In daily life, people aren’t usually asking you how you describe yourself, but during the job search process, it’s an extremely common question. Even if the interviewer doesn’t come right out and say “tell me about yourself," they generally want to know about you as a person when they ask behavioral interview questions, STAR interview questions or questions like “what is your greatest strength?”
The same notion goes for your resume and cover letter. In a career change cover letter, it’s even more important to select the right words. When you are describing your responsibilities and passions, you are essentially just describing who you are.
Believe it or not, just like resume action words, the words you use to describe yourself are extremely influential in how people view and remember you. So here is a list of 53 words to describe yourself during your job search, whether it is in your interview, on your resume, or in your cover letter.
Words to describe yourself during an interview
“The best words to use are those that are authentic and true to yourself,” career advisor and communication expert Steve Herz said. “So, it’s probably not a good idea to have buzzwords at the ready that you think someone else will want to hear.”
If you do get the job and list a quality that does not truthfully describe you, chances are it will become very apparent that you don’t have that quality once you start the job, which could hurt your career in the long run.
That being said, there are certain qualities that most companies look for that line up with words that you can use to describe yourself. Take a look at the list and see which words align with your personality, work style, and professional career. Of course, you should also try to tailor your description of yourself to best fit the job description of your desired job title.
Here are 20 words you can use to describe yourself in an interview:
Words to describe yourself on your resume
Your resume is usually your first point of contact with a potential employer, so it’s extremely important to get it exactly right, down to the words that you use to describe yourself. You want to use strong words for your first impression with a hiring manager, so make sure you chose them wisely.
Think about your greatest strengths, and find words that align with them. You should also consider the job description when choosing words to describe yourself on your resume. If the job description calls for a team player, you might not want to least that you are extremely independent and work best on your own.
If the job description lists desired qualities for a candidate, you should consider using those words on your resume. Tweaking your resume for each different job description will ensure a higher level of getting called in for an interview.
Here are eight words to describe yourself on your resume:
2. Take charge
“[These] are all the types of qualities that any employer would want,” Herz said. “But if they check your references and this is 180 degrees different from how you are – then just do your best to choose the best words that reflect your essence. For example, maybe you left your last job because you were unable to get along with others because you were the most passionate member of the team. In that case, passionate is a great word and it’s important to find a company who values that in a similar way as you do.”
Words to describe yourself for leadership
“Someone who is enterprising, shows initiative, takes personal equity in their situation/relationships, helps to grow others, earns the respect of their peers both by their own actions and by listening and engaging others, and ultimately holds themselves accountable,” Herz said. “Those are leaders.”
Here are the words to describe yourself as a leader:
Words to describe yourself team player
“They should be authentic and consistent with the qualities they exhibited in previous jobs,” Herz said. “Most companies are looking for more than just functionaries – people who are team players.”
Here are nine words you can use to convey that you are a team player:
9. Emotionally intelligent
How you describe yourself is more important than the words you use
While the words you use to describe yourself can be extremely important, the old cliche of people remembering no what you say but how you make them feel rings true in your job search.
“Overall, my view is that the delivery of your message (forceful, good voice, no filler words, good body language/eye contact) is more important than the specific word choice – assuming you have a decent vocabulary and can express yourself reasonably accurately,” Herz said.
Past research has shown that how you say something is much more important than what you say.
“Words are important because they paint a picture of us, especially for those who don’t know us…so think of your presence/being as your paint brush and your words as the color,” Herz said.
— Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.
This article originally appeared on Ladders. It was updated on August 5, 2021.