How to answer the question, “How would you describe your personality?”

Job interview questions about your personality are an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.

How to answer the question, “How would you describe your personality?”

There are four types of workplace personalities. Which one are you?

Having a winning personality is probably the most important factor when it comes to making a great first impression on anyone. Especially a hiring manager. Your character and behavior are strong indicators of how well you’ll get along with the rest of the company, so it should come as no surprise when they ask you to describe your personality early on during a job interview.

“Hiring managers want to see what your attitude and outlook is on work and life,” says Jay Fusaro, author of From the Other Side of the Desk: A Practical Guide to Shortening Your Job Search.

Sounds easy enough—after all, if there’s one subject you’re an expert in, it’s you—but it’s very common to get tripped up when you have to put into words what you’re like as a human being. (And no, “I’m great! What more can I say?” won’t fly.)

According to consulting firm Deloitte, there are four types of workplace personalities: pioneer, driver, integrator, and guardian—and each style has its own positive and negative attributes. You can take Monster’s short workplace personality quiz to see what yours is, and then mine the information for talking points to use during job interviews. And read on for more tips to help you craft your answer.

Study the job posting

In addition to outlining what hard skills are required for the position, job descriptions typically list what attributes or personality traits employers are looking for candidates to possess. Thus, Fusaro says your best approach is to select three core soft skills and share short stories that illustrate how these characteristics have served you well at past jobs.

For example, to show you take initiative you might say, “I’m a manager, but I’m also a people person at heart. At my last job I took over a department that had high turnover. I was able to improve retention by offering flexible work schedules, providing a comfortable work environment, and praising employees for their achievements.”

Leverage feedback from a third party

Saying that you’re a leader is one thing—validating it by citing feedback from a former boss or co-worker is compelling, says Fusaro. Hence, “it’s best to use someone else’s opinion of you to compliment yourself,” he says.

One way to interpret this interview question is to respond as if you’re being asked, “How would your colleagues describe your personality?” For example: “My boss consistently tells me I’m a team player. When we fell behind on a big project last year, I offered to stay late and helped us meet our deadline.”

Choose the right buzzwords

A recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employers actually care more about soft skills than they do technical abilities like reading comprehension and mathematics. It also revealed the 15 soft skills employers commonly look for in entry-level job seekers. In turn, weaving a few of these skills into your answer can make you a more attractive candidate:

  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Adaptability
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork
  • Respect

Be honest

When answering any job interview question, you need to be authentic and honest with the hiring manager, says Laura Labovich, founder of Bethesda, Maryland-based Career Strategy Group. “Tell the interviewer about the qualities you feel represent you best and of which you are most proud,” she says. “If they don’t believe you’d be a fit, it’s probably for the best.”

“Of course, to the extent that you can identify any personality traits that might be ‘ideal’ for the job and identify the ones that you feel you embody, the more successful you’ll be,” Labovich adds.

Sample answers

Although your answer will depend on the position you’re applying for and, of course, your individual personality, here are some examples of good responses.

Good answers

  • For a financial analyst job: “A central fixture of my personality is my analytical mind. In my last job, I applied that to a number of tasks...”
  • For a customer service job: "I’m a problem-solver by nature. My immediate goal when I speak to a customer is to get their issue resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
  • For an administrative assistant job: “I’ve always been an extremely organized person. That served me well in my last job, where my attention to detail helped save the company money on a major account…”
  • For a data analyst job: "I'm a whiz at interpreting data and transforming it into useful information."

Meanwhile, here’s what you shouldn’t say:

Bad answers

  • “I’m a hard worker.” Duh! Tell the hiring manager something that’s unique about you—not something she’s heard over and over again.
  • “I'm a social butterfly. I make friends very easily and am very good at influencing others in social situations.” This answer is more “me-focused,” says Labovich. Keep the focus on how your personality would benefit the employer.
  • “I’m a perfectionist.” Perfectionism can lead to time management issues, which is a major concern for employers.
  • “I pride myself on being a reliable employee. I always show up to work on time.” Rather than saying you can meet the basic job requirements (e.g., get to work on time every day), highlight a personality trait that would make you significantly more valuable in the eyes of a hiring manager than other candidates.

Make your job search as awesome as your personality

You’re a great worker. You’re responsible and driven. You never use the office microwave to reheat fish. People like you! Unfortunately, the job search will demand skills that go beyond simply being awesome. Could you use some help standing out from the crowd? Join Monster today. As a member, you can get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. From updating your resume to negotiating your salary to asking for a raise, Monster’s expert insight can help take you far.