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."
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
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?”
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.
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.
"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
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."
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."
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
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?
What are your 5 words?