How often do we take a moment to look through other people’s eyes in how they perceive us? In a job interview when an interviewer asks us, “How would someone you know describe you,” it can leave us flustered, first trying to think of who we’re trying to emulate and what they would say of us.
Do we pick a sibling, a peer, a manager? And what would they really say about us? Do we tell the truth? Do you really know how would someone describe you? How much does the interviewer really want to know?
Sometimes the interviewer provides us with a specific person, such as a former colleague or a best friend and we find ourselves distracted in the interview trying to get in the head of the person we know.
But, there is no need for all the over-thinking. The truth about this interview question, is that it is really just another way to ask you about your strengths and weaknesses from another perspective.
In reality, it doesn’t matter who you decide to personify in your explanation, the interviewer wants to know what traits others recognize in you that you also recognize in yourself.
If you get asked this question in the interview, don’t sweat it. Just find ways to emphasize your best qualities and if you can, go one step further to frame a point of context for the interviewer.
For example, whether you choose a personal or business example, you might say something similar to one of the following statements:
“My last manager would describe me as personable and reliable. I always showed up early to make sure everything was set for the day on the floor and went above and beyond to make each customer’s experience in the store a great one.”
“My friends say I’m a go-to person. I always have a solution for every problem, a kind word for a bad day, and am always happy to make an introduction or connection to someone in my network. I’m the person they come to when they need help working through any issues they are dealing with.”
“My coach says I’m the heart of our team. While I’m not the star player, I support everyone whole-heartedly. If someone needs extra practice, I stay late with them to work on drills. If I’m on the bench, I make sure my teammates can hear me cheering for them. If someone’s game is off, I try to help them get focused and to eliminate any worries or stress that may be distracting them. I know my contributions on and off the court help give us a winning edge and boost morale.”
To effectively answer this question, all you really need to do is to take any key strength or highlight of your personality, back it up with examples from your experience, and identify a person in your life who would be privy to experiencing these qualities and actions from you.
As with answering any interview question, it does need to come from a place of sincerity and honesty. Interviewers can sense when you’re not being genuine or when something’s blatantly a lie.
Like, you wouldn’t say that your former CEO thought of you as a great confident because you kept all his secrets about upcoming job cuts and management changes. One, because it doesn’t sound genuine and two, if it were true, you’ve just sabotaged yourself by proving you’re not a great confidant in exposing his secrets in the interview.
If you do decide to include a weakness in the mix, be sure to turn it into a positive. For more on how to do this and addressing your weaknesses in the interview you can read the article on The ‘What’s Your Greatest Weakness’ Interview Question.
And try to avoid using your mother (or another parent) as your example, as most parents think their offspring are wonderful, and your answer may just come off as arrogant or tacky.
Keep your answers concise, classy, and cheery. And never worry about how someone would describe you again, because you are someone, and you have complete control over how to answer and ace this question in the interview.