What is your Preferred Working Style

Preferred Working Style questions relate to your flexibility in the workplace. Some people are natural loners, some are better team workers, others are good in both environments.

This is a behavioral question, and shows up in behavioral interviews regularly, but can be relevant in other styles of interview, like stress interviews.

The interviewers are attempting to establish your natural working style, which may or may not fit the job.

Like many interview questions, this is a question job hunters may well want to ask themselves.

It's particularly important when selecting a job. The work environment, and the nature of the job, are real definitions of suitability, both for the applicant and the employer.

Of the two basic choices, you need to establish a preference. If you really do prefer to work alone, you may find a team or highly socialized environment like customer service a strain. If you're a natural team worker, working on your own can be unsettling.

If you're one of the luckier group who can work in either environment, you can prove your flexibility in terms of work environments. That is often a real plus when the work is varied and there's an emphasis on different tasks.

In many ways the question is performance oriented:

Solo workers are good at jobs where it's a matter of dealing with something like case management, or front line sales. The team element is in the background, a second tier, and the employee has to stand on their own two feet to a very large extent. Solo workers are much better performers in this sort of environment, independent, self starters who can perform a large range of tasks well on their own.

Team players are much better suited to high volume people-based environments, where the team operates across a range of coordinated functions, and mutual reliance can be extremely important. Team players also act as backups for each other, taking the load off others and filling in where required.

Before you even apply for the job

Look at the job, and the work involved. Make an assessment. There's no point in going for a job where you'll be fighting the work environment more than actually doing the job. Some people are just not suited for some jobs.

Ask yourself:

  • Is this what I want to do?
  • Can I work in this environment?
  • What are the positives?
  • What are the drawbacks?

If you get the chance, check out the actual workplace in advance. In most cases, one look at the place will say Yes or No.

This is self defence. You can spend a lot of time and effort to get a job you can't do, or don't want to do. While doing that, you can miss much better opportunities, in the process.

Answering the question:

  • Be honest. You have nothing to gain by getting a job you loathe.
  • Think about your answer. If you're happy with the work environment in the new job, say so.
  • If you're not sure, just say what you think. The interviewers will get the message.
  • If you don't know your preferences, give an honest opinion. This is pretty common at entry level. Don't worry about it, just give examples of your previous work as a solo performer and a team worker.

Because these are basic general options, a few examples:

Be honest

I'm usually happier, and I think I work better, on my own. I've worked in teams before, and I got on with people pretty well, but I like to have control over my work, and I think I'm more productive.

Think about your answer

(Based on a job in a big team environment doing customer service)

I like the team environment. I'm usually pretty happy in that sort of work, and it's always good to have some support when you need it. One of the things that interested me about this job was the workplace organization, and a good team structure.

If you're not sure, just say what you think.

(Applicant isn't really sure about the conditions in the job, which is a mixed bag of work. He/she doesn't know how they'll go in the new job. The only real certainty is knowing that they can do the job, and in this case the applicant doesn't have strong preferences.)

I've worked solo, and as a team member. I can work in both environments with no particular preference one way or another. From what I've seen of this job, it looks like a team job with some solo facets. I think I'd be pretty much at home in this work environment.

If you don't know your preferences, give an honest opinion.

(Entry level job, no prior workplace experience beyond part time weekend work. The job is with a big call centre team as a starting position for progression up the organization promotion ladder.)

I don't have a lot of actual work experience beyond what I've mentioned. To date, I've worked in a small team, done projects in teams, and some solo work in part time jobs where I was expected to do everything for myself.

My preferred work style isn't really clear yet. I haven't developed any preferences for either solo or team work, but I haven't had any difficulties with them, either.

These answers are based on reality. Team jobs aren't for everyone. Some people are very bad fits in teams. Others aren't happy working solo. They prefer to have team backup, and they feel a lot more secure.

Make sure you ask yourself the question before the interviewers, so you know what you want.