Who doesn’t like to receive a nice compliment or be recognized for their hard work? However, it’s one thing to hear flattering remarks from your colleagues or boss and another to talk about how others would describe you in an interview. Similar to the common interview question, “Tell me about yourself,” recruiters and hiring managers will also ask you to shed light on how your co-workers or boss would describe you.
By posing this question, your interviewer is hoping to gain insight on your self-perception and how it stacks up against what your references ultimately say about you. In addition, they are using this opportunity to assess your soft skills, which are a vital part of determining how well you align with the company's culture and your ability to perform successfully in the role.
When asked this question, your interviewer is essentially handing you the microphone and allowing you to toot your own horn through the words of others without sounding like you just boarded the train to brag-town. Here’s how to answer this question in a way that’ll help you make a positive impression as a candidate.
Use Storytelling to Highlight Key Accomplishments
Open-ended questions like these give you the liberty to get creative in how you choose to deliver your answer. One of the best ways to captivate your audience (i.e. the hiring manager) is through storytelling. Using a specific experience or achievement to point out key takeaways is a highly effective way of showcasing your skills and personality without feeling like you’re reading off a list of bullet points. Through a personal narrative, you can illustrate your strengths while showcasing measurable accomplishments to really drive home the value you could deliver in the future. You can say something along the lines of the following:
“At my last employer, I became the go-to person for creative input whenever someone felt like they hit a wall. For example, one of our products had slowly begun declining in revenue generation. While this particular product wasn’t technically under my bailiwick, I partnered with the director overseeing the products' social media advertising to help develop a new social campaign aimed at sales growth. If you asked my colleagues, they would say my problem-solving, innovative thinking, and leadership skills are what they value most about me. By exercising these skills, along with my ability to collaborate with others, I ultimately helped design a campaign that generated a 46% increase in product sales.”
List Your Top 3 Traits
Hey, maybe storytelling isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, here’s a different approach you can take to answer this question. Simply discuss three traits that you believe could contribute to the growth and success of the role you’re applying for, providing evidence for each trait that you list. Remember to always keep the employer's current goals and challenges in mind when answering this question, so you can tailor your answer to speak specifically to their needs. Here’s an example of what you might say:
“My boss would describe me as very data-driven and analytical, and has continued to expand my responsibilities in that arena. I believe my colleagues would say I’m a hard-worker, as I always meet deadlines and will go the extra mile to make our clients happy, and that I’m the spark the team needs when motivation is slumping or we’re working on a particularly tough project, as I Iike to revive spirits when they’re low and encourage my colleagues to push forward.”
Use Your Performance Review as a Reference
Performance reviews can be a great resource to pull information from, especially if your manager gave you a glowing review. You can reference specific details about the achievements you discussed or share descriptive ways in which your manager described you, such as you're a quick learner or highly dependable. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you give some context around the discussion as it relates to your particular day-to-day responsibilities, but make sure to keep your answer brief. Try this:
“I sat down for a performance review with my manager last month, and she identified some of my strengths as staying level-headed in the face of complications and having great time management skills. Since I’m responsible for providing customer service during our software implementation period, there are a number of times things go awry and I have to not only alleviate client fears or frustrations, but coordinate with the various teams working on the project to ensure it’s a success."
When unprepared for this question, it can feel like the hiring manager just asked you to accurately recite the square root of pi. But now that we’ve provided you with a couple of ways to effectively tackle this question, you should welcome it with open arms, as it puts the ball in your court and gives you the opportunity to frame an answer that paints you in the best light.