Work Independently vs Being Part of a Team

two business woman having a meeting
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When the interviewer asks, "Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?" during a job interview, he or she wants to know if you are a team player or whether you would rather work on your own. Some people do their best work as part of a group, while others prefer working independently. A question like this aims to assess your personality and your preferred method of completing a task.

Why Interviewers Want to Know

Most interviewers or hiring managers, in a best-case scenario, want to hear that you are both comfortable working independently and yet are equally open to working and sharing responsibility with others.

A person is likely to slightly prefer one over the other, but highlighting the benefits of both approaches will make you a more dynamic, complex applicant.

Although there is no explicitly correct answer, different approaches may be more appropriate for different scenarios. Different situations in the workplace may require independence while others will need the efforts of an entire team.

However, you should take caution in exaggerating your abilities to work independently or in a group, as this may backfire. Showing too much independence may concern employers about your ability to work well with others. Likewise, leaning too heavily toward working in a group may indicate too much reliance on others to provide you with direction and/or to carry the load.

Examples of the Best Answers

  • “I am equally comfortable working as a member of a team and independently. In researching the LMN company, your mission statement, and the job description, I could see similarities to previous positions that I have held where some assignments required a great deal of independent work and research, while others were better completed as a group. I truly enjoy the variety of being able to work by myself on some projects and on a team at other times.”
  • “I have experience with independent and team-based work and I see the value in both approaches.”
  • “In high school, I enjoyed playing soccer and performing with the marching band. Each required a different kind of team play, but the overall goal of learning to be a member of a group was invaluable. I continued to grow as a team member while on my sorority's debate team and through my advanced marketing class where we had numerous team assignments. Working on a team energizes me in a positive way, although I’m also confident in my ability to work alone when I need to.”
  • “I am very comfortable working on a team, but I can also work independently, as well.”
  • “I am comfortable working alone and in a group depending on the situation. If the task is easy enough to tackle on my own without requiring collective brainstorming, I am happy to work on my own. However, if the assignment is a high priority one or is too much for one person to handle, I welcome working with a team to tackle the project together. In my experience, most projects require a combination of independent work and brainstorming depending on their various elements.”
  • “As a graphic designer, I work best in a quiet, isolated environment when I’m actually at the drawing board. However, prior to actually beginning work on a project, I find I get my best creative ideas when brainstorming and collaboratively bouncing ideas off of other members on the design team.
  • “Working in sales has strengthened my abilities to work both alone and with others. I am comfortable engaging with a customer face to face, but I also believe in the benefit of sitting and brainstorming with coworkers about best practices, sales goals, lessons learned, and alternative approaches. Additionally, having a team behind me gives me confidence that if I come across something I am unsure of while working alone, I have the resources to consult someone who can educate or help me.”