How Would Your Friends Describe You?: Tips and Sample Answers

By David Luther - Jun. 3, 2022
Articles In Guide

“How would your friends describe you?”

If you’re like me, then this question could prompt some pretty variable responses, depending on which of my friends you ask — but let me give you a bit of advice: You don’t need to be completely forthcoming about your college drinking partner’s opinion of you.

It’s one of the most common interview questions out there, and it’s especially useful for hiring managers who want to learn what soft skills you’ll bring to the table. In this article, we are going to layout :

  • Tips for how to answer it

  • Several example answers

  • Why managers ask this question

how would your friends describe you interview question tips

How to Answer “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Answering this interview question is a great way to share your best personality traits.

  1. Stay relevant. Use some humanizing words — but this isn’t a dating profile, so you also want to keep this related to the workplace too: persistent, practical, innovative.

  2. Get to the point. Avoid ambiguity and sell yourself. Also, don’t say “They’d tell you I’m the most modest person in the world.”

  3. Be honest. Don’t lie — we say that a lot, but you don’t want to get hired because you said, “They’d say that I speak the most impressive Greek and Mandarin they’ve ever heard,” when you actually don’t.

  4. Be professional. This can be a little controversial because some camps say you should always sell yourself as an employee — but you can’t just be a robot in this situation either.

    Interviewers already know what your capabilities are, this is an opportunity to show what your personality will be like.

  5. Pick likable traits. How easy it is to get along with you is a pretty big factor when they make their decisions. It’s always safe to keep yourself inscrutable so you don’t screw up. But if someone else has similar skills but is more likable, you can guess which way the hiring manager will go.

  6. Focus on the position. Talk about your leadership skills in an oblique way if relevant, but always keep your answer focused on the type of position. If it’s sales, emphasize your communication skills. If it’s management, refer to how helpful and dependable you are when it comes to making the call:

Short Example Answers

  • “He’d say that I’m always the first to volunteer and lead the way when it’s time to act.”

  • “She would definitely tell you that when times are tough for everyone, not just one of us, I’m always there to see things through.”

  • “That I’m organized, considerate, and dependable.”

Example Answers to “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Let’s take a look at some full-length sample answers in action:

  1. Example Answer 1: Software Developer

    “My friends would describe be as an eternal optimist. I never let little frustrations set me back and I’m always looking for solutions right away. When my friends and I got lost in Rome during a semester abroad, I took charge and used what little Italian I knew to ask around for directions.

    “I’m not quick to panic in new situations, and I actually enjoy solving puzzles and learning things as I go.”

  2. Example Answer 2: Human Resources Manager

    “My friends would describe me helpful and communicative. I don’t really enjoy idle time, so when a friend needs help with something, I jump at the chance for activity. I also have really open an honest communication with my friends. I’ve been able to avoid a lot of conflict by having frank conversations before things come to a head.”

  3. Example Answer 3: Office Manager

    “My friends always joke that I’m ‘the Mom’ of the group. When we go on trips, big or small, I have a plan in place and supplies ready for every eventuality. Even when it’s just a hike, I’m the person who brings the sandwiches, has all the trails mapped out with the best scenic spots, and has extra socks in case anyone steps in a puddle.”

  4. Example Answer 4: Teacher

    “They’d say that I’m compassionate and empathetic. My friends can count on me to read the room correctly and steer conversations to a place of positivity. My friends know that I can’t be 100% comfortable unless everyone around me is also comfortable.

    “They would also say I’m a curious person who loves to learn and share interesting stories. I’m the guy who still cuts out magazine clippings when I see something I think would interest a friend.”

Why Interviewers Ask “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Interviewers ask how your friends would describe you to get a sense of your self-awareness and assess how your soft skills match up with the company, department, and role you’re applying for.

Hiring managers and recruiters are hoping for a glimpse of your personality — they don’t really care about your friend’s honest opinions. In point of fact, most employers deliberately ask you to not put friends down as references on your applications.

The phrasing of this question is actually a bit of a trick. If they were to directly ask you what you think about yourself, they’d be opening themselves up to a whole bunch of the kind of resume fluff that they hate reading on a regular basis.

They already know that you’re going to paint yourself in a rosy picture regardless, but by getting you to remove yourself from the interviewee position for a moment and subconsciously empathize with another person’s perspective, they encourage you to be just a bit more realistic.

This question is a test of your self-perception and an honest appraisal of how the world sees you, not just how you see yourself. How you answer will also reveal what non-career characteristics you find valuable in yourself and others.

Additionally, some hiring managers and recruiters might compare your answer to how your references described you to gauge your self-assessment’s accuracy. And they want more than just a few adjectives (though your adjective choice should be thoughtful and deliberate).

Interviewers like to hear a brief anecdote to back up why your friends would use those words. Your answer will reveal how well your interpersonal style and set of soft skills will fit in with the company culture.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

When answering this question, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Don’t go over the top. When you’re answering this question, there’s going to be bias. Recruiters know that. But that doesn’t give you free rein to just go on about how sweet, thoughtful, and beautiful you are.

    If they wanted that, they’d have asked you what your mother thinks of you.

  • Don’t misrepresent yourself. So this is not an opportunity for you to start being unrealistic. If you’re stern, disciplined, and come across as uptight and orderly, don’t say, “Oh, they’d tell you that I’m the life of the party, I swoop into every room with gusto and pizazz, and I’m basically a people’s people person.”

  • Don’t focus on weaknesses. Be confident and positive in your answer. You’re trying to impress recruiters and hiring managers with your interpersonal skills, so don’t talk about how you can be hard to get along with.

  • Don’t use overly-professional language. As mentioned earlier, this is a test of how you honestly think you come across to people who know you well — so don’t use business jargon and manager lingo:

    Bad Example Answers

    • “My best friend since preschool, Timmy, would say that I’m a detailed-oriented team player.”

    • “The best man at my wedding once told me that my ability to empathetically manage my direct reports inspired him to get married in the first place.”

    • “My sorority big describes me as a deadlines-fixated perfectionist who is always willing to stay late.”

    However, if you’re using that last one as a way to imply that you’re really good at ordering drinks right before last call so you can drink until the bar closes, that’s kind of cool.

Tips for Answering “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

  1. Keep it simple. While you normally want to give answers that are memorable, the answer for this question is actually kind of an outlier in that you don’t want your interviewer to remember it — because if they do, it’s probably not for a good reason.

    This is because your interviewer probably has an answer they’d like to hear, but the odds are that they just don’t want to hear anything that makes you sound like a wild animal.

  2. Match your answer to the job description. If you see one adjective come up a lot in the job description, try to use it or a synonym. You get bonus points if your personality traits naturally align well with the position.

    Don’t try too hard to jam keywords into your response, but indicate you know what qualities the company is looking for in your response.

  3. Tell a brief story. Adjectives are cheap, but stories can beef up your answer. Think of anecdotes of times when your personality traits played a big role in something getting done.

    For example, if you’re a problem-solver, talk about a time you helped a friend with a difficult issue.

  4. Look back. Consider performance reviews and past conversations you’ve had with coworkers. Pay attention to what you’ve been praised for. You can also ask coworkers or friends how they’d describe you.

    If you want honest insight into how people perceive you, these are all good places to start.

  5. Research the company. Make sure that you describe yourself in a way that fits within the company you’re interviewing with.

    After reading this, prepare your answer for every interview — but in preparing for this interview, you should look into the company’s website to better gauge what they care about.

    You can usually figure out from a company’s website what they value and how they like to present themselves to the public, and if not then take to LinkedIn — if workers here present themselves as best friends who care about their clients and the world at large, try to align yourself with those characteristics.

    Figure out:

    • Special initiatives they sponsor, such as philanthropy and 5k races

    • Their focus on innovation or tradition

    • Interesting projects and initiatives they’ve recently received press for

    You might find that this company values sending its employees abroad or on philanthropic trips — even if this is something you only sort-of value, describe yourself who values this too:

    Align Your Description With the Company

    “They say that I value my role in the world’s tapestry, always expressing gratitude for the blessings I have and finding ways to give back, that I have a sense of stewardship for the community.”

    The focus here is to be able to position yourself as an ideal candidate at this very moment in time, and you do this by saying who you are right now.

    Neither you nor your interviewer knows what your friends would say, but you both hope that it mirrors the type of employee the company values.

    It’s best to give a general answer that doesn’t pin you down to any specific career path, and don’t use synonyms for the same thing. Besides being boring, you don’t want to overemphasize one set of qualities and paint a caricature.

  6. Don’t describe yourself as overly ambitious. You want to present yourself as a leader and impressive individual with admirable aspirations, but it would be a bizarre friendship if you were always bossing your friends around and they told you they love your sincere quest for global domination.

  7. Make it believable for your resume and obvious personality. As we said before, your friends might lie for you to make you look good and your interviewer would assume this bias exists, but you don’t want to come across as completely full of it.

    Also, unless the interviewer is a very bad read of people, she’ll be able to tell if the personality she’s witnessing matches up with the words you use to describe yourself.

Final Thoughts

Stepping back to understand how others perceive you is a worthwhile activity, interview question or no. While your insights might be interesting, remember to focus your interview answer on qualities that are relevant for the job you’re applying for.

It’s a common interview question for understanding your interpersonal skills and capacity for empathy. Hiring managers and recruiters don’t want to hire someone who is just technically proficient; they want to hire an employee that coworkers will enjoy being around.

Company culture is a somewhat organic thing that evolves based on hiring decisions. Sell yourself as someone who can contribute to and improve an existing culture, and you’re more likely to get a job offer.

When you tell an interviewer about yourself, you’ll naturally jump to qualifications and accomplishments. But when you have to answer a question about how your friends would describe you, you’re forced to ditch the purely job-related qualities you have.

Expert Opinions

How To Answer “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Jennifer Sun
Founder/Interview Coach
Interview Prep Me

With any interview question, I always try to think about what the interviewer actually wants to learn about me. In a question such as, “how would your friends describe you?”, I think of it as an opportunity to talk about something outside of the normal response to “what are your greatest strengths?”. The response should showcase who you are as a human-being outside of work and not just on paper! You really want to give the interviewer confidence that you will be a good fit within the company’s culture. Ultimately, the response should leave the interviewer feeling like you have been sincere in your response and that you could even be their friend outside of the office.

How To Answer “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Erin Lyman
Owner/Editor

Use the interview as a way to connect on a personal level. If you’re comfortable, have a sense of humor with this question. You might say something like, “My friends tell me that it looks like something exploded on my desk. But I tell them there’s a method to my madness!” This is a great way to break the ice in what is typically a stressful situation.

How To Answer “How Would Your Friends Describe You?”

Anna Jones
Owner of Girl.Copy LLC

Highlight both your strengths and areas you need to improve upon in your response. For example, you can respond that you work quickly yet efficiently. Be realistic! Recruiters and HR folks understand that nobody’s perfect, so adding a dose of humility to your response will make you stand out from the pack.

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Author

David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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