Job Interview Question: “How Would Your Coworkers Describe You?”

Your resume offers hiring managers an opportunity to review your experience and consider how your past performance qualifies you for the open position. When you’re called in for an interview, the focus is figuring out whether or not you’re a good culture fit for the company. To answer this question, hiring managers often ask questions related to the soft skills surrounding your job such as “What motivates you?” and “How do you deal with difficult customers?

Another popular interview question that sheds insight into how you function in the workplace is “How would your coworkers describe you?” Unlike other culture-fit questions, this question requires you to stretch your awareness and consider your performance from a third party perspective. But what makes it incredibly challenging is the number of stories you could tell about what your coworkers think about you. Instead of being overwhelmed by the options, here’s how to give the most accurate and strategic answer every time:

Reflect on the Requirements of the New Job

What are the main functions of the job for which you are interviewing? What personal characteristics will the best fit for the position need to have? What do you know about the culture of the new workplace that is unique from any other? Considering observations related to these questions will help you figure out what the interviewer wants to hear from a prospective candidate. You can then use that information to filter through what is true about yourself to answer the question.

For example, when I transitioned out of editing and into digital marketing, I also realized I was transitioning out of a majority-female company into a majority-male company. I would swiftly go from all female bosses and coworkers to all male, and being one of the first female hires, I knew that must be on the minds of my prospective bosses. Keeping this shift in mind, I reflected on how the culture of the new job might be different from my old job.

Reflect on Your Performance in Your Past Jobs

Keeping in mind the primary responsibilities of the new position, reflect on how your past performance might play out in a new environment. Are you making a lateral shift in which you need to reinforce the soft skills, qualifications and habits that you already have? Or are you taking on new responsibilities that need support from stories about how quickly you adapt to change, how positive and energetic you are when experiencing challenges or change? The story you choose out of the hundreds you have available will depend on what your transition looks like.

To continue with the interview example, I quickly realized that changing industries from the often slow-paced world of editing to the fast-paced world of digital marketing requires an ability to stay on task and get things done fast. Combining that with the stereotypes that exist about women and performance and what a technology-minded, all-male staff might worry about, I tried to brainstorm a coworker description that highlighted my focus on the job.

Merge the Two With a Unique Story

Answering this question is not an invitation for you to go on a soap box. Once you have a grip on how your answer will reflect on the new workplace and the old workplace, craft it into an attractive, articulate soundbite that answers the question without rambling on too much. If possible, incorporate the power of storytelling into your answer by including anecdotal details that reinforce your point.  

The actual question I was asked was, “What would your co-workers say is your greatest flaw?” I took a moment to consider the new workplace and the old workplace, and I shared that my co-workers likely wished I would talk about myself more. I shared a story about how our team was very connected and involved in each other’s personal lives, but that, as a result of being raised with three brothers in a military family, I often wasn’t comfortable sharing a lot of personal details. Not only was this story true (for better or worse, I tend to take a more stereotypically masculine approach to work in some regard) but it also helped my would-be boss get a better idea of how I would fit into the new culture and what he could expect from me when it came to day-to-day engagement. (I got the job.)

Check out how to answer other common job interview questions: