Describe Yourself in ONE Word

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In reading an article over at, a hiring tip came to mind.

The author of the article recalled being introduced to a Joe at a conference and was told “Joe is great.”

Later he was introduced to a Michelle with the accompanying “She’s relentless.”

The article went on to explain some obvious differences in “great” and “relentless”:

In the dictionary, “great” means remarkable in degree or effectiveness. “Great” is a wonderful word, especially when used to describe someone… but like “awesome” and “outstanding,” “great” is used so often to describe people that it has lost much of its meaning. When just about everyone is great… no one is great. Great is no longer impactful or memorable.

When described as “great,” however remarkable in degree or effectiveness he may be, Joe seems like – however unfairly – just one of many. He doesn’t standout.

But “relentless” – who can forget relentless? Hear the word and you instantly think of someone so determined, so persevering, so persistent and tenacious that nothing, absolutely nothing, can stand in her way.

You’ve probably already figured out how this could be a hiring tip. An interview question could go like this:

“Alice, if you had only one word to describe yourself, what would that one word be?”

You might even ask the question in this way:

“Alice, I’d like you to describe yourself in one word and please do not use some of the more obvious descriptive words like great, outstanding, terrific, awesome or fabulous.”

Give Alice some time to answer as she may not have thought of herself with just one word in mind.

If the descriptive word you’re given doesn’t immediately create a clear concept for you, ask your candidate to amplify some on the word. For example:

“Alan, if you had only one word to describe yourself, what would that word be?”

“Well, I’d have to say ‘realistic.'”

“That sounds great, Alan. Give me a couple of examples of how ‘realistic’ would show up in your day-to-day work.”

If your candidate is not able to come up with one word, don’t push it too far. It’s not the end of the world if they can’t, but if they can and the word is very descriptive, that’s a nice insight into your prospect.

As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

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