Interview Question: How Easily Do You Assimilate into a New Environment?

Job interview
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Whether you are applying for a permanent position, a temporary one, or for a position with a temp agency, you’re likely to be asked some questions relating to your ability to cope with new situations and people. Many employers expect their new hires to “hit the ground running,” and so you should give some thought to how you would answer the job interview question, "How easily do you think you assimilate into a new environment?"

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

Interviewers ask this question when they don’t want to spend the time and resources necessary to train or mentor new hires. Although on-the-job training is provided in some industries, this is by no means the case everywhere.

By posing this question, a hiring manager is trying to predict how quickly you would be able to mesh into their current team, whether you have good collaborative skills, and how you cope with change. 

How to Answer, "How Easily Do You Assimilate into a New Environment?”

You’ll want to be able to answer thoughtfully and in a composed and confident manner. The best way to do this is to prepare your answer before your interview. So, think of the skills, assets, and experiences you possess that highlight your ability to adapt to new situations.

Try to come up with some examples of when you have applied these traits successfully when being met with a new environment or situation. These examples work well for interviews at various companies and any temp agencies you can find.

Examples of the Best Answers

Not sure where to start? Here are some sample answers to get you thinking:

Whenever I’ve begun any new assignments, I have found that I was able to assimilate very easily by following a simple strategy. I ask questions, listen to the answers, contribute to the conversation, and ask for feedback. This has always provided me with excellent preparation to take on the new position.

Why It Works: This answer shows how the candidate already has a proven method in place for transitioning into new teams or projects. It also highlights important soft skills she possesses: collaboration and active listening. 

I have worked within many different organizations all with their own way of doing things. There are many ways to achieve the same goals, and I have learned lots of different strategies for success. I think having that experience makes me very adaptable to new situations.

Why It Works: Here the candidate illustrates his wealth of professional expertise and his awareness that different organizations have different organizational structures and company cultures. He also proves himself to be open-minded about embracing new processes.

I tend to be a little quiet and spend some time observing at the beginning of a placement so that I can assess the requirements of the position. Then I can quickly determine how to be the most productive in the job I'm doing. Because I tend to be very observant, I am able to quickly assess the structure of the work and the relationships in a new environment. I am good at determining what my role is, and how to be most effective during my post with the company.

Why It Works: This job seeker focuses on her solid analytical thinking skills and powers of observation – good qualities in a new hire.

I came from a very small town in the Midwest, and when I started my first semester at Boston University, it was a little bit of a culture shock. I have always been very people-oriented and curious about the experiences of others. I found that by connecting on a personal level with my dorm mates, I was able to assimilate into the campus culture very quickly.

Why It Works: This is a good example of how to use the STAR interview response technique, where you describe a situation (the challenge of going to college), the task (assimilating to a new environment), your approach (interacting with dorm mates), and the result (successful entry into the campus culture).

My experiences growing up in a military family prepared me well for assimilating into new environments. We had the opportunity to live not only all over the US, with its wonderful regional mores, but also abroad in some societies quite different from our own. I really enjoy new environments and am confident in my ability to assimilate quickly.

Why It Works: This response uses the candidate’s personal history to good effect, making a memorable impression as he outlines how his upbringing, rather than his education or his job, instilled in him the ability to appreciate and adapt to different environments.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Emphasize Your Flexibility: Part of being able to adapt to a variety of situations is the ability to be flexible. In addition, many work roles may be long-term or short-term, day or not, and the pay may vary from job to job, even in the same general profession. Your chances of being hired may go up if you emphasize your ability to work not only with a variety of people and work conditions, but that you can also handle a variety of hours on a flexible schedule.

Practice Makes Perfect: While questions about your adaptability and flexibility are going to be key, your interviewer will ask a number of additional questions that you may want to think about before you go on your interview. The best way to be prepared is to practice, practice, practice. Start with learning about these additional common job interview questions. You’ll also find a selection of answers you can use as a starting point for your own responses. 

Look Them In The Eye: Equally important as your response is the body language and demeanor you use in answering this question. Maintain eye contact, smile, and let your expression convey your enthusiasm for the job.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

Key Takeaways

SHOWCASE YOUR ADAPTABILITY: When asked about how well you assimilate to new situations, use examples from your past that illustrate your adaptability, flexibility, and willingness to learn new processes.

REVIEW THE SAMPLE ANSWERS: Use these examples as models for your own answers. Then, ideally with the help of a friend, role-play your response, focusing not only upon your answer, but also upon your body language and tone of voice.

PROVE YOU ARE PROACTIVE: Because interviewers ask this question when they may not have the resources to thoroughly onboard and train new hires, show how you have taken personal initiative to “learn the ropes” when you’ve entered new work, school, or cultural environments.