At your next job interview, be the diamond in the rough they're looking for

Interviewers often speak to several candidates for a position before narrowing their selection and presenting an offer to the most desirable candidate. Throughout the process, the interviewer or hiring manager hopes to stumble upon that needle in the haystack. When this happens it's a huge relief, given that it can take months for an organization to fill a position. According to HireVue, it takes an average of 42 days for companies to fill a position and, for some companies, it can take even longer.

In an ideal world, you're the candidate that stands out from other qualified candidates. One important way that you can really stand out is to know how to respond when the interviewer asks you to describe yourself. But do you know how to use the right words to describe yourself and do it from a place of authenticity, integrity, and thoughtfulness?

In this post, we'll provide some helpful tips that you can use to ensure that you're prepared to answer this important interview question. By the end of this post, you should have the insight you need to always choose the right words to describe yourself in an interview.

Show that you represent the top qualities a hiring manager is looking for

Below are examples of some of the top qualities that interviewers look for and the type of response that speaks to those qualities. Consider using one of these adjectives to describe yourself to an interviewer.

I am...

A self-starter

"Once I'm clear on what the task or project is, I'm good at determining the best way to accomplish it."

A team player

"I believe there is value in collaboration. Often, two minds are better than one and, as such, working in a team with a collaborative spirit is important."


"I like to evaluate current procedures and processes to identify any foreseeable issues or concerns. I find that being proactive in a situation, when possible, is much better than being reactive. Also, when I'm proactive in planning for a project and the need to react to a situation arises, it's much easier to move to a Plan B when there's a solid Plan A in place."

A person with strong personal values

"Integrity and authenticity are important to me. I do what I can to continue to improve and be the best I can be at whatever I do."


"I look for growth opportunities for the group, as I find this produces the best long-term results."


"I am confident in my ability to produce results. Of course, situations happen when the results aren't ideal - and when that does happen, I do my best to tip the hat in a positive direction."


"Long-term results require making decisions efficiently and decisively, even when it's difficult."


"By taking responsibility for my actions and results, I have the ability to make the choices necessary for a better outcome or results the next time around. Pointing fingers or playing the blame game is not productive and can even set the team back."

Focused on excellence

"Not only do I aim to meet objectives, but I'm often one to exceed my employer's expectations."

Committed to leadership

"I don't let tough situations control me. Instead, I evaluate them and decide the best way to approach the situation for the best result at that moment."


"The only way to keep moving forward is to focus on results. I am hard working and committed to adding value and reaching goals with the best results possible."


"I try to set reasonable goals for myself. Once those goals are in place, I can then work to create smaller goals or benchmarks to accomplish, so that I can continuously evaluate my performance as I move toward the larger goals."


"I strive to do the best I can for whatever task is presented to me. I appreciate working for a company that has clear goals and that rewards employees for meeting those goals."


"I'm a people person. I've found that the best way to truly understand what the customer needs is to ask the right questions and then follow up to confirm we're on the same page. I can then develop a plan or set goals to meet the customer's needs."

Dedicated to personal growth and development

"I believe it's important to continue to grow and learn. I'm always looking for opportunities, like webinars, seminars, and classes, that can help me to learn and grow as a professional at work and in my everyday life."

A good communicator

"I've learned that we all have different communication styles and I need to learn how others communicate so that we can effectively work together and meet each other in the middle. I also like to ask questions and don't have a problem following up to confirm I've understood something correctly. We all see things through our own perspectives and I try to understand the perspective of others."

Come up with your own list of words to describe yourself: 100 examples

The above are some guidelines to give you an idea of the type of language to use based on what many interviewers look for in top-notch candidates. It's important to come up with your own responses though, so that you truly represent yourself as an individual. Grab a pen and paper (or your laptop) and begin brainstorming about your qualities by taking these steps:

  • Create a list of competencies, skills, and qualities

  • Write down what you do to represent each quality

  • Craft your sample responses accordingly

Practice answering common interview questions that might prompt your responses.

As you craft your responses, it's also important to have some examples that speak to your claims. In other words, if you say you've often exceeded your employer's expectations, be prepared to give quantifiable examples to back it up. The more you can support your claims with measurable success, the better.

To help you in your effort to find the right words to describe yourself, we've compiled a list of 100 descriptive terms that can help you to craft a compelling description:

1.       Adaptable

2.       Agile

3.       Analytical

4.       Attentive

5.       Authentic

6.       Candid

7.        Collaborative

8.       Competitive

9.       Confident

10.   Considerate

11.   Consistent

12.   Cooperative

13.   Creative

14.   Curious

15.   Data-driven

16.   Dedicated

17.   Deliberate

18.   Dependable

19.   Determined

20.   Diligent

21.   Diplomatic

22.   Direct

23.   Discerning

24.   Eager

25.   Efficient

26.   Emotionally intelligent

27.   Empathetic

28.   Energetic

29.   Engaged

30.   Enthusiastic

31.   Experimental

32.   Extroverted

33.   Fair-minded

34.   Flexible

35.   Focused

36.   Forward-thinking

37.   Friendly

38.   Funny

39.   Genuine

40.   Giving

41.   Gracious

42.   Hardworking

43.   Helpful

44.   Humorous

45.   Imaginative

46.   Inclusive

47.   Independent

48.   Informed

49.   Innovative

50.   Inquisitive

51.   Insightful

52.   Introspective

53.   Introverted

54.   Intuitive

55.   Kind

56.   Knowledgeable

57.   Laid back

58.   Light-hearted

59.   Logical

60.   Meticulous

61.   Mindful

62.   Motivated

63.   Motivational

64.   Observant

65.   Open-minded

66.   Optimistic

67.   Outgoing

68.   Passionate

69.   Patient

70.   Perceptive

71.   Persistent

72.   Personable

73.   Persuasive

74.   Positive

75.   Practical

76.   Pragmatic

77.   Precise

78.   Problem-solver

79.   Punctual

80.   Reflective

81.   Relaxed

82.   Reliable

83.   Resourceful

84.   Self-aware

85.   Self-reliant

86.   Sharp

87.   Spontaneous

88.   Strategic

89.   Straightforward

90.   Supportive

91.   Systematic

92.   Tactful

93.   Tactical

94.   Tech-savvy

95.   Thorough

96.   Thoughtful

97.   Trustworthy

98.   Unconventional

99.   Versatile

100. Welcoming

Practice describing yourself for a job interview

Practice interviewing with a close friend or someone you trust. The more you're prompted with questions like “How would you describe yourself?”, and the more you speak your answers out loud, the more comfortable you'll be once you're sitting across from your interviewer. It's possible to distinguish between interviewees who have practiced interviewing and those who haven't. You, of course, want to fall into the former group. 

Finally, words can be powerful so give your word choices some thought before you walk in for your interviews. Doing so will make it easier for you to choose the best words to describe yourself and ensure that you make the best possible impression.

Take advantage of a session with our professional team of interview coaches today, to ensure that you're as prepared as possible for your next interview!

Editor's Note: A version of this article was originally published on our sister site, TopResume. This article was originally written by Ronda Suder and was updated by Ken Chase in 2023.

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