Hiring managers often mention that some of the interview questions that don't typically get the best responses from job applicants are questions about working with others. This question can be tricky to answer because some jobs require that you have a lot of people skills, and others don’t.
What’s the best way to avoid the pitfall of giving a lame interview answer, but still make a viable point about your suitability for jobs requiring lots of interaction with people – and even for jobs that don't?
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
Companies want to know how well you work with other people, and you'll need to say more than that you enjoy working with others, which is the standard response. Anyone can say that, so it’s important to describe the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in the role.
What do you do that makes you a good people person at work? That's what the interviewer really wants to know. What's important is to show your prospective employer the skills you have and how you have used them in the workplace, using real-life examples.
Personalize your examples, so they reflect your skills and experience as they relate to the job for which you are applying.
How to Answer "Do You Work Well With Other People?"
Candidates often say that they "enjoy working with people," but don't explain or expand upon their response. Anyone can say that they work well with people, but it's important to show hiring managers how you accomplish it.
It's important to think about how you work with your co-workers because even if your role in the company doesn't require a lot of communication, you will still need to engage with the other employees in a professional and personable manner.
Companies are as interested in your soft (people) skills as they are in your hard (quantifiable) skills. Here's information on hard skills vs. soft skills and what employers are seeking in applicants.
Regardless of the job, employers don't want to hire people who are difficult to get along with because that will lead to workplace issues and conflicts. It can make sense to screen out applicants who don't have strong people skills, even if they have solid qualifications for the job.
Examples of the Best Answers
Working on a number of team projects has allowed me to develop my ability to communicate clearly with others, and mediate conflicts between team members. For example, on a recent project, two of my teammates were having trouble reaching an agreement about how to approach an element of the project. I listened to each of their concerns and got everyone to sit down and come up with a solution that would satisfy everyone. Because of my ability to listen to others and mediate conflict, we were able to finish our project ahead of schedule, and even received commendation from our employer for the high quality of our work.
Why It Works: This response shows that the candidate has the ability to communicate well and mediate conflicts, which are both important when working with others.
I am a patient listener and clear communicator, which is essential to being a successful sales representative. Customers often call me with complaints and concerns, and my ability to patiently listen and empathize makes them feel appreciated. I then work with them to come up with creative solutions to their problems. I believe my people skills are the reason I won Best Sales Representative three years consecutively at my previous company.
Why It Works: This candidate’s response shows important listening and problem-solving skills, which are good indicators of being able to work well with others.
My ability to communicate effectively with others has been critical to my success as a manager. For example, my willingness to listen to my employees has helped me motivate my staff and improve performance. When the quality of one employee’s work began to falter, I met with the employee to discuss the issue. I listened to her own concerns about her work, and we discussed ways to resolve her issues while improving her performance. I firmly believe that being able to clearly communicate with, and actively listen to, employees is essential to improving their performance.
Why It Works: Giving examples of how you responded and resolved a workplace situation is always a good way to respond.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
The first key to giving a strong response is to specify the types of people interactions that appeal to you, or in which you are particularly adept. In addition to specifying how you work well with managers, co-workers, customers, vendors, and others, you should also refer to what you accomplish during such interactions.
Here are some examples of what your people skills might allow you to do:
- Assess the skills, personality traits, and work ethic of candidates by applying behavioral interviewing techniques
- Motivate subordinates to improve performance
- Lead group discussions in a way that incorporates diverse views and draws consensus
- Develop a comfortable rapport with clients and determine their preferences for products and services
- Listen activelyand keenly to encourage clients to share their feelings and problems
- Create and deliver training sessions that engage the audience in active learning
- Convey difficult news to employees targeted for layoffs
- Mediate conflicts between employees or with clients
- Resolve customer complaints with patience and creativity.
The next key to interview success is to give examples of situations at work where you have used these people skills:
Prepare concrete examples to convince employers that you possess those strengths. Your examples should convey how, when, and where you applied your skills or interests, and the outcomes.
What Not to Say
Don’t be negative. If you’ve had communication issues at work, this isn’t the time to mention it. Employers look for new hires who can get along with everyone in the workplace.
Don’t say something that doesn’t fit the job. Be sure that your response ties in with the job responsibilities. For example, if you’re apply for a customer service role, don’t say that you’d prefer not to engage with others.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Are you nice? Best Answers
- How would your co-workers describe your personality? Best Answers
- What type of work environment do you prefer? Best Answers
Show the Employer Your People Skills: From the time you introduce yourself to the hiring manager to the close of the interview, you’ll have the opportunity to show the employer you have the skills they are seeking.
Be Prepared to Share a Story: Sharing a story about how you communicate at work during the interview is a good way to show you have the skills for the job.
Let the Interviewer See Your Personality: Showing your personality is especially valuable in interviews for jobs that involve dealing with a lot of people.