Interview Question: 'Describe Yourself in 3 Words'
Updated 9 March 2023
During a job interview, an employer may ask you questions about your personality to assess your competencies for the available role. Instead of asking about other people's perceptions of you, an employer may ask you to reflect on how you'd describe yourself. Understanding how to describe yourself concisely can help you inform an employer of your key personality traits and ability to perform well in a specific role. In this article, we explain why employers ask 'Describe yourself in three words', discuss how to answer this interview question and provide example responses for you to study.
Why employers ask 'Describe yourself in 3 words'
Understanding why employers ask, 'Describe yourself in 3 words' can help you formulate an effective response during a job interview that may distinguish you from other candidates. Employers ask this question to determine how you view your abilities and personality traits. Since you're likely to know your important characteristics better than anyone else, your answer can provide helpful insight into you as a potential candidate. When you give a thoughtful response, you can communicate your key attributes to a potential employer with confidence.
How to answer this interview question
Here's a list of steps on how to describe yourself using a few words:
1. Study the job description
The first step to forming a response to this interview question is to study the job description. Note what words and phrases the employer uses to describe the available position. A job description for a chef is likely to differ from a job description for a teacher or newspaper editor. Consider the skills that the job description highlights so that you can begin to think about personality traits that an employer may prefer a candidate to have.
2. Create a list of words that reflect your personality
Once you study the job description for the position to which you're applying, you can begin creating a list of words that reflect your personality. When you initially create this list, you don't have to consider the job description. Write down as many words that reflect your personality as possible. Remain truthful so that you can establish realistic expectations for your performance as an employee if you receive an employment offer. For example, only list the word sociable if you have a naturally outgoing personality and are willing to engage with people regularly.
3. Choose three words
This step combines the first and second steps. It involves studying the list you created in step two and choosing three words that fit your personality and the job description. Choosing three words in advance can help you remain focused during your interview and provide a valuable answer that your potential employer can use to make an informed hiring decision.
4. Briefly explain why you chose each word
Once you choose the three words you'd like to use to describe yourself, you can create explanations for why you chose each one. Refer to past job experience and any professional recognition you've received if relevant. You can also show how you plan to use your attributes to benefit your potential workplace so that an employer can learn why you're a strong candidate.
5. Structure your response
Once you understand what words you want to choose and why you want to choose them, you can structure your final response. You may choose to present all three words at the beginning of your response and then explain why you chose each one. Alternatively, you may present your first word, offer an explanation and then repeat these steps with the other two words. There isn't a correct way to structure your response, but you can ensure that it flows well so that the potential employer can understand your best qualities in a comprehensible manner.
Tips for answering this interview question
Here are some tips you can implement when you describe yourself in several words during a job interview:
Be humble. As you deliver your answer, limit your chosen words to three so that you answer the interviewer's question directly. Being humble can help you provide a straightforward answer that doesn't take a lot of time to provide.
Choose specific words. Instead of choosing a word like awesome, try to choose something more specific. Select words that are easier to explain in a more objective manner so that an interviewer can more easily understand your value as a candidate.
Show confidence. While you may feel uncomfortable talking about your top attributes, it's important to show confidence as you deliver your answer. Speaking with self-assurance may help the interviewer find your answer more valid.
Here are three example responses you can study so that you may consider how to form your own answer to use in a job interview:
Here's an example response from an individual who's applying for a sales representative position:
Example: 'I'd describe myself as friendly, confident and enthusiastic. I choose friendly because I'm very sociable. I enjoy talking with others, whether it be friends, family, peers, colleagues, acquaintances or strangers. I'd also say that I'm confident because I'm very qualified to fulfil a sales representative position.
I have a bachelor's degree in marketing, I have five years of work experience and I received two promotions at my last place of employment within two years. I'd say that I'm enthusiastic because I'm passionate about the products that I sell. I understand that this company releases new software regularly, so I'll use my enthusiasm to educate myself on the features of all new products as they come out so that I can help customers make informed buying decisions'.
Here's an example response from an individual who's applying for a position as a head chef:
Example: 'The first word I'd choose is creative. I enjoy creating new menu items and determining which flavours complement each other the best. At my last job, I created the autumn menu two years in a row, so I got to experiment with different recipes and seasonings to find the best menu options. I'm excited to exercise that same creativity for this restaurant.
The second word I'd choose is organised. I always keep a clean working station and encourage my team members to do the same. Remaining organised also helps me work more efficiently, as I know where all my equipment and supplies are and don't have to dedicate time to search for them. The third word I'd choose is reliable. I always show up at least 15 minutes early for every shift to ensure that I clock in on time. At my last job, I never took time off without providing adequate notice because I understand how my presence affects the organisation'.
Here's an example response from an individual who's applying for a position as a caretaker:
Example: 'The three words I'd use to describe myself are compassionate, dedicated and attentive. I'd describe myself as compassionate because I have a strong desire to help people live their lives as comfortably as possible. I live with and care for my elderly mother, so I'm well-acquainted with the challenges that people in hospice care experience. My personal experiences have helped me develop compassion, and I believe that I'm prepared to interact with and provide comfort to patients and their families.
I'd also describe myself as dedicated because I'm excellent at time management and make myself available for each patient's unique circumstances. Lastly, I'd describe myself as attentive. I can note changes in patients' behaviours and habits and advocate for adjustments to their care plans as necessary'.
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