Interview Question: "How Would You Describe Your Work Style?"

© The Balance, 2018

While this open-ended question might seem vague, it allows you to show yourself in a positive light. In your response, you can strategically highlight how your work style is a good fit for the company at hand. 

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

This question helps interviewers decide whether you will fit in well with the company culture and the requirements of the job. For instance, if you require complete silence and focus to work, but the office has a bustling, collaborative atmosphere (and an open floor plan), you might not be a strong fit.

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Work Style

When answering this question, it is important to keep the particular job in mind. Avoid clichés (like “hard worker” and “good communication skills”) and focus on specific elements of your work style that fit with the position and company. 

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Watch Now: 4 Tips for Answering Questions About Work Style

This question is far easier to answer if you do some research before the job interview. Analyze the job listing to match your qualifications with their requirements, and prepare answers that show how your work style makes you the best candidate for the job.

Then, go a little further. Review the company’s website, media kit (almost always available on their site), and social media presence to learn which qualities are most valued at the organization.

Most employers have a strong idea of the kind of person who’ll succeed on their team, whether it's someone willing to do "whatever it takes" or a worker who'll build "lasting relationships."

It’s also important to be honest, while still highlighting the positive. Don’t claim to be a perfectionist if you’re a big-picture person; instead, emphasize your vision and commitment to quality.

Examples of the Best Answers

My work style is extremely flexible—working on so many different projects requires me to be adaptive. In general, I try to work on one project at a time, working as quickly, but efficiently, as possible to achieve the best results. All of my projects require collaboration, so I use the team environment to check for errors. I am a perfectionist and a driven worker, and I think my clear communication skills allow me to bring out the best in any team, in any project.

Why It Works: This answer establishes the candidate's preferred work style (one project at a time) while also highlighting other key workplace skills, such as flexibility and collaboration. Unless the job description specifically called for multitasking, this response ticks off a lot of positive in-demand qualities for candidates.

I am extremely dependable. I have rarely missed a day's work, and am known for coming in early and staying late to finish important tasks and achieve results. This dependability extends to my collaborative work as well. I always meet deadlines and help my teammates to meet theirs as well. For example, on my last project a teammate was struggling to complete his assignment for the team, and I stayed late every day that week to help him not only complete his assignment, but exceed our initial estimated turnaround time for the project.

Why It Works: This answer gets its power from the examples provided. Hiring managers value employees who show willingness to go the extra mile and support co-workers.

I always keep on top of my projects. Owing to my organizational skills and efficiency, I can successfully juggle multiple projects at once. While I complete most of my work independently, I greatly value input and will consult with team members to ensure we're all on the same track. I also appreciate checking in regularly with my boss to update her on my progress and ask about any issues that have arisen. This open communication helps me complete tasks efficiently and accurately.

Why It Works: This answer highlights the candidate's strengths and shows a flexible nature.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Think Through Your Work Style: Do you work fast? Enjoy collaboration? Try to do your hardest project in the early morning? Have a preferred way of engaging with your manager? These are all things you can discuss in your answer.

Be Brief: You can't mention every aspect of your work style in your response, most likely, so focus on the elements that demonstrate your best qualities and fit with the job at hand.

Give Examples: Consider including a brief example that emphasizes your work style. For example, mention a time when your efficiency and ability to multitaskhelped you complete an assignment a week before the deadline.

Be Honest: If you truly can't work when your deskis piled up with documents, be upfront. But do try to be cautious about any overly firm statements about your work environment needs.

If you're still not sure how to frame your response, consider focusing on one of these areas:

  • Speed and accuracy –If you work quickly and efficiently, you might mention this in your answer, especially if the job requires meeting tight deadlines. However, it's important to impress the interviewer with your competency and accuracy, rather than just your speed. If you say you work at a fast and steady pace, emphasize the strategies you use to avoid making mistakes.
  • Structuring your day –You may want to focus on how you organize your day. Do you prefer to do your most difficult tasks in the morning? Do you prefer to focus on one assignment at a time, or multitask? You might also mention how many hours you typically work. If you are someone who always goes above and beyond, and stays late to complete tasks, say so.
  • Working alone or in collaboration –The employer might want to know whether you prefer to work solo or collaboratively. Think carefully about the job before answering this question. Most jobs require at least some collaboration, so even if you prefer to work alone, emphasize that you value others’ input.
  • Taking direction –Another important element of your work style is how you like to communicate with your boss. Do you prefer to be guided, or do you like to be given a task and left alone to complete it? Thinking about your ideal relationship with your employer will help both you and the interviewer decide whether you are a good fit for the job.
  • Your communication style –If this job requires constant communication, you might want to emphasize how you communicate with employers, staff, and clients throughout the workday. Do you prefer to communicate by email, phone conversations, or face-to-face meetings? Again, think about what this job requires before you answer. Most jobs will require a combination of communication tactics. 

What Not to Do

Give Overly Specific, Rigid Responses: Unless you can very precisely nail down both the company andthe interviewer's preferred work style, it's best not to be too definitive. If you say, "I work best alone" and the manager wants a team player, you'll have automatically disqualified yourself.

Use Clichés: During interviews, everyone is a hard worker, detail-oriented, and a team player. It's fine to claim these traits for yourself, but since these words and phrases are uttered so frequently, back them up with examplesif you use them.

Be Dishonest or Fail to Answer the Questions: While you do not want to be too specific and make yourself seem rigid, it's also unwise to be so vague in your response that the interviewer doesn't get a sense of you as an employee. We all have preferences when it comes to our workplace. This is your moment to share yours. If you truly dislike morning meetings, or have some other quirk, it may be worth mentioning it in your response.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

Key Takeaways

DO RESEARCH: The more you know about the company's work environment and style, the more you'll be able to tailor your response to show that you'd easily fit in.

BE HONEST: If you have one condition that must be met in order for you to work efficiently, it's reasonable to mention it. For example, if you tend to have lots of questions at the start of a project, you might want to mention that.

GO BEYOND CLICHÉS: Examples are always more meaningful than a long string of descriptors (like "hard worker") that hiring managers hear all the time in interviews.