— hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the technical skills you need to do your job, such as computer programming or drafting. They are quantifiable and measurable.

Soft skills, also called "people skills," are related to relationship-building, behavior, and self-regulation, among other factors. Some examples are communication, collaboration or teamwork, and time management.

What are some techniques to help you identify your personal qualities?

  • Engage in self-reflection. Take pen and paper and ask yourself, what good qualities do I have? What good qualities have I shown in the past? How do I interact with others, and how would they describe me? Think also about your professional strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and aspirations. List all the personality traits that you can think of, then select the top ten qualities that best describe you.
  • Ask others for feedback. Approach trusted colleagues and supervisors as a "sounding board" to discuss your traits and beliefs. Asking others for feedback is essential because we often see ourselves differently from how others see us.
  • Take personality tests. An example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which helps you determine your personality from 16 different types. See if the answer resonates with you.

Crafting your answer

A jobseeker writing her answer for her interview

As we have learned, interviewers want to see if you can get to the point in a timely manner. So use these tips to help you prepare for the question, "How would you describe yourself?" Here are some tips on how to structure your answer and create moments that resonate with the interviewer:

Begin with an honest self-assessment

If you have done the exercise in the previous section, you will already have a list of your top ten attributes that illustrate why you are the ideal person for the job.

Consider your audience

Who will you be speaking to? Do some research on the organization. Find out what they do and their mission, vision, and values. You could even research their achievements and missteps.

Make an outline

Plan what you are going to say and create a storyline to follow. Make it simple. A standard template is to start from the present, explaining where you are right now. Then go to the past to share what brought you here. And finally, go to the future or where you are trying to go.

For example, "Right now, I am a writer for [company]. I studied at [university]. After graduating, I would like to work in [goal]."

Tell engaging stories

Career development expert Vicky Oliver said, "Make sure your story has a great beginning, a riveting middle, and an end that makes the interviewer root for you to win the job." Then, keep the interviewer engaged throughout your response.

Fill the need

Schwartzberg suggests scanning the job description for words such as "required," "must have," or "what we need." These point to what employers are searching for in a candidate. Identify which among your personal qualities or qualifications will fit the bill. Then, show the interviewer about a professional experience that shows you filling that need in another job.

For example, if the position requires project management experience, you can say, “I oversaw the development of [project],” or “In my previous role, I was trusted with overseeing [project].”

Show why they need you

If your qualifications don't match their wishlist, focus instead on your most relevant qualities that demonstrate how you can contribute in a constructive and valuable way. Look for qualities they want that fit you, like "team player" or "excellent communicator," not qualifications like "master's degree" or "three years of hands-on experience."

Use specific examples

Choose relevant and interesting details from your professional experience to make your answer memorable. For example, you can say, "I worked closely for two years with [company]," or "I chose a career in the service industry to help more people."

Be kind to yourself

Avoid negative self-talk or mentioning personal traits that are unnecessary in the workplace. But always be honest when asked specific questions about your weaknesses or failures. Finally, share your lessons and your commitment to do better going forward.

Show enthusiasm

Maintain a positive attitude, demonstrate your ability to work with a team, and use positive language. For example, you can say, "I'm excited to use my skills to contribute to the company," or "I'd like to use my experience to make a difference."

Common mistakes to avoid

Are there dos and don'ts when giving a short description of yourself? Schwartzberg says yes. Mistakes are common, but you can avoid them with preparation and mindfulness. Here are his tips on what to avoid, as well as other helpful pointers:

Missing the point

Tell the interviewer how your skills, qualifications, and experience can best fill the role. Avoid telling your entire life story or rambling about your hobbies and pets. Save time. Read the room – there may be a chance to reveal more personal details at the end of the interview, but only if doing so will improve your chances.

Rehashing known details

There is no need to rehash what's already in your resume, like your job history. Better yet, show how a particular job or activity helped you develop skills that will benefit the interviewer's organization. For example, you can say, "At XYZ Company, I learned how to deal with customer complaints," or "I was the choir leader in our church, and this taught me leadership and project management skills."

Lying or exaggerating

When talking about yourself, resist embellishing with details that aren't entirely true. Lying will backfire on you.

Saying more than you have to

Some interviewers can put us at ease, accidentally making us drop our guard and mention personal matters that you shouldn't reveal in a professional setting. Remember that you are there for a purpose.

Interrupting the interviewer

Be polite and mind your manners! Don't interrupt—it leaves the wrong impression.

Practice makes perfect

A jobseeker in a cafe while phone interview is on going

Practice answering questions when preparing for a job interview. It allows you to hone your responses and present yourself in the best light. It also lets you become more confident for the interview.

Here are some techniques for practicing your answers:

Review the job description

Double-checking the job description will help you anticipate the interviewer's questions and the employer's requirements.

Write down your responses

Writing your responses helps fix them in your mind, as writing by hand is correlated to learning new material faster and better.

Practice your responses out loud

Practicing your responses beforehand will help you become more familiar and comfortable with the words and content of your answers.

Hold mock interviews

A mock interview is where you simulate a job interview with someone else, often a friend or family member. The interviewer will ask you questions similar to those you may receive during a job interview. It also allows you to get feedback on your answers, which can help you become more confident and prepared.

Be natural when answering

Career coach Karol Gaitán says, "The goal is not to memorize a script." Instead, you should be familiar with the details of your career, accomplishments, experience, and skills. Then, she suggests you prioritize your response accordingly, as people "typically remember the first and last thing they hear."

Example answers

Emphasize the hard and soft skills that can set you apart from other applicants and allow you to make valuable contributions to the company. Use these example answers to help you shape your responses.

For each skill, describe the situation, the actions taken using that skill, and the positive outcome. You'll show the interviewer that you have mastery over your abilities and can use them constructively and meaningfully.


  • Skilled communicator who conveys complex ideas clearly and concisely
  • Experience presenting to large groups and speaking with all levels of organization
  • Actively listens and responds thoughtfully to ensure effective communication

Data Analysis

  • Data-driven individual proficient in Excel and SQL
  • Able to analyze and interpret complex data sets
  • Able to present insights in a meaningful way and work independently or collaboratively on data-driven projects


  • Natural leader who motivates and inspires others
  • Experience managing teams and delegating tasks effectively
  • Able to provide constructive feedback and develop team members


  • Skilled programmer proficient in Java and Python
  • Experience in developing front-end and back-end applications
  • Able to write clean, efficient code and collaborate with other developers


  • Flexible and adaptable individual who thrives in fast-paced, dynamic environments
  • Able to quickly learn new skills and adapt to new technologies or processes
  • Able to work effectively under pressure and prioritize tasks to meet deadlines

Graphic Design

  • Creative individual proficient in graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Able to develop visually appealing designs for print and digital media
  • Able to work collaboratively with other designers and always seeking to expand design skills


  • Resourceful and analytical problem-solver
  • Able to identify and resolve complex issues using critical thinking skills
  • Able to work independently or collaboratively to find innovative solutions

Project Management

  • Detail-oriented project manager who develops and executes plans from start to finish
  • Experience in managing budgets, timelines, and resources
  • Able to communicate effectively with stakeholders and ensure project goals are met


  • Empathetic individual who understands and connects with others on a personal level
  • Experience working with diverse groups and building strong relationships based on trust and respect
  • Actively listens and responds thoughtfully to the needs of others

Digital Marketing

  • Data-driven digital marketer proficient in Google Analytics and AdWords
  • Experience in developing and executing successful digital campaigns across multiple channels
  • Able to analyze data and optimize campaigns to improve ROI

Final tips for success

Remember to be authentic and sincere when asked to describe yourself in a job interview. Your honesty and enthusiasm will make a lasting impression on the interviewer. Here are some pointers to accomplish this:

  • Be confident in your answer and exude enthusiasm for the role.
  • Show your excitement for the opportunity.
  • Share stories of your successes and failures. You will help the interviewer better understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Be honest about your work experience, accomplishments, and skills.
  • Explain what you have learned from your mistakes and be willing to discuss them.
  • Demonstrate your willingness to take on challenges, learn from your experiences, and take responsibility for your actions.
  • Speak enthusiastically about how you can contribute to the company.
  • Show respect for the interviewer and the company. Be polite, courteous, and professional.


"How would you describe yourself?" is a common question in job interviews, and preparing and practicing for it will help you craft a compelling answer. So stay on topic and get to the point as you share your personal qualities and skills that might be of value to the company.

Practicing giving your answer can help you become more confident and avoid common mistakes, such as rambling or interrupting the interviewer. Answer thoughtfully and provide concrete examples highlighting your unique talents and qualifications.

Stay positive, as most employers will analyze your confidence and personality. With these tips, you'll ace this question in your following job interview.


  1. What are the most important personal qualities to mention in my answer?
    ⁠Among the most desirable personal qualities are those related to relationship-building, collaboration, and creativity because they ensure great teamwork and the creation of innovative solutions.
  2. Is it okay to mention weaknesses when answering this question?
    ⁠Yes, especially if the interviewer asks. Always be honest. Give your answer a positive spin by mentioning your lessons learned and your efforts toward improving yourself. For example, you can say, “I’ve been attending leadership seminars to improve my leadership skills, which I admit needs some work.”
  3. How long should my answer be?
    ⁠Bearing that you need to get to the point, a " 30- to 60-second response is best."
  4. Can I use humor in my answer?
    ⁠First, read the room. Is the company an informal one or a formal one? How about the interviewer? Research the company culture to find out what's acceptable and what's not. Act accordingly.
  5. What if I don't have any work experience?
    ⁠Lack of work experience is often the case with fresh graduates. Mention the skills you developed in school as a member of an athletic team, academic club, or creative group. Highlight how your experiences in groups such as a church, advocacies, or social clubs helped you learn organizational and leadership skills.
  6. How do I balance being authentic and still presenting myself in the best possible light?
    ⁠Focus on the qualities and attributes you possess that are relevant to the job. Consider concrete examples that have led to success in a similar role and practice talking about them.
  7. What if I have trouble identifying my personal qualities?
    ⁠You can ask trusted friends, family, and mentors to help identify your unique qualities and abilities.

Start updating your resume now and search for opportunities. Use our resume templates to help you get your dream job! #SEEKBetter jobs by creating or updating your profile at JobStreet. Job-hunting on the go? Download the JobStreet app on Google Play or the App Store. For more tips, visit our Career Tools section and Career Advice.

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