Preparation is the key when an interviewer asks, "What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?" The question is almost as difficult to answer as the dreaded interview opener, "Tell me about yourself." But you don't want to give a two- or three-word answer, for fear that you ignored the interviewer and took it upon yourself to decide how you want to answer the question. The word you use could depend on the type of job you're interviewing for, what others say about you or where you see yourself on your career track.
Match the Job
Use a word that matches the most important qualification for the job. For example, if you're applying for a hotel housekeeping position, consider using a word such as "conscientious," "attentive" or "efficient." These are characteristics that would serve you well in a position where the company's expectation is for employees to follow strict procedures for job duties such as cleaning, hotel guest service and managing the amount of time they spend on several projects each day.
Think about words that your colleagues use to describe you. Using a word based on someone else's perception may carry more weight than trying to conjure up a word that might make you come off as a braggart or immodest. When the interviewer asks for that one word, you could say, "My colleagues usually tell me I'm on the most dependable member on our team, because I can be counted on to pull my weight and then some when we have a team assignment." In this case, it's appropriate to elaborate on the reason for choosing that word.
Use a word that's going to help you get that promotion if you're interviewing for a job with your current employer. Words such as "tenacious," "dedicated" or "loyal" describe traits that will benefit you in the long run, especially if you're interviewing for a job within the same company. Words such as these reinforce your commitment to the company and remind the hiring manager why promoting an internal candidate may benefit the organization more than making a job offer to an external candidate.
Take inventory of the attributes for which you're most proud and preface the one-word answer with, "At the risk of being immodest, I consider myself ...". Continue your answer to the interviewer's question with a word or term such as "detail-oriented," "collaborative" or "innovative." These are the types of words that suggest what you bring to the company -- avoid choosing words that really aren't immodest. A response such as, "At the risk of being immodest, I consider myself a perfect employee," is off-putting because it's probably not true because employees -- no matter how hard you work -- aren't perfect.
About the Author
Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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What would you say if you were asked, "What's your biggest weakness?"
Not sure? You might even wonder why employers even ask such a weird question. The objective with a question like this is to see how a person responds when they're thrown off base a little. It's also a way to force an applicant to reflect on how they've grown or want to grow.
The key to answering this question successfully is to show that you've reflected on your personality and have identified ways to improve.
Come up with a few words that you think describe your negative traits. Here are a few examples:
Ok, now with a little thinking and reflection these traits could provide insights into your best qualities. For example, a controlling person might have a hard time asking for help. Have you ever wished you'd accepted an offer of help from a friend or co-worker? Are you aware of the benefits of not always being in charge? If so, you're looking for opportunities to let go and work with others for better results.
Rudeness can easily be re-framed as bluntness and honesty. But you may feel that you can be a bit too honest at times. Describe a situation when you said something that may have been true, but that you wished you'd kept to yourself. Then explain that you're working on making your feedback more constructive.
There's nothing wrong with shyness, but you may feel that it holds you back from participating fully. Maybe there have been times when you wished you'd been more assertive. Explain that you're working on speaking up more and overcome your fear of offending others.