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Interview Preparation

Answering 'Describe Yourself in One Word' Skillfully

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Why is describing yourself in one word effectively important?How to answer the, "Describe yourself in one word," interview questionThe best words you can use to describe yourselfExamples for how to describe yourself in one word

Guide Overview

An overview of describing yourself in one word 

Most candidates are likely to be asked to, "Describe yourself in one word," at an interview. This question gives a hiring manager an opportunity to gain an initial impression of an applicant's personality traits and skills, so its answer is likely to impact a decision on suitability for a position. Learning to answer this query properly can give you a competitive edge during the hiring process. To find out the importance of answering this interview question effectively, how to answer it, example words you can use to describe yourself, and example answers, consider this article.

Learn more: Personal Ethics: What They Are and Why They're Important

Why is describing yourself in one word effectively important?

At a job interview, your answer to the, “Describe yourself in one word,” question is important for several reasons, including:

  • It can communicate natural or developed skills. Your answer to this question can show the hiring manager your key personality traits, which are soft skills, or your learned abilities, which are your hard skills. This could impact whether or not your application is moved forward. For example, most occupations need specific soft skills. If your answer indicates an essential soft skill, it could demonstrate your eligibility.
  • It can give insights into who you are. An interview gives an employer the opportunity to find out whether an applicant suits the organizational culture. Your answer to this question can provide valuable insights on how you see yourself and your attitude, which can influence the hiring manager’s decision on whether or not to hire you.
  • It can demonstrate your communication skills. Most jobs require efficient communicators, and answering this question well can indicate this ability because it’s not easy to describe oneself in a single word. When you make an effective answer, this shows you can condense a lot of information, such as your personal qualities and skills, quickly into a meaningful reply.

Learn more: Answering ‘What Can You Bring to the Company?’ in an Interview

How to answer the, "Describe yourself in one word," interview question

You can use the following steps to describe yourself competently in one word:

  • Understand employer expectations. An employer usually knows what they want in a new hire, and the job description lists these expectations. Familiarize yourself with each of the hard skills, soft skills, and responsibilities in the listing. Then, make a list of words that best addresses these requirements.
  • Identify your strengths. Evaluate your qualities, abilities, and work experience. Then, make a list of words that effectively describes these strengths. In addition to this question, the list could help you handle other interview questions.
  • Find strengths that match employer expectations. Compare the two lists you developed to identify your capabilities that align with what the employer requires. For example, if developing new computer software to cater to the needs of an emerging market segment is a requirement, being innovative is an appropriate strength. Make a list of your strengths that suit the position.
  • Choose your best professional strength. Choose a key strength that is the best match for employer expectations.
  • Build a rationale to support your strength. Create a brief justification for the word you chose. Ideally, this rationale should provide evidence to the hiring manager about your strength. Use your communication skills and work experience-based metrics to describe your strength concisely.
  • Practice answering the question before interviewing. To answer this question competently, it’s best to be prepared. Write your answer and edit it. Next, ask a friend to role-play or simply face yourself in a mirror and practice answering this query until your answer is error-free and confident.

Learn more: How to Prepare for a Third Interview

The best words you can use to describe yourself

You can choose an expression that best suits you and the job from the following list of words:

  • Positive: Positivity is a valuable quality in an employee because it can improve their morale and that of their colleagues.
  • Accurate: Accuracy is an essential quality for some professionals, such as tax preparers, accountants, or assistant accountants.
  • Meticulous: Certain employers, such as those in the healthcare, insurance, and finance industries, seek applicants who are careful and methodical.
  • Organized: When applying for a supervisory role, such as that of a project manager or a fleet manager, being organized can help you get hired.
  • Detail oriented: It is essential for teachers, accountants, transcribers, and similar professionals to be detail oriented.
  • Goal oriented: Most hiring managers seek professionals who can set realistic objectives and work towards them.
  • Ambitious: A driven professional who is pursuing several career goals can complement an ambitious employer.
  • Motivated: Motivation is a key component in employee engagement, which has been shown to improve on-the-job performance, so most companies actively seek motivated candidates.
  • Team player: Most jobs require professionals who can work in different team settings, and this is applicable to entry-level, mid-level, and senior positions.
  • Self-starter: Contemporary employers usually value workers with initiative because they can work independently with limited oversight.
  • Empathic: Empathy is a valuable soft skill in all occupations, but it’s essential in industries such as healthcare, education, and hospitality.
  • Compassionate: For medical workers, such as physicians, occupational therapists, nurses, and similar similar professions, being compassionate is a key requirement.
  • Friendly: Friendliness can be an important skill for front-line workers who deal regularly with customers.
  • Disciplined: Most employers prefer disciplined workers because they tend to be more reliable.
  • Loyal: Loyalty is a quality that most employers look for in job applicants, and it can be especially important in industries such as legal services, financial services, and the government.
  • Trustworthy: Trustworthiness is usually seen as a valuable quality by employers, and trustworthy candidates are likely to be considered for long-term positions.
  • Dependable: Dependability is a key soft skill, and workers with this trait could move up the ladder quickly.
  • Caring: This is a valuable soft skill in healthcare, government, education, and similar industries which involve the provision of essential services.
  • Creative: Creativity is a desirable skill in most jobs, but it’s usually prized in fields such as graphic design, web development, management, and culinary services.
  • Innovative: Being innovative can be a great professional trait to talk about during an interview when applying to companies in which innovation plays a key role.
  • Productive: Most businesses seek workers who can boost productivity, so being productive is a great quality.
  • Steady: In some jobs, such as that of an air traffic controller or a pilot, where a professional is responsible for the lives of others, steadiness is an essential quality.
  • Helpful: Being helpful can be seen as a desirable quality by most hiring managers, but it can be a must-have in occupations such as that of a personal shopper.
  • Dedicated: The ability to be a steadfast worker can be a key skill for long-term positions or jobs in professional fields such as social services and investigative reporting.
  • Analytical: While having an analytical mindset can be an asset in most jobs, it’s essential for accountants, software developers, researchers, and similar professions.
  • Versatile: Versatility can be an essential skill in certain types of organizations, such as small startups that have a limited workforce due to financial constraints.
  • Adaptable: For professionals in customer service, IT project management, news reporting, and similar fields that usually involve rapidly changing environments, adaptability is a key skill.
  • Strategic: If you’re applying for a managerial position and want to show the hiring manager your leadership potential, being strategic can be a great skill to talk about at the interview.
  • Tenacious: Tenacity can be a desirable trait for an employee in professional fields such as procurement management, hostage negotiation, and quality assurance.

Examples for how to describe yourself in one word

You can use the following answers to build your own:

Example: Entry-level graphic designer

I’m innovative, and I’m proud of my track record in designing award-winning work that gives my clients a competitive edge. For example, the corporate advertising campaign I produced for SilverFish, which used only digital marketing, resulted in a 40% increase in their annual sales revenue. 

Learn more: Long Term Career Goals: Interview Answers

Example: Mid-level engineering project manager

Tenacious is the word that best describes me! During my time at Synergy Inc., I added value throughout the project life cycle by reducing waste to increase efficiency; adapting quickly to changes in the environment; managing a team of eight engineers; working on multiple, concurrent projects; and maintaining team morale. During my time there, I achieved a 30% average increase in project outcomes. 

Example: Senior chief technology officer

I’m strategic, and my professional achievements showcase this. At Brown, I revamped their computer infrastructure, enhanced their information security apparatus, and completely overhauled their data security protocols. As a result, I was responsible for the 25% improvement in employee satisfaction with the computer systems, a 50% improvement in the compliance of workers to the security procedures, and a successful launch of a transformational new product in the highly competitive social media sector.

As discussed, answering this question skillfully is important. Use what you have learned in this article to create a competent answer to the, “Describe yourself in one word,” interview question. Discover real interview questions asked for thousands of job titles.

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