Interview Question: Do You Prefer Working Alone or in a Group?

Casual discussion between coworkers
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When you apply for an entry-level position, a typical job interview question will be, "Do you prefer working independently or in groups?" Potential employers ask this question because some positions require staff members to work in teams on a daily basis, while others require employees to work on their own.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question as long as you explain why you feel the way you do. The only wrong answer is a dishonest one. Not only is it bad to mislead the interviewer, but also, if you do get hired, you may not be happy in a position you're not suited for.

If you thrive in group settings, for example, you probably won't do well in a job that requires you to work alone behind closed doors—or worse, in a job that requires you to work remotely. But if you’re introverted and working in groups exhausts you, there’s a good chance you’d be better off with a job that allows you to work by yourself.

Whether you prefer working in groups, do best alone, or are adaptable and can work, either way, it’s a good idea to spend some time deciding how you want to answer the question. Think about your past experiences. If you have not had much work experience, you can think about your projects and assignments in school. Which type of work suited you best?

Answers for If You Work Best in a Group

  • For most projects or assignments, I found that having multiple brains working toward the same final product was very beneficial. Also, I've always been a team player, ever since I was in grade school and got involved in team sports. I know that being cooperative, open-minded, and focused are important aspects of being a successful team member, and I pride myself in having those qualities.
  • I feel more motivated when I work with a group. I enjoy having other people around to bounce ideas off of. I find that one person can say something that jogs your mind and prompts you to come up with a completely new creative thought or idea. I enjoy that kind of experience. Plus, I feel that everyone has something different to contribute to an effort because we all come from such diverse backgrounds.

Answers for If You Work Best Independently

  • I prefer to work independently or with a single partner. In my opinion, there are too many factors that can be missed when people congregate together in groups of three or more. Also, if I am going to be held accountable for the final result of a project or assignment, I want to be sure that the work is done well and that it meets my standards. While this may sound egocentric, I see it as taking pride in my work and having a desire to excel. 
  • I've worked both in groups and independently, and I've found that I can focus much better on the task at hand when I work independently. I've always been someone who needs peace and quiet in order to concentrate and perform well. If it's too noisy or there's too much going on around me, I can't formulate my thoughts well. My teachers have told me that I work best aerobically. That means that I work hard and fast (and solo), like a runner working out on a treadmill. 

More Tips for Entry-Level and College Job Interviews

Being new to the job world can be a little scary, but you can feel more confident if you spend some time preparing for the most common entry-level interview questions. Think about how you’d answer questions about your education, your past work experience (even if it isn’t directly related to the current job opening), your strengths and weaknesses, and why you would be a good fit for the job.

If you’re a college student or a recent graduate, it's important to relate your college education, extracurricular activities, and experiences to the job for which you are applying. Be ready to describe the skills you learned in college, and be able to provide examples.

It’s also important to make a strong first impression on your interviewer, so be sure to be on time for your interview and dress appropriately for the job you want. Also, don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you email after your interview. It’s a great way to keep yourself in the interviewer’s mind and add any information you feel you didn’t get across during the interview.