Describe Yourself in Three Words – Which Three do You Pick?

It’s the million-dollar question – isn’t it? During an important job interview, the interviewer may ask you to list three, five, or any number of words to describe your character; and your response could be crucial! Alternatively, you might be asked how your co-workers would describe you, or to name a few of your strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: the words you decide to give the interviewer can reveal a lot about who you are as a person, what type of employee you will be, and, importantly, how you will fit into the workplace.

So, which three do you pick?

While it’s not a very difficult question per se, it tends to put people on the spot. It can be both uncomfortable and challenging. What does the interviewer want to hear? Below, we’ve outlined a few tips to help you pick your golden three words:

Be honest about your skills and qualities

While it’s okay to emphasize your strengths, it’s nevertheless important that you describe yourself honestly. You will be expected to live up to your own description of yourself – so make sure you avoid identifying inaccurate skills and qualities!  Are you empathetic? Analytical? Results-driven? If so, great! But don’t use these characteristics if they’re not true.

Focus on characteristics relevant to the job/position/industry

How do your skills and qualities relate to a particular job or company? Remember that not every job requires the same personality traits, so try to keep the job description in mind.

Make sure you have examples to back your claims up

Sometimes, a carefully drafted list of words might just not be enough on their own. It’s good to be prepared for a follow-up question. For example, you might be asked to describe a time when your skill proved particularly useful! Think of situations from your life that can demonstrate a given quality. Think about your professional accomplishments and how they might relate to your character. The STAR approach to answering interview questions might be useful to keep in mind here.

Avoid using negative words

There is such a thing as too much honesty in an interview-setting. Avoid using words that are either too general or that can be construed as negative. Remember that your response will provide an important insight into your self-perception.

But, let’s be honest, you are no superhuman either…

There’s a fine balance to be maintained. You don’t want to come across as arrogant or over-the-top. (I repeat, your response will give the interviewer an insight into your self-perception!)

Ask a friend or co-worker for help

If you’re struggling; ask a friend, co-worker, or an old boss to help narrow down your list of words. You might also want to try out your three words on someone you know before the interview takes place. Does this really sound like you? 

Be prepared, be comfortable

But most importantly, don’t be caught of guard with a question like this. Turn up to your interview prepared to describe yourself, an employer will take this as sign you are able to reflect on your own skills and attributes. How do you want to come across? (Remember, first impressions are important!) And… for our final tip… be comfortable! Do you think you sound cheesy when listing the attributes and qualities you have selected? An employer might think the same, so it’s important that YOU feel comfortable saying the words you have chosen.

So, what are you waiting for? GET THINKING!

Good luck!

Written by Silje Undlien, Third Year War Studies undergraduate at King’s College London & Marketing Assistant at King’s Careers & Employability.