Tough Interview Question - If I were to ask your professors or boss to describe you, what would they say?

If I were to ask your professors or boss to describe you, what would they say?

Similar interview questions:
If I were to ask your professors to describe you, what would they say?
If I were to ask your former boss to describe you, what he/she say?
How would other people describe you?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is looking for two things: 1) your ability to view yourself from an external perspective; and 2) potential insights from others who know you well as a third party objective opinion. In asking the question, the interviewer will likely also probe the source of the answer. So be ready to answer the follow-up question of "Why do you think they would say that?"

The best approach to answering this question:
This is where having written letters of recommendation can help you in the interview. Most people ask for letters of recommendation after the interviews are over, when references are being checked in prep for a potential offer. However, if you do your homework in advance, this is something you should be doing before you interview. It is also the best way to bulletproof your references in advance. If you have a professor with whom you've had a close relationship, ask for a letter of recommendation to be used with future employers. If you have had an internship, ask for a letter of recommendation from your boss and/or others with whom you have worked. If you have work experience that has generated a performance review, this may also be used as your documentation. Work awards can also be used. The best approach to answering this question is to be able to back it up with a written letter of recommendation, awards or other performance documentation. Answer the second question before it is asked.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"My boss would say that I was one of the most productive individuals on the team and that I was key to helping our team achieve our goals for the year. We not only met our key goals for the year, we also delivered on two additional projects, one of which won the President's Award for outstanding achievement. I know she would say that, because that's what she wrote in my performance appraisal. I have a copy of it for your review, along with a copy of the President's Award that I received for the Afterburner Project. Would you like to see them?"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I have received personal feedback from several of my professors, who refer to me as one of the most dedicated students with whom they have worked along with recommending me for the Outstanding Student in Accounting Award. I won that award my Senior year and had been recommended by the Department Chair. I have his letter or recommendation along with the copy of the award, would you like to see them?"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I'm not quite sure, since I really didn't have much of a relationship with any of my professors. I doubt any of them actually knew who I was. You see, I went to a public university and most of the classes were in big lecture halls. So it was really difficult to get to know a professor on a personal level. I met some of the TA's when I went in for help and tutoring and they would probably say I was a little bit slow to learn the material, but eventually got it."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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