Walk into a job interview and you'd better be ready to take centre stage.

From the moment that you set foot in the door, you want to dazzle the recruiter and show them that you have what it takes. As the age-old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. The vast majority of hiring managers make a decision on candidates 15 minutes into the interview. That means that you don't have long to sell yourself and your skills. 

One of the interview questions that's sure to pop up is “how would you describe yourself professionally?” When the interviewer brings that one out of the bag, you need to be ready to give them a short and sweet summary of you as a worker. Launch a full-blown TED Talk and you're bound to lose their interest fast. With that in mind, let's talk about how to get it right.  

Craft the perfect elevator pitch 

Perhaps the easiest way to think about your answer is as an elevator pitch. Lasting around 20 to 30 seconds, these short speeches are usually used in the world of business. For example, you may sell a product to an investor by giving them a brief overview of what they can expect. Of course, when you're describing yourself in a job interview, you're selling yourself to the hiring manager. Put simply, that means that the same rules apply. 

When we talk about how to introduce yourself to a hiring manager, it's always smart to keep things brief and to the point. Ahead of your interview, you should have practised your answer (i.e., pitch!) and have it down to a few sentences. The key here is not to waste your words. Each part of your answer should add value and describe why you're a cut above the rest. 

Highlight your core strengths 

First things first, you should talk about your core strengths. What is it that makes you specifically qualified for the job? Since you don't want to list a million different strengths (and send the hiring manager to sleep), you should select the ones that are most applicable.  

For example, if you're interviewing for a job in accounting, you might say the following: “I'm excellent with numbers, detail-oriented, and always meet my deadlines.” The hiring manager will be looking for someone who ticks all of these boxes. Make sure that the strengths and qualities you choose match the job description as tightly as possible. 

Include your unique selling point

Selling yourself to a hiring manager is all about standing out from the crowd. Chances are, all of the candidates are going to have similar answers when it comes to their interview. That means that you need to be extra memorable. When you're asked to describe yourself, be sure to add in your unique selling point (USP) - the thing that makes you entirely unique. 

Pick something that fits the job description. What do you bring to the table that no one else does? You might say “In addition, I speak French and can liaise with your French clients,” for example. On the other hand, you could say “I'm currently learning how to code and would be happy to bring those skills to the role.” Don't be afraid to speak up!

Throw in a meaningful anecdote

You've already whetted the recruiter's appetite, so now it's time to back up everything you've said. Whenever you're describing yourself to a hiring manager, you need to provide some cold, hard facts. Luckily, you can do this in the form of an anecdote. Consider a past scenario that perfectly demonstrates your skill set to the recruiter and shows them what you're about. 

For instance, you might say, “In my last role, I headed up a team of 10 and introduced a new workflow management system that increased productivity by 16%.” Within that statement, you've been clear about what you did, how you did it, and what results you gained. Simple. 

Tailor your description to the job

Of course, when you're doing all of the above, there's an important hint to keep in mind. You have to tailor your answer to the job description. This isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. Whenever you're speaking to a hiring manager, they are assessing whether your skill set and experience will fit the bill. Fortunately, you already know exactly what they are looking for. 

If the job description said “Looking for a self-motivated professional with a flair for creativity,” your answer may include the words: “I'm a creative person who is always bubbling with new ideas. What's more, I have the self-motivation and dedication to bring those ideas to life.” 

Pepper your answer with the right words

The words you choose when answering this question could make or break your interview. Make sure that you get them right. While buzzwords aren't everything, you need to be able to speak the interviewer's language. With that in mind, here are some of the words you may want to use to highlight your potential as a candidate: 

  • Teamwork

  • Fast learner

  • Dependable

  • Independent 

  • Customer focused

  • Hard working 

  • Critical thinker

  • Organised

  • Self-disciplined

  • Detail oriented 

  • Resilient 

  • Creative

  • Positive 

  • Resourceful 

  • Energetic 

  • Ambitious

Don't cram the words in for the sake of it. When you're answering the question, choose your words carefully. Make sure that everything you say is true and that you can back it up well. Consider which of the words fit both you and the job you're looking to land. The more you can tailor your interview answers to the role, the better your overall chance of success. 

The Takeaway

There's a fine art to describing yourself to a hiring manager. As we've covered, your answer needs to be short yet punchy. You're trying to pack a whole load of relevant information into a short space of time. Fortunately, if you follow our tips here, you should have no problem getting it right from the start. Why not practice ahead of time, so that you're always on point?

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