Be that diamond in the rough they’re looking for.

Interviewers often speak to several candidates for a position before narrowing their selection and presenting an offer to the most desirable candidate. Through the process, the interviewer hopes to stumble upon that needle in the haystack. When this happens, it's a huge relief, given that it can take months for an organization to fill a position. In a study from Bersin by Deloitte, it took an average of 52 days for companies to fill a position in 2015, and for some companies, it takes even longer.

In your ideal world, you're that "diamond in the rough," or maybe you're simply the candidate that stood out the most amongst other qualified candidates. Either way, when you were asked how you would describe yourself, you knew how to use strong words and vocabulary to answer the question. Sure, you told the interviewer what they wanted to hear, but you did it from a place of authenticity, integrity and thoughtfulness. As a result, you landed the job.

If you want this story to define you, it's important to consider the language and vocabulary you use to answer how you would describe yourself during an interview.  

Show you represent the top qualities they’re looking for.

Below, I've outlined some of the top qualities interviewers look for and the type of response that speaks to those qualities when asked how to describe yourself.

I am a/an...


"Once I'm clear what the task or project is, I'm good at figuring out the best way to accomplish it."

Team Player

"I believe there is value in collaboration. Often, two minds are better than one, and as such, working in a team with a collaborative spirit is important when the need arises."


"I like to evaluate current procedures and processes when possible to identify any foreseeable issues or concerns. I find that being proactive in a situation, when possible, it much better than being reactive. Also, when I'm proactive in planning for a project, and the needs arises to react to a situation, it's much easier to move to a Plan B when there is a solid Plan A in place."

Strong Personal Values

"Integrity and authenticity are important to me. I do what I can to continue to improve and be the best I can be at whatever I do."

Community Focused

"I look for growing opportunities for the group, as I find this presents with the best long-term results."

Revenue Focused

"I am confident in my ability to produce results. Of course, situations happen when the results aren't ideal, and when that happens, I do my best to tip the hat in the positive direction."


"Long-term results require making decisions efficiently and decisively, even when it's difficult."


"By taking responsibility for my actions and results, I have the option to make the choices necessary for a better outcome or results the next time around. Pointing fingers or playing the blame game is not productive and can even set the team back."

Excellence Driven

"Not only do I aim to meet expectations, but I am often one to exceed my employer's expectations."

Leadership Focused

"I don't let tough situations control me. Instead, I evaluate them and decide the best way to approach the situation for the best result at the moment."

Results Oriented

"The only way to keep moving forward is to focus on results. I am committed to adding value and reaching goals with the best results possible."

Goal Oriented

"I am hard working and set reasonable goals for myself. Once the goals are in place, I can then back out of them and create smaller goals or benchmarks to succeed and evaluate my performance."

Performance Focused

"I strive to do the best I can for whatever task is presented to me. I appreciate working for a company that has clear goals and rewards employees for meeting those goals."

Customer and Service Oriented

"I've found that the best way to truly understand what the customer needs is to ask the right questions, and then follow up to confirm we are on the same page. Once I'm clear that we are on the same page, I can then develop a plan or service goals to meet the customer's or client's needs."

Growth and Development Oriented

"I believe it's important to continue to grow and learn. I'm always looking for opportunities, like webinars, seminars, and classes, that can help me learn and grow at work, and in life, in general."

Good Communicator

"I've learned that we all have different communication styles, and I need to learn how others communicate for us to effectively work together and meet each other in the middle. I also like to ask questions and don't have a problem following up to confirm I've understood something correctly or if I need clarification. We all see things through our own perspectives, and I try to understand what that perspective is for others.

Steps to come up with your own list of responses.

The above are some guidelines to give you an idea of the type of language to use based on what many interviewers look for in top-notch candidates. Coming up with your own responses need not be difficult. Grab a a pen or pencil and a piece of paper (or your laptop) and begin brainstorming about your top-notch worthiness by:

  1. Writing out the list of competencies and qualities provided above.

  2. Write down what you do to represent each quality.

  3. Craft your responses accordingly.

  4. Practice answering questions that might prompt your responses.

As you craft your responses, it's also important to have some examples that speak to your responses. In other words, if you say you've often exceeded your employer's expectations, be prepared to give quantifiable examples as to why. The more quantifiable you can be, the better.

Practice makes interviewing easier.

Practice interviewing with a close friend or someone you trust. The more you're prompted with questions and the more you speak your answers out loud, the more comfortable you will be once you're sitting across from your interviewer. It is possible to distinguish between interviewees who are comfortable and have practiced interviewing and those who don't. You, of course, want to fall in the prior group.

Finally, words can be powerful, so give your word choices some thought before you walk in for an interview. Doing so will make it easier for you to choose the best words that will help you stand out among the competition. Good luck!

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