When a hiring manager or a potential employer asks you questions about your work style, how should you respond?
While this open-ended question might seem a little vague, it actually allows you to highlight how your work style is an excellent fit for the company you’re applying for.
Here’s how to respond when a hiring manager asks you, “What is your work style?” as discussed by experts.
Table of Contents
- Cater your response to highlight your skills and how they meet the needs of the company
- Provide an answer that will fit the company culture
- Let them know that you “work for the joy and find joy in the work!”
- Factor in balance
- Acknowledge and articulate what works for you
- Get clear on your strengths, weaknesses, and conditions you need to do your best work
- Provide professional experiences that demonstrate your style
- Your answer should closely match the company culture
- Be transparent with how you work and with that you are comfortable with
- Be honest
- Consider what a company wants to hear, as much as what you want to say about yourself
- Highlight the company values
- Emphasize on what you’re good at and give examples
- Tailor your answer to the company’s work style
HarperCollins Leadership Author | Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition
Cater your response to highlight your skills and how they meet the needs of the company
This is a “culture check” question. Be prepared to discuss how you are the answer to the companies needs. It’s a great way to showcase your skills and how they fit into the company.
Also, do a “gut check” at the end of the interview. Be sure to observe the physical workspace. Is there laughter in the air or dead silence? What does the physical workspace look like? Clean, bright, plant-filled with matching office furniture or a cluttered, dark, office crying for help?
Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions at the end of the interview like, “What type of work environment is usually normal for your company?,” “What does a typical day look like for this position?”, “What is your turnover rate?”
Angela Watts, SHRM-CP, RACR, CCTC
Owner and CEO, MyPro Resumes | Executive Resume Writer | Recruiter
Provide an answer that will fit the company culture
Hiring authorities are asking this question to glean an understanding of your level of self-awareness, how you conduct yourself within the workplace, and your methods for delivering results (e.g. collaborative, assertive, persistent).
They want to hear how much direction you typically need, how you manage your time, your preferred communication channels, if you place more emphasis on accuracy or speed, and how you respond to challenges or objections.
This information will be measured against their team dynamics and company culture and will aid in their determination of whether there is a good mutual fit.
By working results from 360-degree evaluations or well-known assessments into your concise answer, you can elevate credibility and demonstrate a desire for self-discovery and growth.
Founder, Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring
Just how does one answer that elusive interview question, “what is your work style?”
Let them know that you “work for the joy and find joy in the work!”
That should be true if you find yourself interviewing for a vocational or internship opportunity that genuinely invigorates you – a company culture that values what you value and will appreciate what you have to bring to the table.
Are you a fit for this organization? Ask yourself that before you even walk into the interview. Do your research. You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
All parties are looking for potential synergy, a common nerve, a viable means of collaboration. Do you see yourself making a meaningful contribution? Chances are that if you see yourself doing so, they are more likely to see that possibility, too.
When it comes to working styles, everyone is wired a bit differently and have a specific modus operandi for getting the job done.
What is it going to take for you to accomplish such tasks, and to accomplish them well? It’s important to focus on the task at hand, know what your strengths are and where you have room to grow, as well as what falls within your sphere of responsibility and what need be delegated.
Factor in balance
Include spurts of immersive productivity followed by little breaks – meaningful ways of recharging. Do you draw energy from those around you, or do you need to withdraw and replenish on your own?
For an extrovert, consider engaging in a quick brainstorm sesh if you’ve been going at everything solo for awhile. Oftentimes collaboration is the stuff of growth and can help you access brilliant ideas that you might not have thought of just on your own.
If you’re in the camp of social stimulation overdrive, perhaps consider taking a short walk within or around the complex along with getting some fresh air outside.
Much can be said about moving our bodies as we’re able to get ideas flowing through endorphins while activating the motor cortex of the brain. For certain work-related styles, this active time can be the key to breakthroughs and epiphanies.
Acknowledge and articulate what works for you
If you are not hindering anyone else’s process, trust in yours. There is no shame in embracing what you know will set you up for optimal performance, creativity, and contribution.
It’s good to know this about yourself and be able to communicate that clearly to your potential employer.
The vital part is that you establish that you know yourself, know how you might best fit into the framework of the company, and are able to get the job done.
Work consistently, reliably, harmoniously, and enthusiastically wherever possible. And most of all – work for authenticity. If you’re not vibing with the given opportunity, keep the faith and go about seeking the next one…
Co-founder and Chief Communications Officer, Novo Resume
The main problem with this interview question is that it’s pretty open-ended. Unlike other common questions, this one doesn’t have one clear-cut answer (e.g.: “my greatest strength is”).
To make the question easier to digest, you can just look at it as a compilation of the following questions:
- How do you prioritize tasks?
- How do you plan your day?
- Do you prefer to handle challenges with a team, or alone?
- Are you structured & organized, or more chaotic?
- Can you multi-task on several projects or tasks, or do you prefer to focus on one thing at a time?
If your response answers at least 3 of these questions, you’re good to go!
For example, “I’m most productive if I have my entire day/week organized. Every Monday, I create a list of to-dos for the week, prioritized by importance or deadline. Then, every day, I try to focus most mornings on the creative or problematic tasks, as that’s when I’m most productive.
Then, throughout the rest of the day, I focus on menial or simple tasks like helping team members with whatever they might need or attending or organizing meetings.”
Get clear on your strengths, weaknesses, and conditions you need to do your best work
Do you need time to plan on your own, or do you like to brainstorm with others? Are you a big-picture thinker or do you delve into the details?
When you assess a solution, do you tend to rely on quantitative data or qualitative narratives? Under what conditions do you get frustrated or feel stifled? What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to teamwork?
Get clear on your requirements before you go to the interview. Extra points if you can share a few examples from your past work experience that illustrate these strengths in action.
There’s no “correct” answer to this question. Teams typically contain a mix of different work styles, and combining these powers on a project can improve the quality of the final product.
By being honest about your own work style, you give recruiters information on what you’ll contribute and how they can leverage your skills on your future team.
Career Coach | Career Advice Author
Provide professional experiences that demonstrate your style
If your response is related to how you manage projects, provide details on a recent or high-level project you worked on, the tools you used, your management of it, and the results. If your response is related to how you think and process information, share a recent example of your thought process when approaching a project.
When you provide real-world work examples, the interviewer will believe your response is authentic (rather than a practiced one) and will be confident in your ability to deliver a similar style if working for them.
John Lincoln, MBA
Co-Founder and CEO, Ignite Visibility
Your answer should closely match the company culture
When asked about your work style, the company really wants to know things like how do you structure your day, do you work fast or do you work slow, do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others and how do you communicate with others.
The company really wants to get to the heart of what it would be like to work with you and how you would impact their culture.
Structuring your days is a really big one. Some people don’t take the time to plan their day while others will micromanage exactly what they’re going to do to the minute with time blocking.
Generally, a recruiter is going to want to look for somebody who has a philosophy on how they manage their day.
For example, we ask our staff to create a list of everything that they need to do each week, prioritize it 1 through 10 and then create time blocks for each day to work on it. We also ask them to complete all projects two days before they’re due and strongly discourage procrastination.
On the collaboration side, that becomes incredibly important especially if you’re going to be working in teams. For example, if you are a developer working alone, you would answer the question that you prefer to work alone with little direction.
But if you’re working at an agency and you’re part of multiple different teams and constantly collaborating with people, you need to be able to answer how you like to collaborate with others. One key thing I always look for here is people who like to build other people up and get things done fast.
One great tip is to review all the copy on the website, especially the about page, and look for information about company culture and try to find out if that aligns with your work style. If it does, make sure to speak to that.
Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com
Be transparent with how you work and with that you are comfortable with
When answering the question ‘what is your work style?’ during a job interview, be honest about the manner in which you work.
If you prefer to do projects alone or are a bit more introverted, share this information during your interview. Be transparent during your interview about how you work and the style you’re most comfortable in, but also express your desire to be open to collaborating with others and working together as a team to get a job done.
Linda Pophal, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
HR Consultant | Owner and CEO, Strategic Communications, LLC
This type of question is attempting to get at how well you will fit within the work culture of the organization. The best advice for this (and other) questions is, to be honest!
The employer wants to find the right fit — and so do you. If you try to “guess” what they’re looking for and answer that way, even though the type of work style you describe is not your preferred style you will not be happy in the job.
No matter how anxious you are to find a job, finding a job that’s a good fit, long-term, should be your goal.
Founder and CEO, BrandLoom
Work style, no doubt is a question interviewers ask to gauge how well the candidate gels with the company. It is also a place to portray your unique method to your magic. The answer will be a good indicator of your character and defines the rapport between team members.
The following are key points to remember:
- Introduce the method you have followed to date. You can talk about why it worked and what its shortcomings are.
- Let him know if you are a team player or someone who would rather work alone. Make sure to never drawstring lines between the two.
- Elaborate on collaborative efforts that you have been involved with that would be beneficial to your role in the join you apply for.
- Let your answer flow freely and frankly sprinkled with creativity. Honesty is well appreciated in the workplace so is humor.
There can be a lot of work style related questions thrown at you during a meeting. These are the key areas that you should also be prepared for:
- “Do you work better alone or as a team?” – As mentioned before, give your honest opinion but don’t draw any harsh lines. Flexibility is important.
- “Would you work with your boss?” – It’s the essence of workplace relationships. More than casual cordiality in the office, your choice of whether you enjoy getting clear instructions from the boss or would you enjoy more creative freedom must be made clear.
- “Do you plan your day?” – This question tells your employer how organized you are. Most people tend to overdo this one, be open but clear about your work.
Managing Partner and CEO, Shapiro Negotiations Institute
As a job seeker, when asked about your work style, have a direct answer, don’t muddle through it.
Consider covering what you do when you need to focus, how you communicate with others, and your general style.
That’s a great start. For example, I would say:
- “I like to work on creative things either with loud EDM music on my headphones when at the office or at home at night when it’s quiet.”
- “I’m an all-in kind of person, with little patience. I don’t often don’t even have to set deadlines if I’m working on something, I want it done quickly and well and will do whatever I need to do to make that happen.”
- “I’m very direct. I’d rather no miscommunication, even at the expense of surprising people or feeling a little discomfort in the short term. Transparency, I want to know where you stand and vice versa.”
Consider what a company wants to hear, as much as what you want to say about yourself
It’s also important to think about what you unintentionally say in your answer. You could be someone that attacks projects like I am.
Generally though, saying something like that alone doesn’t convey that you are also diligent in your research, that you work well with a team, or that you have good leadership skills. It makes you sound reckless, which probably isn’t the case.
Before you say, “My style is…”, look for the implied negatives. Make sure you reassure the interviewer on these negative points in your answer.
Founder and Head Of Content Strategy, Hustle Life Media, Inc.
Highlight the company values
Interviewers ask this question to get an idea of how you do things. Will you fit into their culture? To prepare for this question, you need to find what their company is all about. What kinds of people do they hire? What values do they prioritize? Once you find out, highlight those values that you have that complement what they are looking for.
Don’t exaggerate things by telling them what they want to hear even though you’re not. Be honest and sincere. Besides, even if you get the job, you’ll never fit in if you just made things up.
Emphasize on what you’re good at and give examples
Tell them about a time when you showcased an attribute that they are looking for. Be positive when you tell your story. Be detailed and avoid cliches.
You have to be unique when answering this question. Interviewers often frown at ready-made answers. They can instantly tell if it was delivered spontaneously or by design.
Lastly, your answer would probably make or break your chances of getting the job, but honesty is still the best policy.
Social Media Director, TeacherOn
Tailor your answer to the company’s work style
When hiring authorities ask you about your work style, they aren’t referring to how hardworking you are or how talented you are. They are asking whether you like to work in a team or independently. They want to know if you prefer to work nine to five or your schedule is flexible, if you are multitasking, or you handle a single task at a time.
They are trying to figure out whether you are the right fit for the organization or not. Before you go for the interview, do your homework and know the company’s work style first.
Check about their work environment on their social media handles or reviews of their current and past employees. Plan your answers accordingly; however, be honest with your responses. This is not a game of one day, whatever you are saying, you are committing to it for the rest of the time till you stay in the organization:
- Tell your interviewer whether you are a team player or you like working independently. Although most of the organizations like their employees to be team workers, if you like working alone, you should tell this. However, do mention that you are open to feedback from the boss and the peers.
- The interviewer can also be looking forward to knowing if you like precise instructions to work or you like to do some creativity and do things according to your way. However, do mention that you understand the importance of routine check-in to stay on the same page with your boss.
- Tell them about your work schedule, whether you like to work from 9 to 5, or are you flexible about timings. Even if you wish to stick to your schedule, tell them that you won’t mind coming early or staying late occasionally, if need be.
- Tell the hiring manager whether you like to work on one project at hand, or you can juggle between many projects at a time. If you are multitasking, how do you manage your tasks?
- Research about the organization’s work demands, what other things can be expected out of you, and plan your answers accordingly.
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