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The Best Way to "Describe Yourself" in a Job Interview
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Alyson Garrido, Career Coach image
Alyson Garrido, Career Coach, Job Search and Career Advancement
3

A common first question in a job interview is "describe yourself" or "tell me about yourself." It’s your time to shine and share why you’re a great fit for the job and company. Many people trip up on this common question that sets the tone for the rest of an interview. Preparation is key for all interview questions, and it’s important to realize that this is not the moment to overshare about your personal life. 

I recommend answering using this four-step model. Most importantly, keep the information relevant to the job and show that you are in control of your career. Save circumstances and detours for your first happy hour. By answering these questions in your response, you’ll have a thorough answer which showcases your skills and personality while relating each to the job at hand.

Four Steps to Answering "Describe Yourself"

1. Say what you do. 

When answering the "describe yourself" question, it’s helpful to start out with something people understand and can easily remember. You’ll set the tone of how people see you with this opening; so consider talking about your level of experience and current job title or broad category of jobs you’ve held.

 Example:

 I’ve spent the past two years in Human Resources working in recruiting at all levels of the organization. 

2. Describe what you love about your job.

When you talk about what you’re good at, you may appear calculated or worse, conceited. Talking about what you love or enjoy about your work, on the other hand, will usually showcase the same things while allowing you to relax and get personal. 

Think about your answer to "Why are you a good friend?" versus "What are the kinds of things you enjoy doing for your friends?" Even reading these two questions, you probably went from a pensive, thoughtful expression to a smile. You’ll do the same in interviews. When you talk about the things you love, you’ll naturally light up and show a more authentic side of yourself.

Example: 

I love creating an exceptional candidate experience while finding the right fit for a team. It’s really fun for me to get to know the hiring team and their needs, then source the right candidate through an advertisement or my own network. Making an offer is such an exciting time and I always look forward to checking in with the new hire after a few months to see how they’re enjoying the new role. I’m honored to have an influence on someone’s career in that way.   

3. Provide some examples of skills you use.

This is where you can get into the nitty-gritty of what you do. You’ll want to speak the hiring manager’s language by using use some examples from the job description, it even helps to mention specific adjectives and skills that they desire in the role when answering this question.

Example: 

Over the past two years, I’ve really expanded both my sourcing and interviewing skills. I have developed a keen awareness of a team’s dynamic and how to translate the characteristics they want in a team member into a job description that will also appeal to the right candidate. I’ve also learned a great deal about inclusive hiring practices and the importance of building diverse teams. 

4. Explain how your experience relates to the new role. 

Now is the time to relate the first three parts of your answer to why you would be a logical fit for the role and how it would relate to your career progression. This section wraps your answer in a ‘that’s why you should hire me’ bow. Choose two or three parts of your experience and relate them directly to the job at hand or the company’s mission and values.

Example: 

When I saw your job posting for a recruiting manager, I was particularly excited to see that the role would be at the forefront of your new initiative to create an inclusive and diverse workforce. I think that my experience in this area would be a great fit as I consider the next steps in my career. I would love the opportunity to not only use my experience in this area but share with others how to do the same. 

Bringing It All Together

Did you notice how many tidbits of information are included in this 60-second answer? An interviewer can ask follow up questions about what an exceptional candidate experience means to you, how you evaluate a team’s dynamics, your experience with inclusive hiring practices or why you want to teach others rather than being an individual contributor. This question allows you to direct the interview and give a preview of the stories you’ll tell when asked a behavioral interview question.

When constructing this answer, don’t worry about memorizing or using the exact same words each time. Just have a few bullet points in your mind that touch on each question. The interviewer won’t know if you say something in a different order or leave something out. What’s most important is that you share a bit about your passion, experience and desire to have the job.

Template for Responding to "Describe Yourself"

I've been working in _________ for ____ years. I love doing _________, ____________, and __________ because _____________________. Over time, I've developed skills such as ___________, ___________, and ____________. This role is especially exciting to me because _______________________.

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Alyson Garrido is passionate about helping women advance their careers and find jobs they will enjoy. As a career coach, she partners with her clients to identify their strengths and create a path toward a more fulfilling career. Alyson provides support around preparing for interviews, performance reviews and salary negotiations, ensuring that you present yourself in the best possible light for job search and career advancement. Learn more or book a session with Alyson by visiting www.alysongarrido.com.

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