Ever answered the question, “What’s your friend like?" 

If you're like most of us, we typically respond using a few adjectives to describe them, e.g., “Krusty’s reliable, motivated, and very ambitious." 

Two characters from The Simpsons overlaid with the text

A few descriptive words quickly paint a picture of someone’s personality.  

That’s why being asked to describe yourself in 5 words or less is a very common interview question. 

It’s the Twitter version of the “Tell me about yourself” question. 

Here’s how to prepare for it. 

Create A List Of Words

Brainstorm words

  • Choose positive adjectives that describe your professional self AND relate to the job.

  • For another perspective, ask friends and family, “What words do you think best describe me?”

Woman overlaid with the word

Align them to the job description

When you interview for a specific job, align the words you chose to those included in the job description.

For example:

  • You used "proactive" in your list.

  • They used "initiative" in the job description.

  • Both refer to a similar type of behavior so use "initiative" in the interview.

Prepare a brief description for each word

You may be asked to elaborate on some of the words you shared so be prepared to describe how each shows up in your behavior and life.

For example:

"I like to get things done. Taking initiative has helped me save money. I saved money on my data plan by researching options, then contacting my provider and their top competitor, and negotiating a more competitive rate and package. I'd still be paying more if I hadn't been proactive about taking action."

How Bringing It Together Might Sound

Flaticon Icon Ry's interviewing for a sales and marketing assistant role

"I'm creative, curious, self motivated, open minded, and a problem solver.

I like to be challenged and I know I don’t know everything. I’ve learned a lot by being curious about why things are the way they are, and by being open minded to other people’s perspectives. It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re open to new ideas."

Flaticon Icon JJ's interviewing for a data analyst role

"I'm analytical, driven, methodical, tenacious, and a good communicator.

I like working with data but I’ve learned not everyone does, and many people get overwhelmed by it. As a result I’ve learned how to communicate the stories it tells clearly using graphics and words."

Flaticon Icon Ali's interviewing for a customer service role

"I'm friendly, empathetic, enthusiastic, dependable, and a team player.

At my core, I’m a people person. I like talking to people and helping them.  I’m the type of person who does what I say I'm going to do. For group projects, I show up for meetings and do my part by the deadline."

Words To Avoid

Avoid words that:

  • Aren’t reflective of who you are — you have to live up to the words you choose

  • Aren’t reflective of your professional self — e.g., good looking, popular, charming, fit, healthy, etc.

  • Might be perceived as negative — e.g., outspoken, independent, quiet, chatty, perfectionist, etc.

  • Might make you sound arrogant — e.g., clever, smart, interesting, tolerant, etc.

  • Aren’t related to the job you’re applying for — e.g., analytical for a customer service role

Two women talking overlaid with the text

Quiz

Cass knows she's a perfectionist but she'd like to use a different word that has positive not negative connotations. Which of the following would be a good alternative?

Take Action

What are your 5 words?

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This Byte has been authored by

DD

Daina Dunlop

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dainadunlop/