Job Search Tip of the Week #18 (2018)


How to Ace Your First-Round (or Really, Just About Any) Interview

Think Like an Interviewer – Q12

If I asked your friends to describe you, what would they say?

As one of the most commonly asked interview questions, you’ve probably heard it in some form or another: How would your colleagues describe you? What is your relationship with your coworkers like? If I called your boss right now, what would they say about you? What are three adjectives a former client would use to describe you?

This question is yet another way to evaluate your cultural fit. By hearing more about you through the eyes of others, so to speak, hiring managers hope to determine how people vs. goal-oriented you are and whether you’re able to speak honestly about yourself.

Approach this question the way you would, “What are your weaknesses?” Before the interview, do some self-reflection: What do you bring to the table? How do you connect with others? How do they perceive you? If possible, ask your current coworkers and boss for their input, and if they’re willing to provide a positive reference, for a written letter of recommendation — if you get it in advance of your interview, you can whip it out while answering this question!

You’ll also want to review the job description and research to learn exactly what your prospective employer’s looking for. Did the company list certain personality traits as highly desirable in the job posting? Does the company website talk about what kind of person will fit in there? You’ll want to address the attributes that would make you an asset to this particular organization.

Then, pick three to five positive qualities and tell a specific story that illustrates how you’ve demonstrated them on the job. Remember, this question is intended to get insight into your personality and how you work with others. So make sure you speak to your communication skills (e.g., good at listening, sociable, empathetic, patient, supportive, honest, respectful) and your leadership/working style (e.g., good at strategic planning, tenacious, hardworking, analytical, creative, detail-oriented, decisive). Other positive qualities should include your strongest technical skills and areas of knowledge, and things you’re known for doing the best.

Some tips as you’re preparing your response to this question:

  • Be confident. Don’t start off with “I think” or “I believe.”
  • Be professional. Even though your interviewer’s using the word “friends,” this question is intended to assess who you are in the workplace. So don’t bring up how you’re known as the group wino or Big Brother superfan.
  • Be honest. This is especially important if your response mentions specific accomplishments or any feedback/commendation you received, either formal (“I was awarded/recognized”) or informal (“My coworker/boss pulled me aside and told me”). Your prospective employer could write down the names of the coworkers or boss you reference in your response, and cross-check the information you provided.
  • Be concise. Storytelling displays your strong interpersonal skills, but keep it short and sweet. Provide just enough detail to move the plot along. Too much information bogs down your interviewer and makes it more difficult for him or her to discern the important points. If you can’t think of one story that captures all at once the traits you’ve mentioned, give a short example for each. For example: “My boss would describe me as thoughtful — I anticipate our clients’ needs before they arise and set an agenda prioritizing what’s most pressing for the user — and hardworking, since I commit to my code and go the extra mile to help out other developers with theirs. He’s also told me that I’m great at communicating technical information to non-technical audiences, which is why I’ve been taking on more engineering responsibilities.”

And some other ways you can frame your answer:

  • “In my most recent performance review, my direct supervisor described me as…My role involves…One particular instance I can recall…”
  • “If you asked my coworkers to describe me, they’d say…I’m always the one they turn to when/for…For example, when…”
  • “On my team, I’m known as the person to go to for…My coworker/boss [Name] always says that…”
  • “I’ve been told that I’m…In fact, once…It ended up…”
  • “My boss would say that I’m…In fact, she did in her letter of recommendation. May I show it to you?”

Sound Off: If your friends (or coworkers or manager) were asked to describe you, what would they say?

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