Editor’s Note: The content of this blog post was updated on April 30, 2020 to provide fresh jobseeker tips and resources.
Do you know what your co-workers think of you? In this article, we help you reflect on your workplace interactions, so you can honestly tell interviewers how your colleagues and managers likely perceive your personality and performance. If you’re worried about answering the interview question, “How would your co-workers describe you?” you’ll find strategies here that, when put into practice, that will ease your nerves about this line of inquiry.
Answering the ‘How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?’ Interview Question
Interviews help recruiters and employers evaluate your skills, knowledge, work experience, and personality. Though many interview questions are standard and direct, others may be worded carefully to extract additional information without you realizing you’re providing it.
For example, when interviewers ask, “Why did you leave your last job?” they’re not trying to get the scoop on all the horrible things that another company did or how poorly you were treated. Instead, they’re evaluating your reaction to your last position and how you perceive your situation. Therefore, your response provides insight into your professionalism and emotional maturity. (It might also tell interviewers what you’d be willing to say and think about their company if you were to leave.)
In this article, we tackle another common question that interviewers ask to learn additional information about you: How would your co-workers describe you?
This question is another way of saying, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” However, when you’re asked to describe yourself from your point of view, you may only give a depiction of the person you want the interviewers to see. By asking you to describe yourself from other people’s points of view, you’re held more accountable for the authenticity of your answers. Therefore, you can’t brag about all your strengths when you know your co-workers won’t back you up. Here’s how you can address this question both strategically and honestly.
Before the Interview: Prep for Answering ‘How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?’
It’s never too early to prepare for an interview. Therefore, spend some time reflecting on how others perceive you so that you can speak smoothly without over-inflating or undervaluing yourself. Remember that interviewers want to evaluate your self-awareness, humility, confidence, and representation of others. Plus, if they contact your professional references, they may compare your references’ comments against yours to validate your accuracy and honesty.
Interviewers also want to gauge how well you communicate and if your personality and work style matches the company and team culture. “People want to work with people they like, and who like them in return,” says Inc. contributing editor, Jeff Haden. So, you want to show your character and provide examples of what it’s like to work with you.
1. Consider Your Strengths
Think about your personal and professional characteristics. What are your strengths? Are your co-workers aware of such strengths? For instance, if you always show up to meetings on time and reply to emails promptly, your co-workers would probably say that you are punctual and responsive. As another example, if you frequently lend a hand when co-workers or customers struggle, your colleagues and managers would probably say that you are helpful.
2. Keep Track of Conversations
Recall conversations with co-workers or managers in which you received acknowledgement or feedback. Scroll through old emails, Slack messages, and reports for clues on how others label you and what they highlight about your work. You can incorporate a few direct quotes into your interview response to avoid making assumptions or coming up with your own statements.
3. Consult Performance Reviews
Have you ever had a formal employee performance review? If so, you can use it as official validation of your strengths and how managers perceive you. Compare the review to your self-assessment to gauge your level of awareness and accuracy. Also, compare the review to previous conversations or emails and look for alignment or evidence of improvement. Kelly Services, an employment agency that hires a range of professionals, suggests focusing on keywords surrounding helpfulness and cooperation.
4. Ask for Feedback
If you have no idea what current or past colleagues might think of you, then it’s time to ask for feedback. Email or call a few trusted professional references for a brief, honest assessment of your workplace characteristics. If you don’t want your current employer to know that you’re searching for a new job, you may need to avoid asking anyone related to your current position. Also, avoid asking family members and friends, since they may not have experience working with you in a professional environment.
5. Check Your Resume
If you land an interview after submitting your resume, then review your bullet points to ensure your interview responses are consistent. Pick two or three items from your work history section, if applicable, and think about any acknowledgements or conversations surrounding each item. For example, if you helped your division increase quarterly sales, try to remember comments from colleagues and customers during that time to directly relate your traits to your work output.
6. Reference the Job Post
Just as you tailor your resume to the job description, you can also turn to the job post for insight into what the employer or interviewer values. If the post states that the company seeks someone who can adapt quickly to change, then be sure to include statements on how your co-workers likely perceive your resilience.
7. Ask for LinkedIn Endorsements
LinkedIn endorsements give interviewers a snapshot of your best qualities and provide credibility to your claims. Therefore, ask colleagues and other individuals in your professional network to endorse you on LinkedIn. You might even ask a couple managers or individuals with impressive titles to write short recommendations as testimonials.
However, it’s easy to get carried away with endorsements to where they no longer add value to your profile. Some experts recommend limiting the number of endorsements to target essential skills most commonly listed in job postings. That way, you can increase the volume of endorsements for each skill, instead of spreading yourself too thin to get noticed.
8. Prepare a Few Scripts
Once you finish brainstorming and collecting information, write a few original scripts as baseline responses. Practice your scripts until they feel natural. You don’t have to recite them word-for-word during the interview, but keep them handy so you can quickly glance at them for reference. Here are a few examples of scripts to get you started:
Script Examples for Answering ‘How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?’
My co-workers would likely say I speak professionally but make people feel at ease with a bit of humor and friendliness. They may even say that I have an upbeat personality and focus on the positives, even when things go wrong. I’ve been known to diffuse tense conversations and avoid conflict simply by steering the mood and tone with more positive and calm speech.
On being adaptable:
My co-workers would probably say I’m reliable and adaptable, especially in times of crisis. There were many times when our team would get last-minute tasks or changes that we’d have to complete on top of our regular work. Although I expressed my concerns and felt stressed during those situations, I did my very best and responded promptly. My managers thanked me a lot after and recognized my effort.
On responding to negativity:
Sometimes we’d receive calls from angry customers and would have to help them troubleshoot and resolve a problem. It’s easy to let situations like that get to you and affect your whole day, even when you fix the issue. My co-workers often commended me for keeping a positive attitude and handling the calls professionally.
Notice that each script provides specific scenarios, how you felt or responded in each situation, and how co-workers perceived your actions. Construct a few statements of your own and be sure to include factual information with an emphasis on how others reacted to your communication, decisions, and outcomes.
During the Interview: Confidently Answering ‘How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?’
No matter how well you prepare, it’s normal to feel anxious during an interview. To help calm your nerves, take a deep breath while the interviewer asks a question, then pause briefly before answering. A quick pause may help your brain get organized so that you speak as intended. During your response, make sure you touch on at least one of the following:
- Communication (with both co-workers and customers, if applicable)
- Work ethic or professional integrity
- Continuous improvement
Though you want to use the question as an opportunity to emphasize your strengths, you don’t need to portray yourself as an infallible superhero. Recruiters and employers don’t expect you to be perfect. If you pitch yourself that way, you may lose credibility. In fact, recruiting expert Omar Molad warns against “answering questions robotically” and using too many buzzwords that sugarcoat your work experience. Therefore, use your pre-interview reflection as a guide and reference, but try your best to hold a natural conversation so you don’t sound scripted.
What Not to Say When Answering ‘How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?’ During an Interview
Remember, when you talk about yourself, you reveal what’s important to you and how you want others to see you. Therefore, make sure you avoid these interview turnoffs:
- Don’t gossip about previous employers or co-workers or try to put others down to make yourself look better. Instead, keep your character traits in focus and craft statements that highlight your strengths.
- Depending on the employer and occupation, you may not want to brag about your wild side and how you’re known to be a party animal at company picnics. Unless you’re sure that the interviewer wants to hire a party-goer, you probably want to neutralize your social reputation. You can still explain how you how you enjoy participating in company events outside of work (even when you work remotely).
- Avoid embellishing the truth by stating things in your co-workers’ style. For instance, if you know your co-workers would say that you’re a hard worker with a likable personality, don’t translate that to, “My co-workers always say that I go above and beyond and light up the room with my contagious enthusiasm.” Try to maintain the tone and demeanor of your sources, especially if you include them as professional references.
- Don’t repeat your resume and cover letter word-for-word. Use your application as a baseline, but expand upon your bullet points and respond to interviewers more conversationally.
- Don’t create fake scenarios or compliments. Use real-life experiences and find ways to relate actual events and feedback to the question.
Speak authentically and prepare factual statements that highlight your attributes without casting shadows on others or giving the wrong impression.
It’s Time to Shine!
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