WRITTEN BY: JACQUELINE DUNN
Picture this: You’re being interviewed and, after pleasantries and the dreaded “tell me about yourself” introduction, the interviewer asks you to name an adjective (or two or three) that sums you up. If you’re not prepared, it’s easy to get bogged down in self-reflection. Your mom says you have a dry sense of humor, you’re a whiz with technology (with a specialty in iPhone 5es and Fitbits), and you must be introspective because you got a B+ on your poetry assignment for English 101. But it’s not a trick question, and you’re not speed dating—the increasingly common “adjective question” gives you a great opportunity to assert your strengths and then expand on your skillset. As you start interviewing for various jobs and internships, you’re almost certainly going to encounter this question, so the key is to show up well equipped. Here are some tips to keep in mind while soul searching and building your short list of go-to adjectives.
Don’t overthink the question.
Though you want to go into an interview with the objective of standing out, I wouldn’t recommend throwing out “loquacious” as your defining adjective. While describing yourself as “communicative” or “organized” may not seem particularly original, these are traits that businesses desire and they allow you to segue into an interesting and impressive anecdote.
Don’t be too obvious either.
If your 4.0 GPA and internship at the White House are highlighted on your resume, then don’t waste your precious time describing yourself as “intelligent” or “successful.” Stick to sharing personal details that employers can’t find by skimming your LinkedIn or meeting you for 5 minutes. You’re (probably) a complex person—delve a little deeper.
Ask others for their opinions on your personality traits.
If you’re having trouble pinpointing why you’re special, it might be helpful to move your search outside of your hectic brain. Here’s a suggestion for a wild Friday night activity: gather your nearest and dearest and exchange feedback on your best qualities. This brainstorm will help you gather information on how others positively perceive you and serve as a nice ego boost.
Pay attention to feedback.
Even if you have never been formally assessed or had a yearly review, your supervisors and professors are a great resource for determining why you’re an asset to your potential future employer. If your boss complimented you on how dependable you are after arriving to work on time every day, stow that information away and consider using “reliable” as one of your traits.
Don’t let all of your prep work go to waste.
Even if your interviewer doesn’t explicitly ask you to describe yourself, interviews are a time to make an impact, so you should always arrive armed with a list of descriptors. There will almost certainly be moments where you can slip in your pre-chosen adjectives and dazzle your interviewer with details of your accomplishments to back them up.
Though interviews may be daunting, preparation is half the battle. Assess your strengths and think about what you think makes an objectively strong employee. When the time comes to face an interviewer, be sure to put your best, most confident foot forward.