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What to say when an interviewer says, ‘Describe yourself in 3 words’

By Scott Van Heurck - 16 Apr, 2018

You want to present yourself as a seasoned, well-rounded candidate for a job, so describing yourself to an interviewer in just three words may be a challenge.

Nevertheless, it’s an interview question you’re likely to encounter.

“Hiring managers don’t ask you to describe yourself to get to know you better,” bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch tells CNBC Make It. “That’s what your resume, recommendations and interviews are for. No, they ask to evaluate if you’re authentic and self-aware.”

To deliver the perfect response, Welch advises job-seekers to follow these three steps:

1. Describe how your mind works
Welch says employers are deeply interested in how you think and operate, and you should use one of your three words to accurately capture that.

She recommends using words like “conceptual,” “creative,” “curious,” “analytical” or “methodical” to describe your thought process.

One of the biggest mistakes candidates can make in this situation is using business jargon. For example, Welch says phrases like “results-driven” or “customer-focused” rarely move the conversation in the direction that an interviewer wants it to go.

2. Reveal your character

According to Welch, one way to impress a hiring manager is to make sure that one of your three words articulately explains your personality.

She says words like “resilient,” “kind” and “unrelentingly honest” are all good examples of this.

“I had one applicant describe herself as a ‘work in progress,'” says Welch. “Her resume had already made that clear to me — but I loved the maturity it took to say it out loud.”

3. Say something interesting about yourself

For your third and final word, choose something that “shows you know what makes you uniquely you, and likable, while you’re at it,” Welch says.

She emphasizes that the best responses are those that leave a memorable impression on an employer. That’s why she says positive terms like “optimistic,” “responsible” and “calm,” and phrases like “I’m a connector, I’m decisive,” are all great for describing yourself.

“None of us can truly capture ourselves in three words,” she says, “but respond to this challenge with authenticity and self-awareness, and you’ll go a long way toward saying all that really matters.”

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