When it comes to a job interview, you’ve got a lot of prep work to do. While it’s impossible to know every question you’ll get asked, the good news is that there are many common ones that hiring managers tend to ask.
One of these is “Describe yourself in 5 words.” But if you’re not prepared to give a solid answer, this request can throw you off track.
Here are 15 potential words to describe yourself (and 16 words not to use!). We also include a few tips from our interview prep experts to keep in mind so you feel fully prepared for this question:
15 best adjectives to describe yourself
When you’re preparing your response, you’ll need descriptive adjectives (i.e. a word or phrase naming an attribute about yourself) that sum you up in a nut-shell. Consider using the following adjectives to describe yourself.
But listing off these adjectives alone isn’t enough to stand out to hiring managers. Tell the interviewer why you’ve chosen these words and back up your claims with strong, story-based examples.
Hint: Ensure that the words and stories both describe you AND are relevant to the position.
Turn five adjectives & examples into a cohesive answer
Unless the interviewer gives you less time, take around two to four minutes to list out five words that describe you and then share examples of why you exemplify each one.
For example, perhaps you’re applying for a remote marketing manager position. Here’s how you might describe yourself in five words:
I would say that I’m motivated, analytical, creative, encouraging, and friendly.
Motivation comes naturally to me and I’ve always been a self-starter. During my first six months with XYZ Company, I proposed the idea for an all-day, 15-speaker virtual event to promote our company on a global level. The management team loved the idea and I led a ten-person team to execute the conference. This included working with vendors to purchase and install new technology when our video conferencing system crashed the day before the event. We had over 500 participants and the event was featured in Marketing Today.
I’ve also always enjoyed the analytical side of marketing. I’m constantly looking at numbers to tell a story. For example, to improve our Revenue-per-Recipient at XYZ Company, I analyzed the KPIs within Mailchimp to understand why customers were clicking links in our emails, but not purchasing products. I then segmented our email lists by Engagement levels and created a plan for personalized content. Our Revenue-per-Recipient improved by $10 in 3-months.
I'm also creative and enjoy developing brand guidelines and customer personas to build compelling marketing campaigns. As Junior Marketing Manager for ALL MARKETING Agency, I developed the “Launch Countdown” campaign for X Client to promote the launch of their new HR software. This campaign coincided with NASA's rocket launch and included a live countdown on the website, an email and social media strategy, and a product launch event/takeoff watch party. We had over 5,000 early launch sign-ups and did $30K in sales on launch day.
Finally, I'm encouraging and friendly with everyone I meet. Over the past four years, I have managed three to 15-person marketing teams. Early on, I realized the need for positive weekly emails to update the team on company progress AND recognize them for their contributions. I scheduled monthly 1:1's with each member of my team.
These meetings involved listening, providing critical feedback for growth, and highlighting 2-3 areas where the member excelled that month. I'm an extrovert at heart and enjoy interacting with others. In addition to my team, I've always interacted well with other departments, which has helped me to effectively collaborate and excel as a marketing manager!
Notice how this answer is very descriptive. It’s packed full of examples that also relate to the position.
This answer would take about two to four minutes to share. You might feel like you need 30 minutes to express yourself, but you’ll impress an interviewer more if your answers are succinct and clearly answer the question.
Practice answering “Describe yourself in five words” before your interview to ensure your response is tight and clear.
16 adjectives to avoid
Not all words are created equal. Don’t list off vague, boilerplate, or general words to describe yourself. And steer clear of business jargon like “customer-focused” and “extensive experience.”
These words don’t mean much. They don’t describe how your mind works and won’t impress the hiring manager (especially since many applicants tend to use them). Also, avoid words that could be perceived as negative.
Here are examples of bad adjectives (or badjectives, if you will):
- Go-to person
- Extensive experience
In short, don’t fritter away your answer with fluff words. Your choice of adjectives matters so be prepared with strong choices and well-thought-out responses.
Extra tips when asked to describe yourself in 5 words
Take the question seriously.
While this question might not seem as challenging on the surface, don’t underestimate its importance. Hiring managers ask questions for a reason, so make sure to put your best foot forward. Make sure you’re taking the question seriously, just as you would any other question. Hint: Never answer, “I don’t know.” or “I’m not sure.”
Be honest with your answer.
You want to position yourself in the best light. However, don’t go overboard and exaggerate your qualities or list those that don’t fit your strengths simply because it might make you look good. Instead, think through the requirements for the job and how your unique attributes can best meet them.
Ask family and friends.
If you’re still unsure about which words describe you, ask a family member or friend. They might be able to offer you more insight into how others view you and how you can best describe yourself.
Make a list.
It’s best to start writing out your thoughts when thinking about how you’d answer this question. Don’t edit yourself in any way. Continue to write until you can’t think of any other qualities you want to highlight. Then start to edit until you have the top five that best represent you for this particular job.
Ready? Describe yourself in 5 words.
A hiring manager asks you to describe yourself in 5 words to determine if you’re self-aware and a genuine candidate. They also want to know how you think.
Use this question as an opportunity to thoughtfully explain who you truly are to the employer (and why you’re the best candidate for the position!).
Need more help preparing for your next interview?
Turn to the interview prep team at ResumeSpice. We know what hiring managers expect from top candidates and can help you better prepare so you ace your next interview. Find out more by reaching out to our team at 832.930.7378 or by contacting us online.