How to answer: "How would your friends describe you?"
By Joanne Richard
Think quick! What do you think people would say about you?
That’s a loaded question – and one you may be asked in a job interview. Say too much and you’ll come across as a braggart. Stumble and mumble, and you can kiss that new career goodbye.
If you’re asked that question in a job interview, the bottom line is that you have to walk the fine line between confidence and arrogance. You have to come up with something to get the advantage and you only have one chance to put your best traits forward.
Interviews are all about expecting the unexpected and being able to think on your feet, especially when it comes to acing interview questions. With our interview tips and expert advice, you’ll stand out and deliver - employers are after the truth, and they’re looking for behaviours, clues and feedback that indicate that you’re aligned with the culture, value, and direction of the company.
So, first off, there are ways not to approach this interview question: Do not be dishonest, vague, or focus on negatives, says entrepreneur and career expert Mike Moradian. Employers want details that are authentic to you. They don’t want generalities and they hate being pandered to.
Admittedly, this question can throw off many candidates so you have to keep it together. “The interviewer wants to know if your description of how others perceive you will align with the way you are acting. If you speak quietly and show your nerves, then claim your colleagues say you are an outgoing person, this may seem like a red flag,” says Moradian, of HonorSociety.org, which provides resources and tools for students heading to the working world.
The best way to answer this interview question is by telling a story. Give them a specific account of a skill you used to overcome a challenge, then quote your manager or colleagues at the end of the story, advises Moradian. Focus on the positive, but avoid sounding boastful, and be sure to show modesty, including recognizing your team’s efforts.
Arrogance will not win you any points, chorus experts. Telling them that you are amazing and loved by one and all is sure to send up more red flags for the interviewer, says leadership development expert Monica Wofford. A red flag here and there and you’re doomed.
How to answer this interview question is all about preparation – ask friends and colleagues for their feedback. That way you can provide a more sincere, authentic and in-depth response than something lame like, ‘They’d say I’m nice and I’m easy to work with.’”
Additionally, steer clear of saying, ‘I’ve never really thought about it and I really don’t care what others would say,’ says Wofford. You should know and care – that’s what being perceptive and receptive is all about; it’s essential to be self aware and a team player in the workplace.
“Another egregious error when answering this interview question would come in the form of anything negatively sarcastic or snarky, such as ‘Well, my former boss would say X, but she’s dumb and that’s why I left that company.’”
Choose your words wisely because you can’t take them back. Wofford, a career coach and professional speaker, says that it’s best if your answer is a balance of self-esteem and tolerance for the opinions of others. “It is important to show the potential employer that while respecting the opinions of others is important, you have enough confidence to realize that not all actions you undertake will always make people happy.”
Additionally, this question is an opportunity to show humility. So you might want to answer like this: “I would hope my colleagues would describe me as effective, results oriented and someone who has their back. I also know that I’m not perfect, so there may be other words they’d also use to describe my behaviour when I’m overly stressed.”
The fact is there are no standard interview questions today because job seekers just end up giving standard, rehearsed answers. Interview questions today are intended to give the interviewer insight into how a person thinks, as a person and not just a potential employee, and ultimately help identify a great candidate from a good candidate
So be sure you’re memorable – be prepared for this interview question and you’ll dazzle them.