Most applicants are not prepared for questions about their personality, even when certain character traits are listed as desirable in the job posting. But it's not uncommon for interviewers to ask, “How would your colleagues describe your personality?” This question can reveal a lot about you, and what you're like as an employee.
Here's what you need to know to prepare a strong answer to this question.
Why the Interviewer Wants to Know
Interviewers have a few motivations for asking you how colleagues would describe your personality.
First, your response can help them get a sense of your self-perception. Plus, once they reach out to references, they'll be able to compare what they say with your own self-assessment.
How to Answer, 'How Would Your Colleagues Describe Your Personality?'
This seemingly straightforward question is an opportunity for you to share your best traits. Are you dependable? Trustworthy? Flexible? Focus on the skills and attributes that would make you an asset to the organization.
To answer this interview question effectively, you should know what your colleagues believe you bring to the table. Think back to any instances in which a colleague commended you, such as when you were a great team player on a project or when you demonstrated kindness by helping a struggling employee.
Read reference letters written for you, LinkedIn endorsements, or performance reviews.
If you want to dig deeper, simply ask your co-workers how they would describe you. Their answers may reveal strengths you otherwise wouldn’t have considered or areas for improvement.
Next, list all the data you have collected and condense it into short bullets by looking for patterns within the feedback. Once complete, go back to the original job posting and choose one or two traits that overlap with the description.
If you cannot remember or find any specific feedback (either formal or informal) and are unemployed, list what you think your top five strengths are and expand on how you demonstrate each of them. Remember to select the traits related to the job listing.
Examples of the Best Answers
A good answer to this question will not only show off a positive personality trait but will also explain to the interviewer how this personality trait will allow you to excel at the position to which you are applying.
Example Answer #1
My colleagues have told me that I am extremely organized and excellent at time management. During one project, my team members praised me for developing and sticking to a timeline for all the phases of the project. (Give a brief summary of what the project was.) We ended up successfully completing it ahead of time, and it was a hit!
Why It Works: This response points to the applicant's key soft skills, shares a story, and ends on a positive note.
Example Answer #2
My colleagues would say that I am very optimistic, as I see setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. There is always a creative solution to a problem, and I love searching for it. One instance that comes to mind was when colleagues from my last job were upset about budget cuts to our department, and I devised a few clever ways to maintain some of our resources on a shoestring budget. They ended up being implemented.
Why It Works: In this response, the applicant shows how a personality trait offers something advantageous to employers.
Example Answer #3
I’ve been told that I am both a strong leader and a team player. In fact, one colleague offered to write me a personal letter of reference at one point because of my strong team leadership. He was impressed by my ability to effectively lead a group of colleagues while also listening to and considering everyone’s input as we determined the best plan of action for this new company initiative. (Give a brief summary of the initiative and the outcome.)
Why It Works: This answer is very focused on the applicant's leadership skills, which is typically a desirable trait in an employee.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
A strong answer to the question "How would your colleagues describe your personality?” requires two parts:
- Highlight one personality trait at a time, sharing an example of a time when you demonstrated this quality. Storytelling is an opportunity to display confidence, charisma, and strong interpersonal skills.
- Focus on the personality traits that apply to the job for which you are applying. Of course, be positive, but make sure you are honest and humble also, as these virtues are highly valued in the workforce. Moreover, embellishing your assets or flat-out lying could land you in a company culture that is incompatible with your true nature.
What Not to Say
- Don't boast. This is off-putting to hiring managers and other interviewers.
- Don't say irrelevant personality traits. Fundamentally, employers are asking this question because they want to know what you're like in the workplace. So make sure to keep the description focused on the workplace—and, ideally, connected to the skills needed by the job at hand.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager? - Best Answers
- Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? - Best Answers
- What would you do if someone on your team wasn't doing their fair share of work?
INTERVIEWERS WANT A SENSE OF YOU. This question reveals what you're like as an employee, plus offers a peek at your self-knowledge.
KEEP THE JOB IN MIND. Make sure you opt to highlight qualities and traits that are in-demand for the job at hand.
TRY TO SHARE EXAMPLES. Point out specific moments you've gotten feedback on, or tell a story that shows you have a character trait.