Do you prefer working in a team or alone?
Even though asking if you prefer working independently or as part of a team is a standard job interview question, itâs also a bit of a tricky one. I canât think of any job that doesnât at some point require both work styles. So even though you probably do prefer working one way or the other, you will shoot yourself in the foot if you say so. Itâs better if you are comfortable with both, and very important that you indicate that. But there are subtle distinctions in the wording you use that can make the difference between an adequate answer and a standout answer.
The standard answer that most people give: âI work well either wayâIâm great as part of a team, and Iâm comfortable working aloneâ is an OK answer, but you can do better. The way to be strategic about this question is to really know the typical working conditions of the job youâre going for and how much of your time will be spent on a team or by yourself. That requires some research on your partâbut that kind of job interview prep is an essential part of creating your 30-60-90-day plan, which you should be doing anyway.
If the majority of the time youâll be working alone, you can say, âI prefer to work alone, but I find that occasionally working with a team feels creative because we can bounce ideas off each other. I like to learn from otherâs experiences.â
If the majority of the time youâll be working on a team, you can say, âI like the dynamics of working in a group, but appreciate sometimes having a part of the project thatâs my own personal responsibility.â
The general idea is to say what you prefer without being negative about the thing you donât.
Maintaining a positive attitude is important, and it will make the hiring manager feel good about hiring you.
Everyone wants to work with people who are flexible rather than rigid.
But hereâs one neat trick: Instead of just offering an answer, add a question to toss the conversational ball back to them. Say something like, âAbout how much time do you think will be spent working on my own vs. working with a team in this position?â Or, âDoes the corporate culture encourage one style over another?â
Asking questions of your own like this during the course of the interview gains you more information while keeping the tone conversational and helpful.