In interviews there is a question asked that goes somewhat like this...

Can you state 5 Adjectives that are used to describe yourself?

When asked the above question during an interview would the interviewer be interested in an answer that other people would formulate about yourself or what you would describe yourself as?

As they have not stated they would like my personal opinion or possibly other peoples how should I respond to this question?

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    Just to clarify, are you looking for whose adjectives to use when the question is vague, not "how best to describe myself to get the job"? I ask because the focus of my answer is different from others, and I'm trying to see if I just read your question entirely wrong. – jcmeloni Sep 16 '13 at 20:25
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    @jcmeloni For certain on whose adjectives not which ones...The later would be opinion based for sure ;) – Michael Grubey Sep 16 '13 at 20:36

If an interviewer does not clearly state their preference for the source of the adjectives, use whatever you want, but clearly identify the source yourself.

For example, if the question is literally the one you quoted, e.g. "Can you state 5 Adjectives that are used to describe yourself?" you could say "The first adjectives that come to my mind are A, B, C, but interestingly enough my managers always describe me as D and E."

However, when I've encountered that question either as an interviewer or a candidate, it is almost always with the preferred source named, such as "How would you describe yourself?" and "How would your manager describe you?" and "How would your direct reports describe you?"

Whatever you end up saying, be prepared to back it up/explain why the adjective fits or does not -- especially when it's something someone else would say about you. For instance, as an interviewer, if you tell me your manager thinks you are focused and hardworking (for example), I'm going to latch on to that and ask you to say more, such as "Can you give me an example of something you did that would lead your manager to describe you in those terms?"

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Be aware of the context here. If you pick terms that aren't that relevant to the job, it may backfire to answer this question that way. For example, if someone is rather emotionally sensitive, this isn't necessarily something to mention in a job interview. Rather, figure out what strengths may be useful for getting this job and use those rather than trying to give the real true honest answer here. While some people may describe me as sensitive and deep, I'm not sure that employers would see great value there in comparison to being industrious and bright.

You should respond with adjectives that apply to the job as well as qualities that you will show on some level in the interview as otherwise you may come across someone that doesn't know themselves unless you can explain how while you see yourself this way, others wouldn't see you this way.

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The adjectives you select will convey to the interviewer a few things:

  1. What you value in yourself
  2. How well you can describe a situation using a few words
  3. How quickly you think on your feet.

The only "bad" answer here is to use generic adjectives that don't set you apart or boring, vapid ones that say "He's a muggle." (Obviously, you don't want to get too wild and wooly - "hard-drinking, life of the party, etc..." But an interesting adjective has a lot to commend itself.)

Oh, and you don't need 5 - you just need one really, really good one. (And 4 backups, in case you don't wow them on the first.)

Everybody is "smart," "hard-working," and "creative."

If you choose interesting adjectives and can back them up this is an opportunity to set you apart.

  • "I see the problems others don't" (ok, not an adjective, but more specific)
  • "Peacemaking" (Oh, interesting - a guy who not only plays well with others, but helps others get along)
  • "Thorough" (Hmm. The Detail guy - tell me more)
  • "Stick-to-it-ive" (Haven't heard that but I like)

You get the idea - try not to us a buzzword, try not to use the same old lines everyone else does. Really, this is an exercise in vocabulary, creativity, and salesmanship. Have the adjectives before hand, and you'll ace it.

Finally, if you can ascribe an adjective to something people have actually said about you, that earns you "objectively great."

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I would look to my experiences to date in the interview to answer this question. During the interview process, you should get some impression about what characteristics of a candidate are important to them. Consider which of those characteristics apply to you, and then choose the ones that reveal important things about out.

For example, you could look to the following places for adjectives that are important to the position. I've listed them from the one I least prefer to the one I most prefer:

  • The job description.
  • The company's career website, or simply their website.
  • Email or phone conversations to set up the interview (phone or in-person).
  • The conversation during the interview before that question was asked.

I most prefer conversations about the job with the team because they are most likely to accurately reflect what the team is truly looking for. For example, if you hear during your interview that projects are highly technical, you could choose an adjective or two that expresses how you are technical and able to get up-to-speed quickly on technical projects. If you hear that good communication skills are important, then you can choose adjectives that underscore that your strengths there. If it's early in the process and you don't have information gleaned from conversations, then you can use information from the website or the job description to select good adjectives that are relevant to the company and are also strengths of yours.

Whatever adjectives you select, be prepared to back them up with examples from your work or education to give further details. If you describe yourself a highly technical, you should have examples from your current role about how you are an expert in a technical area. If you describe yourself as an excellent communicator, you should have examples of how you have communicated with those at your level, those above your level, and those below your level to influence important decisions or share important information.

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