Each of us is a complex human being. We have our strengths and weaknesses, our past, dream,s our friends and role models. Each of us is unique, and it may take more than 1,000 words to give at least a somehow accurate description of any person in the world. Still, it would be only somehow accurate. 

What to do, however, when hiring managers ask you to describe yourself with the help of one word only? That’s really a tricky situation. They typically expect to hear your greatest strength, or something that is really characteristic for you, something that makes you stand out from the other job applicants in the hiring process. But it’s a silly question indeed, because one word does never tell the entire story

Silly or not, you may get this question in your interview. And you should not remain silent, or think for five minutes before you pick the one word that describes you better than anything else. I put together a list of 100 words, each of them telling something about a person, and divided it to ten groups. Let’s see if you can find your winner in my selection.


100 sample answers to “Describe yourself in one word” interview question

  • Ambitious, bold, creative, positive, passionate, empathic, transparent, honest, resilient, humble.
  • Leader, follower, manager, coach, technician, engineer, teacher, winner, entertainer, entrepreneur.
  • Indescribable, unique, me, nobody, complicated, complex, human, mother, father, loner.
  • Athlete, artist, musician, painter, player, gamer, builder, destroyer, gunner, victim.
  • Dreamer, idealist, philosopher, realist, optimist, pessimist, poet, soul, brain, heart.
  • Tall, young, old, experienced, inexperienced, learner, pupil, short, healthy, fit.
  • Crazy, unpredictable, superhero, lunatic, demon, God, devil, archangel, joker, ace.
  • Responsible, detail-oriented, skilled, flexible, elaborate, adaptable, sociable, listener, talker, alive.
  • Nervous, confident, brilliant, forgiving, unprepared, prepared, strong, excited, happy, undecided.
  • Lost, unemployed, thriving, struggling, hoping, praying, trying, dreaming, screaming, nothing.


What you pick means a lot to you–either in good or bad way

Be careful about your choice. It indicates (at least in the eyes of the interviewers) what matters the most to you. Let me give you a few examples. If you pick a role, or a name of a profession you have or field you studies (manager, engineer, teacher, programmer, etc), it shows that work is really important to you, that it is what you think about the most, and perhaps even live for. Not a bad choice for most hiring managers.

If you pick a character ability–some strength (empathic, responsible, honest, etc), it suggest that you built your identity around this ability, and consider it the greatest asset you can offer to your next employer. This can work work, especially if you pick something fitting to the job description, or for the the company culture.

Is it okay to pick a weakness?

Maybe you feel like a victim, or really unlucky in your life. Or you are just a dreamer, still waiting for your opportunity to realize your ambitions. Or you feel lonely, deserted, or almost a nobody.

I have complete understanding for your feelings. Who says that he never experienced something similar is lying. All of us have some bad days. However, you should focus on something positive in a job interview. Nobody wants to hire an employee who will walk around the office with their head bent, pitting themselves, or even seeding negativity in their colleagues.


Referring to your emotion or condition when it comes to interviewing is another interesting idea

Why not saying that you are excited, or enthusiastic? It is always good if the hiring managers get an impression that the interview is important to you, that you are happy to be where you are. You can describe these feelings when they ask you to describe yourself in one word.

After all, our emotions change, so do our roles in life. Hence it is fine to pick something fleeting, something that describes who you are, or how you feel, in the exact moment when they ask the question. If the interview isn’t going well, or you flopped some questions, you can even pick unprepared, or nervous for your answer.


Experiment with unconventional answers when you have nothing to lose

Interview is a sales talk, and you should try to tell them something that makes a good impression, that show you in the best possible light. However, if the “sales talk” hasn’t been going well up to this point, if you feel that your chances are getting slimmer with each next question, you can try your luck with something unconventional, or even bizarre.

When you find yourself in a situation when you have nothing to lose, why not characterize yourself as crazy, alive, or as an ace, an idealist, or even as a soul? Such a choice allows for a lot of options when they ask you to elaborate on your answer.

And even if they do not ask you to elaborate on your strange choice, it is definitely something they will remember long time after the end of your interview. It’s better when they remember you in any association, than when they forget you five minutes after the end of your interview, perhaps because you told them the same things everyone else did…


If they give you a chance, you should elaborate on your answer

One word is not really enough, but initially that’s what you should say. Because it’s also a test of your ability to follow instructions and orders, so one word is one word, and if you say three or opt for an entire sentence, you are losing points in this interview.

However, if there’s a moment of silence once you tell your word, you may ask whether they do not want you to elaborate on your characteristic, on the one word you picked. And that’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, a chance to explain how the characteristic will help you in your new job, or why the one is so important, so special to you, that you picked it from the huge selection of words that characterize your character, life, and attitude…


Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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