Interview Question: How Would Your Colleagues Describe You?
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated November 6, 2022 | Published November 5, 2021
Updated November 6, 2022
Published November 5, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When it comes to interviews, one of the hardest questions interviewers ask is about your personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Interviewers ask this question to gain insight into your self-perception and assess your soft skills to see how you would fit in within the company. Understanding why interviewers ask this question can help you with crafting your answer. In this article, we outline why interviewers ask "How would your colleagues describe you?" and how best to respond to the question with tips and example answers.
Why employers ask, "How would your colleagues describe you?"
There are two main reasons why interviewers ask, "How would your colleagues describe you?" The first is to get an idea of how you perceive yourself so that they can compare your response with your references. Second, interviewers use the question to find out more about your soft skills, which can help them determine whether you would be a good fit with the company's culture.
This common interview question can seem fairly straightforward and like an opportunity to share your best qualities as a professional. You can focus on specific qualities that may make you an invaluable asset to the company. For instance, you can emphasize your reliability and punctual nature. The interviewer is looking for positive assets or attributes that would make you stand out from other applicants and be beneficial to the company.
How to prepare an answer
Follow these steps to prepare an answer to this common interview question:
1. Review letters of recommendation
Something to help you with gaining insight into how others view you, without having to ask them directly, is to read through any letters of recommendation that you might have access to or to look at your prior performance reports and reviews. These can give you valuable insight and information that you can then use during your interview to answer how your colleagues would describe you. Review these letters, looking for strengths that you can use in possible interviews and weaknesses that you can improve.
2. Contact your colleagues
You can also ask your colleagues themselves how they would describe you. Their answers can reveal potential strengths or skills to improve that you might not have considered on your own. What they say might surprise you, which is why it's important that you ask. Sometimes, your colleagues may write you letters of recommendation, which can both strengthen your future applications and serve as valuable resources for crafting possible interview answers.
3. Reflect on your findings
Once you have finished conducting your research, begin condensing the information that you have found. Use bullet points and look for possible patterns and common answers within the feedback that you have received, either from your colleagues themselves or from recommendations and performance reports. After you have done so, return to the job posting and select two or three traits that overlap with the description.
What if you have no relevant work history?
For those who are just starting their job hunt and have no relevant work history or those who do not have access to prior feedback on their performance, there are ways to brainstorm. To begin, make a list of your top five strengths by looking at your personal life or educational career. Once you have that initial list, expand on it to include concrete examples of how you have demonstrated each strength. Try to focus on those that are related to or listed in the job posting.
Interviewers and hiring managers may ask you other questions, including questions about whether you have had difficulty working with a manager, whether you prefer teamwork or working independently, or questions about conflict resolution. Much like asking you how your colleagues would describe you, such questions are a way for them to get an idea of how well you may fit in with the company culture and collaborate with coworkers. These are mostly interpersonal questions that are designed to demonstrate your soft skills.
Three examples of best potential answers
It's important to focus on answering the question directly and simply. Instead of focusing on how your colleagues would describe you, consider using a concrete example to back up your claims. Discuss your strengths using an example from your prior work history. Stay focused on the position that you have applied for and tailor your answer to match your strengths to that position. Here are some examples of potential answers you can use for different situations:
Soft skills example
This example focuses on some key soft skills, shares a relevant story that clearly demonstrates them, and ends on a positive note. Think about situations where you demonstrated a skill or talent that helped you and your colleagues complete a project or meet a deadline.
Example: "I've been told that I have excellent organization and time management skills. During one project, my colleagues complimented me for developing the timeline for the project and adhering to it for each phase of the assignment. We were able to complete the project ahead of schedule."
Personality traits example
This answer can demonstrate a positive personality trait that may offer potential employers something advantageous. While focusing on traits that your potential employer is looking for, discuss how you have previously used those traits in a way that bettered your work environment.
Example: "Colleagues have described me as optimistic. I often see setbacks in a positive rather than negative light as they can be a chance to learn and grow, both as a person and in terms of my skills. I really enjoy coming up with creative solutions to problems. In my previous job, when we were facing budget cuts in our department, I devised several ways to help us maintain the majority of our resources on a small budget. In the end, my solutions were successfully implemented."
Leadership skills example
If applicable to the role, you may choose to focus on your leadership skills when giving your response. Think of a time when you took charge of a group and helped guide them toward meeting a common goal and ensure you provide an actionable and tangible result in your response. Leadership is often a highly desirable trait in potential employees, so being able to demonstrate it with a concrete example can help you stand out from other candidates.
Your answer can demonstrate a skill or personality trait connected to leadership skills, along with an example from your prior work history. For those who are just starting out with their job search and have little to no work history, look for examples in either your personal or educational life that would fit with what you want to convey.
Example: "Many people I have worked with have said that they look to me as both a leader and a strong team player. One of my colleagues even offered to write a personal reference letter for me because they were impressed by how I led a group of our colleagues while also listening to and considering everyone's input. Together, with my leadership, we came up with an effective plan of action for a new company initiative."
Tips on how to give the best answer
Here are some tips on how to craft the best answer when an interviewer asks you how your colleagues would describe you:
Highlight only one personality trait at a time: When sharing a personality trait, you can include a concrete example that demonstrates the trait in a positive light. Storytelling is an important skill that helps show you have strong interpersonal skills.
Focus on traits that apply to the position: It's best to adapt your answer to the job you're interviewing for. You can also maintain a positive attitude while remaining honest and humble, as many interviewers and hiring managers value these virtues. While focusing on relevant traits, avoid embellishing or exaggerating details in an attempt to show you are a good fit.
Keep your answers relevant to soft skills: The reason that interviewers ask this question is to gain understanding and insight into how you behave in the workplace and with your colleagues. Keep your answers focused on soft skills to show the value you can bring to the role and overall company culture.
Now that you know why you would be asked "How would your colleagues describe you?", and have been given examples of how to answer this question, you can feel more prepared for your next round of interviews.
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