Studies have repeatedly shown that people are notoriously bad at judging how others view them. When asked how they’re perceived, most people rate themselves either far better or far worse than is actually the case. It’s just how we’re wired, yet interviewers still ask questions requiring candidates to perform this type of self-assessment. One of those questions is, “how would your coworkers describe you?”
Other variations of this question include “how would your colleagues describe your personality?” or “what would your boss say about you?”
Why do interviewers ask this tricky question, and what’s the best way to answer it? We’ll cover it all and share some sample answers below.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
Interviewers want to understand how you’re perceived in the workplace by the people who interact with you day in and day out. These impressions are valuable data points in determining whether you’ll be a good fit on their team.
They also want to see how YOU think you’re perceived and whether your assessment matches your references report. If you claim that you’re detail-oriented and two of your references say the same thing, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be a conscientious worker. But if you say you’re a strong leader and one of your references mentions that you require a lot of direction, it could indicate that your answers about yourself aren’t totally reliable.
What hiring managers look for in an answer
Interviewers use this question as a tool to get a feel for what you’re like as an employee. This is important in determining whether you’ll mesh well with the rest of the team and be productive in their operating way.
They’re looking to see whether the qualities you name are aligned with the ones they value. If they’re opposites–you mention being soft-spoken and introverted when this workplace relies on heavy collaboration, for example–it might be a sign of a poor fit.
How to answer the interview question “How would your coworkers describe you?”
Ask your coworkers
The easiest way to prepare an accurate answer to this question? Ask your actual coworkers! Their answers can be illuminating in determining your strength and identifying areas that could use improvement. Ask for input from three to five colleagues, then see if any patterns emerge from their responses.
Identify which traits to include
The best answers to “how would your coworkers describe you?” highlight where a candidate’s strengths intersect with the job’s requirements. So, once you’ve come up with a list of the traits that best describe you, compare it against the job listing to find commonalities.
Make it beneficial to the employer
Use your coworkers’ descriptions of you to show how you’re an asset to the company. Consider including a short anecdote that supports your answer and shows how your trait or skill led to a win for your employer.
How not to answer
Listing irrelevant traits
Being the office comedian or having a reputation for your killer brownies might make you popular, but these traits don’t contribute to your ability to do the job.
Avoid answers that come across as boastful, like “My coworkers would say I’m the best at X…” Instead, pick one or two traits you can back up with a real-world example.
Sample answers to “How would your coworkers describe you?”
“My coworkers would say I’m great with finances. When my department needed new equipment in the middle of the budget year, they came to me to see if we could make the numbers work. I found some areas where we could make painless cuts to come up with the funds for the equipment.”
“My coworkers would say I’m punctual and good at time management. I’m the one who keeps meetings from getting derailed and running long. In my three years in my current role, I’ve never missed a single deadline.”
“My boss would say I’m an independent worker. He rarely needs to check up on me, and when he does, I give him a quick rundown of what I’m working on and flag any areas where I need his help. I think this would be an asset on a team like yours, where many different projects are happening simultaneously. I’m not someone you need to spend time micromanaging.”
Be concise, be candid, and establish a connection between your positive traits and the qualifications for the job.
Be prepared for follow-up questions that ask you to elaborate on your skills, like “what are your greatest strengths?” and “what are your biggest weaknesses?”