I find talking about others so much easier than talking about myself. Job interviews on the other hand is the opposite. You need to talk about yourself a lot more since the purpose of the interview is always to represent yourself as the most suitable candidate for the job?
When an interviewer asks you a question like, “How would your boss or colleagues describe you?” it is your chance to use what others have said / say about you. There are a few specific strategies you can use to take advantage of this opportunity.
1. Quote a Performance Review.
The easiest way is to reference specifically where you’re getting your information. You’ll also want to share the importance of your job and responsibilities to fill in the gaps around your answer.
Example of an answer could be
“In my most recent performance review in April, my direct supervisor described me as someone who takes initiative and doesn’t shy away from hard problems. My role involves a lot of on-site implementations, and when things go wrong, I always do what I can to fix it first—rather than punting the problem back to the team immediately. I know she appreciates that about me.”
2. Tell a Story / Narrate an Incident
Another way to answer this question is to highlight a trait and share an incident surrounding it. Since the inquiry is pretty open-ended, this is a great opportunity for you to share what you know the hiring manager is looking for.
Example of an answer could be
“I think that my boss and coworkers would both describe me as a patient go-to problem solver. For example, I once walked into the building and was immediately flagged down by a colleague who brought me to where my colleague was being yelled at by a customer. He looked so happy to see me as I started to speak with the customer. Even though it took about 10 minutes of calmly going over his options and explaining the benefits of each, I was able to sell them an additional product that solved his issue and he left happy.”
3. Name three positive traits with short examples
Coming up with stories can be tricky when you’re asked on the spot. If you just can’t think of anything, here’s another approach. Try to think of three positive traits you bring to your workplace. Then, mention a short example after each. Your interviewer might even phrase this question as, “What are three words your boss would use to describe you?” or similar.
“I think my boss would describe me as engaging—last year, I got the highest ratings of all the trainers in our department—and a fast learner, since I’m usually one of the first people to be ready to deliver a new training program. She might also call me detail-oriented—I was always the one to point out grammar mistakes in our new presentation slides and now she makes it a point to send me the slides to check for issues before sharing them with the group.”
Next time you get this question, you should be smiling because of what a great opportunity it presents to tell the interviewer pretty much anything you want about yourself, framed in a way that makes it easier for you to talk about. That’s what I call a win-win.