How to Answer the “Describe Yourself” Question in an Interview

During the job interview process, hiring managers classically ask specific questions regardless of the position you’re trying to land. One that traditionally comes up is a simple request: describe yourself. It may also be poised as the question, “Can you tell me about yourself?”

In either case, it is essential to know what employers are looking for when they ask this question. While the prompt seems broad, hiring managers are after particular details. When you understand what they’re after, it’s far easier to craft a standout response. Here’s what you need to know about how to answer the “Describe yourself” question in an interview.

What Employers Are Looking for When They Ask This Question

The “Describe yourself” interview question seems broad and even a bit ambiguous. However, don’t treat it as an invitation to discuss too many personal details. Ultimately, hiring managers want you to describe yourself in the context of your professional capabilities and career, highlighting key traits and skills that provide them with value.

Generally speaking, about 90 percent of your response needs to focus on you as a professional. With the remaining 10 percent, you can showcase a bit of your personality by tapping on something that’s a bit personal but still relevant. For example, you could mention hobbies or side projects that demonstrate job-related skills or traits. That highlights an aspect of your life outside of the office that still showcases how you can provide value.

How to Answer the “Describe Yourself” Interview Question

When you answer the “Describe yourself” interview question, focus on relevancy. Review the job description to learn more about the skills and characteristics the hiring manager needs to find. You can also review the company’s mission and values statements to identify traits that matter to the organization. Then, you can choose points to include that speak to those needs.

For example, if the job description mentions the need for a self-motivated individual, discuss how you’re able to keep yourself focused and productive, mentioning any skills or traits that make you capable in that area. Similarly, you can discuss those characteristics if the company’s values include integrity and ethical behavior.

If you aren’t sure you have a specific trait, speak with a trusted current or former colleague. You can also ask them to describe you based on how you position yourself at work, giving you some general ideas if you’re genuinely uncertain about where to start.

Essentially, you want to identify skills and traits the company wants to find as a starting point. Next, consider which of those characteristics you represent and how you exhibit them in a professional setting. Then, write down potential responses that allow you to showcase those capabilities, allowing you to refine your answers.

Finally, spend time practicing your answers. Rehearsing the responses lets you increase your comfort level with the material, allowing you to deliver the details seamlessly during your interview.

Ultimately, answering the “Describe yourself” interview question doesn’t have to be a challenge. Use the information above to get yourself on the right track.

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