How to describe yourself in a job interview with confidence

How to describe yourself in a job interview with confidence
SEEK content teamupdated on 04 December, 2023
Share

You’re sitting in a job interview, discussing your work experience, and you’re feeling pretty good about it. That is, until they ask, “How would you describe yourself?”

It can cause you to freeze, your mind goes blank - what answer are they looking for? You might even start questioning whether you have any skills to bring to the job. But of course you do! And this is where being prepared can make a difference.

When addressing the question “How would you describe yourself?” - it’s the perfect time to tell them why you'd be a great fit for the role. This article will help you explore what this question really means and what to describe about yourself. 

When you’re asked how to describe yourself in an interview

Take the professional work-related aspect out of the equation for a minute: how would you describe your personality? This forms a good basis for where you can go with this question, and explore more areas of your personality that may be suitable in an interview, even if a little ‘outside the box’.

So, looping back to the formality of the question, to answer it properly you’ll need to understand the why behind it. When interviewers ask you to briefly describe yourself, they want to know:

  1. How you perceive yourself and if you’re self aware
  2. What you consider your best quality for that particular job

Your answer can be very telling: Can you think on your feet? Are you able to communicate confidently and clearly while under pressure? Was your answer reflective and honest? 

Understanding the reason for the question means you can better tackle the answer - this helps alleviate stress, help you think more clearly and create that solid impression you were going for!

Different ways the interviewer can ask you to briefly describe yourself

Your interviewer may ask for a description about yourself in one of many ways. They may even ask you the same question in a different way in the same sitting, especially if they feel you didn’t answer the question directly the first time.

Some other ways interviewers may ask how you describe yourself include:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • How do you see yourself fitting in with our team?
  • What would you say are your strongest 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?

Identifying your personal qualities

Before you can answer a question about how you would describe yourself, you need to know some of the qualities that make you - well - you. It’s best to identify both hard skills (these are job-related skills, such as specific technology or knowledge) and soft skills (more personal qualities) to have at the ready. If you can create a mental list specific to the job you’re interviewing for, even better!

The good news is, there are ways to identify personal qualities an interviewer may find most valuable. Some ways to find your qualities include:

  • Think back to positive feedback you’ve received from friends, coworkers or even old bosses
  • Reflect on tasks that you find easy, particularly if others tend to find them difficult 
  • Use self-assessment tools such as a personality traits quiz
  • Identify your personal values
  • Note any key skills you’ve had to build to be great at your job and experience progression

Once you have your list, keep specific examples in mind to use during your interview. 

Crafting a description about yourself

When going into an interview, it can be helpful to prepare your answers in advance - especially when it comes to tough questions, such as describing yourself. While you want to prepare, it’s important to make sure you don’t sound rehearsed, allowing room for natural conversation in the interview. 

So how can you describe yourself? You’ll want to structure your question with:

  1. A current quality or skill
  2. An example of how you have used this quality or skill
  3. Why do you believe this quality or skill will be a good fit for the role you’re interviewing for

While your answer should be short and to the point, you’ll want to make sure you give an example of how you’ve used this quality or skill in real life. This is important for providing context and giving some clout to your case.

Dos and don’ts of describing yourself

Now you have your answers mapped out in your mind, there are a few extra things to be cautious of when delivering it in the interview. Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts:

DO:

  • Answer with confidence
  • Choose only one or two points to cover
  • Provide context to attribute it back to the role you’re interviewing for

DON’T

  • Interrupt or speak over the interviewer
  • Rush your answer - it’s OK to take a beat before replying
  • List off too many points - you want to keep your answer short and to the point

How to describe yourself: examples that can help

These tips are helpful, but how do you actually word your answer? Below are some examples of what a response may look like, depending on your employment journey.

For those applying for their first job:

My teachers always tell me I am very creative and think outside the box. For example, in an English assignment, we were asked to write a 3,000 word summary of a movie in whatever format we wanted. While everyone else went for a standard essay, I wrote a short-story from the perspective of the main character’s mother. I’m excited to see how I can use my creativity in this role.

If you’re looking to move to the next stage in your career, it might look something like:

Feedback from my colleagues is that I am very adaptable. In my current role, we have gone through some major changes to our systems and processes in the last year, and I was often the go-to for help on how to use them. So, you could say it’s helped me become a leader too, something I take with great pride and believe would help in this role and guiding the team in the ever-changing world of technology.

Practise makes perfect

Interviews can make even the most confident person nervous. A good tip is to find out the questions the interviewer is planning on asking, and practising your response. Even if you don’t know the specific questions, preparing answers to some general questions can go a long way!

How to practise your answers

Preparing for your interview can be as intensive or laid back as you like. Your preparation may be as simple as doing research online or having a little practise in the mirror. 

A mock interview can also be a great way to prepare. Ask a friend or family member to step in, acting as the interviewer. Have them switch up some questions and see what kind of answers you can come up with. It’s best to try and keep a mental list of the key points you want to address in your answers. 

Common mistakes to avoid

Describing yourself may seem like a simple thing to do in theory, but in practice there are so many things to consider - like what they might want to hear and what traits best suit the role. From repeating your resume to talking too much about your personal life, or even listing contradicting skills, it can be easy to fall into some of these mistakes, especially if you’re feeling rushed. 

So what are some things to avoid when answering ‘How do you describe yourself?’ Here are some examples: 

  • “I think I’m good at…” This shows you’re not confident. Remove the ‘think’ part and be proud of yourself!
  • “I’m always the best at…” The pendulum swings both ways  - it is possible to be a little ‘too’ confident. Keep it balanced - be confident, but don’t claim to be the best.
  • “I am obsessed with…” Obsessed is a powerful word and can be seen as putting yourself in a box or not being flexible. Switch it out with being focused or detail-oriented. 

TIP: Revisit the job ad and see what the role includes or key skills they’re looking for. From there, you can adapt your answer to suit the company and avoid contradicting skills, like working well on your own if it’s a team-oriented role. 

How to describe yourself: examples of solid answers

Describing yourself is all about selling yourself and how you’re the perfect fit for the role. Where possible, you want to tie in hard and soft skills, such as where a personal skill has helped you develop or have an edge with a hard skill. This can offer the interviewers a glimpse at your personality while also showing how you will fit into the workplace. 

Let’s take a look at some short descriptions about yourself samples based on different skills, and how you could potentially shape your response.

Communication

To provide a detailed example of describing yourself as a good communicator, cover the following points:

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

There’s no better way to show off your talent for communication than with a clear and concise interview answer. You also want to show how you can communicate with anyone, even using your time at reception to have a chat and make a connection, while doing the same with the interviewer. 

Some different topics you may want to include in your answer are:

  • How you can simplify complex ideas or concepts so anyone can understand them
  • Any experience you have with presenting to large groups or speaking with people of all levels of the business
  • Your active listening skills to ensure effective communication and how you have used this in the past to benefit a business

A describe yourself example for communication may look like:

I am a strong communicator, and have a knack for simplifying more complex tasks or topics. In my current role, I work with my team to solve technical problems, and then present these to the board to show why this solution would be beneficial for the business. When they are implemented, I then need to train all levels of staff in the updated process. This is where my ability to communicate clearly has been essential.

Data Analysis

Being data-driven or good with data is becoming a key skill for many jobs. The more technology comes into our lives, the more data we will have to work with in all areas. So it’s important if this is your skill, you know how to highlight it well.

For example, you may be able to:

  • Use data management software, like Excel, SQL, and more
  • Analyse and interpret complex data sets
  • Present insights in a meaningful way and work independently or collaboratively on data-driven projects

How you may craft an answer about your skills with data may sound like:

I am very good with data, working with tools like Excel, SQL and PowerBI regularly. I love being able to find what data is the most valuable for each department in the business and presenting it in a format that is most useful to them. I consider this to be one of my best qualities professionally, and enjoy helping other teams and departments understand the data to better inform their decisions. 

Leadership

Leadership skills should be a focus for your description about yourself if you’re applying for a supervisor or management role. Keep in mind, different levels of leadership have different goals, so aligning your skill to that focus is ideal to tick more boxes in the interviewer’s mind.

A describe yourself example in leadership roles include:

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

How you may work this into your response:

Others tend to describe me as a natural leader, and I’m passionate about motivating those in my team and helping them on their own career pathway. I love working together with a range of different people and get satisfaction from helping them achieve their professional goals. 

Coding

There are so many different types of coding roles, even appearing in marketing, web design and other traditionally non-development roles. If you believe your coding skills are one of your best qualities to demonstrate to set you apart, try to be specific into the areas you excel in. For example:

  • Being experienced in both front-end and back-end applications
  • Knowing multiple coding languages, like Java, Python, Ruby, C++, etc.
  • Collaborating with people in other areas of the business to write clean, efficient code built with those users in mind

As a response, this may look like:

I describe myself as a user-focused developer. Sure, I am a fullstack developer in Java, Python and Ruby, but my ability to collaborate seems to be one of the most beneficial. For example, if a team needs a specific program built or customised, I take the time to get to know what they need and what roadblocks they currently face, and work with the team to create the best solution.

Adaptability

Being adaptable is a great quality to have, especially in dynamic and fast-paced work environments. You may find that you feel confident in navigating changes and taking things in their stride when issues pop up. 

Some different ways you may be adaptable include being:

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

You may respond with something like:

I would describe myself as adaptable and flexible. In this industry, things are always changing and we need to think on our feet, and I am very good at doing this without letting quality slip. For example, that regulation change last month meant rolling out contract changes to existing clients. I took the time to understand what the changes meant and how that would impact our approach, before coming up with a plan that suited our clients. 

Graphic Design

There are different elements of graphic design you can use to describe about yourself. From the software to different best practices and skills, there are so many angles you can take, such as being:

  • Trained and experienced in the latest software, including the Adobe Suite, Sketch, Figma, etc.
  • Adaptable to both traditional print and digital media
  • Experienced in user-experience (UX) design
  • Able to work collaboratively with other designers, writers and other creatives, always seeking to expand your design skills

You may describe yourself similar to:

I describe myself as both a traditional and modern designer, working across both print and digital media. While I was formally trained in traditional graphic design, I have since expanded into digital design, such as websites, social media and more. My social skills have also meant I’m great at collaborating with others, which helps the project but also members of the team, too. 

Problem-solving

Problem-solving may feel like a very generic answer, but it’s actually a great quality to call out. There are different types of problem solving you can use to showcase your skills. Plus, knowing how to problem solve in a group can be a great quality to display to a potential employer.

Some different areas of problem solving you may touch on include:

  • Being a resourceful and analytical problem-solver
  • Experience identifying and resolving complex issues using critical thinking
  • Working well solo or in teams to find innovative solutions

Your answer may sound something like:

I would describe myself as a problem solver. I love digging into what has caused a problem or roadblocks, and then figuring out ways around that problem. I consider all the different parties when problem solving, coming up with an outcome that is beneficial to everyone involved. I find problem-solving alone or in teams both incredibly rewarding, particularly using different methods of problem-solving, like being analytical or having a good gut instinct. 

Project Management

Project management is another important skill across a range of industries, from managers and project management roles to infrastructure-type positions. As someone who describes themselves as a good project manager, you may be more specific about:

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

An example of a response may sound like:

I’m an efficient Project Manager, whether it’s a smaller project on a tight budget or a large project that impacts many people. My experience has seen me manage specific elements of projects, but also whole pipelines, including budgets, resources, and deadlines. I really strive to ensure communication is maintained with anyone involved, and make sure the project comes in on time and under budget wherever possible.

Empathy

For anyone who is empathetic or, on the flip side, has worked in a low-empathy workplace, you know why this is such an applauded trait. If you’re struggling to describe your empathetic nature in different ways, you may want to consider if you:

  • Find it natural and easy to communicate with anyone and connect with them on a personal level
  • Have experience working with diverse groups of people, building strong relationships based on trust and respect
  • Are passionate about actively listening and ensuring the other person feels heard and understood

To also help you with an idea for your response:

I describe myself as an empathetic person. Having worked with diverse groups of people over the years, I really pride myself on my ability to connect with people of all backgrounds, and develop a deeper level of trust and respect with them. I enjoy taking the time to listen and understand where they’re coming from, especially if we’re trying to solve a problem together.

Digital Marketing

While Digital Marketing is a job in itself, these skills are easily transferred into other roles like administration positions. Some descriptions of a good Digital Marketer may include:

  • Being a technical and analytical Digital Marketer, using tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console and other portals to create data-driven campaigns and decisions
  • Experience in a particular area, using multiple platforms to create a more effective end result for the business or client
  • Combining creative and analytical skills to create user-driven creative to drive return on investment

Your response may sound like: 

I am a data-driven marketer, so I tap into tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to make decisions that will drive return on investment on their search presence. But I also know the importance of creative copy and graphics to help ads stand out, so that combined skill set has really helped me exceed in getting my clients results.

Final tips for success

Remember, you’re also interviewing the company you’re applying for.  So, asking questions back, and being authentic and true to yourself is incredibly important to make sure you find a workplace that aligns with your values and skillset. Some final tips to keep in mind include: 

  • Identify your qualities or skills before the interview. Spend some time thinking about who you are and qualities that make you uniquely you.
  • Prepare. Make sure you have some points thought out, so that you don’t feel like you’re put on the spot. 
  • Do you research into the company and position that you’re applying for, ensuring that your qualities align.

When in doubt about how to describe yourself in an interview, consider what you’re good at that is relevant to that particular job. If you’re new to that industry, plenty of skills are transferable, like communication and leadership skills, so don’t let it hold you back. Remember to be yourself and be confident and honest in your answer, allowing the interviewer to really get a feel for who you are and what you’re passionate about. 

Talking about yourself isn’t always comfortable or natural, but it can be a great opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come and also where you can improve. When you truly know yourself, you can grow both personally and professionally, and in an interview, that alone can be considered a great quality to have.

FAQS

What are the most important personal qualities to mention in my answer?

The most important personal qualities to mention in an answer to how you would briefly describe yourself depends on you, your skills and the role you’re interviewing for. As an example, in a customer-facing role communication skills are highly regarded, while you would want to highlight teamwork and problem solving for a project management position. 

Is it okay to mention weaknesses when answering this question?

Where possible you want to avoid mentioning weaknesses in a job interview unless specifically asked about them. And if you are asked about your weaknesses, you want to be sure to make the connection to the job and how it may highlight your strengths, as well as mentioning how you’re working on improving that skill.

How long should my answer be?

Your answer to “how to describe yourself in an interview” should be short and to the point. You want to cover your skills and qualities that best match the role  and give examples of how these skills  have benefited you and previous workplaces in the past. This may open up further conversation, which is when you can elaborate. However, you want to be as clear and concise as possible. 

Can I use humour in my answer?

Using humour in a job interview should be used with caution and only used if it showcases your point. If you do use humour, you want to keep it light and positive, and avoid targeting individuals or groups, as well as not to undermine yourself. Where humour seems appropriate, don’t let it overshadow your response or make it your ‘personality’. Read your audience and use it appropriately.

What if I don't have any work experience?

If you are attending an interview for your first job, you can use strengths you’ve inherited from school or personal skills, such as being sociable, good at working in teams or even software and skills you’ve developed yourself. Where possible, use examples as to where you have used these skills, such as in helping friends and family, in projects or as a hobby.

How do I balance being authentic and still presenting myself in the best possible light?

Being self-aware will help you balance being authentic and presenting yourself in the best possible light in a job interview. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and where they can benefit you in the role. Then, practise your response before your interview to be able to keep it clear, concise and positive. 

What if I have trouble identifying my personal qualities?

If you are struggling to identify your personal qualities, search for answers outside of your own self-awareness. Talk to your mentors, colleagues, friends and family, and what they would consider your greatest strengths. Assess how you feel about each of their answers. 

You can also use online tools, or journal about what you do well to find your true strengths. It’s important you keep an open mind and take your time in exploring what you bring to the table. 

Job interviews

Browse top search terms

Did you know many candidates preparing a resume also research their industry by exploring top search terms?
Select an industry to uncover the top search terms
Did you find this helpful?
😦
😐
🙂

Explore related topics

Choose an area of interest to browse related careers.

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to SEEK’s Privacy Statement.