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Open-ended questions like "What is your work style?" are some of the common interview questions. Hiring managers use this question to understand your preferred work style and whether you're a good fit for the role and company culture.
A good answer highlights your individual work style and increases your chances of landing the role.
In this article, we'll outline why employers ask about your work style, provide tips to craft a great answer, and highlight common mistakes to avoid. We'll also provide a bunch of sample answers that showcase different work styles.
Why interviewers ask "What is your work style?"
"What is your work style?" can feel like a vague question, and it deliberately is.
Interviewers want to understand your thought process, what you think is important to highlight, and whether your work style is congruent with the role you're applying for.
They also want to understand whether you'll be a good addition to the team and company culture.
A good answer helps the hiring manager understand whether you have the qualities needed to be successful in the position and how you'll fit in with current team members.
This is important because different work environments favor different work styles.
For example, if your preferred work style is based on asynchronous communication and hours of deep work, a company with a culture of real-time collaboration won't be a good fit. On the other hand, if you're applying to a fully remote company, a preference for an async working style signals you're a great candidate.
Figuring out your personal work style not only helps hiring managers decide if you're the right fit, it'll also help you decide if a potential employer is a good match for you. And that's even more important!
How to answer "What is your work style?"
If you don't prepare "What is your work style?" can catch you off guard. Good answers to open-ended questions require self-awareness, and, most importantly, research.
You need to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and how you adapt to changing circumstances. Luckily, if you do prepare and get an idea of what you want to include in your answer, it's easy to stand out from other candidates.
Follow these steps to craft a good answer:
1. Think about soft skills
"What is your work style?" is focused on your soft skills. Interviewers want to know what soft skills you can bring to the team. You might want to highlight your interpersonal skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, leadership, motivation, or dependability.
Or you could highlight time management, perseverance, problem solving, or work ethic.
But don't make the mistake of simply listing out soft skills. You need to talk about how you like to work, how you work with others, and what kind of work environment you enjoy. It's about demonstrating what your soft skills are, how they'll help you in the role, and how you can help the prospective employer meet their goals.
2. Align your working style with the job description and company culture
The upside of open-ended questions is that they give you an opportunity to choose how to respond. You can emphasize things that are important to you, as well as qualities that you think are important for the job and company you're applying to.
Ideally, there will be an overlap between the two.
To find that overlap, you'll need to read the job description carefully and research the company before the job interview.
Start with the company's website, media kit, and social media presence. This will help you understand the qualities the organization values in its employees. We also recommend watching or listening to interviews with the CEO and other members of senior leadership.
3. Consider what management style and environment will let you do your best work
Hiring managers want to understand what management style and work environment you work best in. Some people like direction from their manager in every aspect of their role. Others prefer to work with little or no supervision.
If you prefer to work alone, say that, but always make sure to emphasize the value of collaboration and feedback. If you like working closely with team members, outline how you're a team player who brings out the best in others.
The same goes for whether you prefer a meeting-based or writing culture, as well as other aspects of the work environment like whether you like to be colocated or remote, etc.
4. Be honest
While it's important to think through what the interviewer wants to hear, it's equally important to be authentic. Be honest about what you like and what you need to do your best work.
If you describe a work style that doesn't reflect who you are, you might get the job but not enjoy working day-to-day.
Always give a genuine answer. Even if your personal work style differs from the employer's. In these situations, highlight your adaptability and how you can bring complementary skills and a fresh perspective to the team.
If you're reading the job description or talking to the hiring manager and find that there is no alignment, it's probably not the job for you.
5. Be concise and use the STAR method
Keep your answer brief and relevant to the job and company you're applying for. You don't need to highlight every aspect of your working style.
Focus on the qualities that make you a great candidate for the position.
Like other behavioral interview questions, we recommend using the STAR method to structure your response. Anyone can say they can manage tight deadlines and multiple projects. Having a story to show how you've done it successfully in the past proves it.
Example answers to "What is your work style?"
Example answer #1
"My work style is flexible.
I've worked across multiple industries and that's taught me how to adapt my working style to bring out the best in my team.
In general, I try to focus on one project at a time. I find that focusing on one thing allows me to get things done faster and to a higher standard than I could if I was multitasking.
I also enjoy working closely with my team, and I particularly enjoy it when people point out things that I could do better.
I find that my ability to take on and provide feedback allows me to bring out the best in any team I'm on."
Why it works: This answer outlines the candidates work style (one thing at a time), while also highlighting why they prefer to work in this way (it allows them to get more done at a higher quality). The answer could be improved by using the STAR method, but unless the job description specifically calls for being able to juggle multiple projects at once, this response ticks a lot of boxes.
Example answer #2
"I've been working remotely for a few years now and I've developed a lot of important remote work skills that allow me to stay focused, motivated, and productive even when working across multiple time zones.
I'm a great written communicator and enjoy teaching people who are new to remote work about asynchronous communication.
I've found that once people get a taste of async, they enjoy the benefits it brings.
The hours of uninterrupted time allow me to work deeply and crush my todo list."
Why it works: If the candidate is interviewing for a remote job, then this answer hits the market. They've outlined their experience working remotely, their understanding of the issues that crop up when working across time zones, and the benefits of asynchronous communication.
Example answer #3
"As a product designer, I find that my work style tends to be a mix of focused independent work to get an initial design complete followed by close collaboration with software engineers and product managers to see what is feasible and what should be descoped.
I really the mix of solo and team work.
In a previous role, I improved our design processes by introducing a design system and working with our development team to build it out. This led to a 50% reduction in the time it took from the first design to features being in production.
The time saved allowed me to build out more robust designs and reduced what we needed to descope because the core front-end components were already built."
Why it works: The candidate highlighted how they enjoy solo work and collaboration, a rare but valuable combination. They also used the STAR method to highlight how they improved their own and the wider team's processes, which led to increased output.
Tips for giving the best answers to "What is your work style?"
Open-ended questions like "What is your work style?" can catch you off guard. If you haven't prepared, you're going to be flustered and give a vague or incoherent response.
The good news is, with a little bit of preparation, you can stand out. Research forms the foundation of a good answer, but you also need to think about what your working style is.
For example, do you work fast? Enjoy collaboration? Or are you more meticulous, preferring to work independently at a slower pace? These are things you should highlight in your answer.
You won't be able to mention every aspect of your work style, focus on the elements that demonstrate your best qualities and fit for the job you're applying to.
Give examples that support your answer. For example, if you say you are comfortable multitasking and don't mind tight deadlines, think about a situation in a previous role that shows that to be true. Use the STAR method to construct your answer.
You may also want to focus on different aspects of your work style depending on who you're speaking to. For example, if you're trying to land a leadership role and you're meeting with your potential boss, you might talk about how you're great at managing remote teams. But if you're talking to one of your prospective team members, you might focus on how you'd like to help them get promoted and your experience running great remote one-on-ones.
Most importantly, be honest. For example, if you can't work in a noisy environment, let them know. At the same time, try to be flexible with your work environment needs.
If you're still not sure how to frame your response, consider the following questions:
- Are you a fast or accurate worker? These aren't mutually exclusive, but most people tend to fall closer to one end of the spectrum. If you work efficiently, you might mention it in your answer, particularly if the job requires meeting tight deadlines. Inversely, if the job requires accuracy, you might highlight how you work at a steady pace and focus on not making mistakes.
- How do you like to structure your day? If you like to eat the frog and get your most difficult tasks done in the morning, then it might be a good idea to flag that. Some companies operate across time zones and the mornings are filled with meetings with international colleagues, which makes it harder to find time in the morning. Or maybe you're a night owl who prefers to sleep in and work into the night. Either way, this might be important to bring up.
- Do you prefer to work alone or collaborate? Many employers want to know whether you prefer to work solo or collaboratively. Think about the job you're applying to before adding this to your answer. Many jobs require lots of meetings and heavy collaboration, so even if you prefer to work alone, it might be better to emphasize how you work well with others.
- What's your preferred management style? Interviewers want to know how you prefer to be managed and whether your direct supervisor will be able to provide it. For example, if you hate micromanagement, a boss who likes to get into the weeds with their direct reports isn't going to work well with you. Regardless of what management style you prefer, always express that you're open to feedback and direction.
- What communication style are you the strongest at? Good communicators are in high demand, but there are many different communication styles. For example, remote companies tend to have a writing culture where ideas are debated in writing, whereas in-person teams tend to collaborate in real-time. If you're a strong writer but have weaker public speaking skills, you might be a better fit for fully remote companies.
- Are you a big picture or detail-oriented person? Some people are great at thinking about the overall strategy but don't have strong project management skills. Others are great at driving projects forward but can't see the overall picture. Companies need both types of people to be successful, but certain roles favor one over the other.
- Do you like structured processes or creative problem-solving? Some people prefer a structured work environment where they can accurately predict what they'll be working on for the next month or quarter. Others prefer a more dynamic, creative environment where each day offers new challenges. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but you should let your interviewer know what you prefer.
- What motivates you? It's important to outline what motivates you at work and how that feeds into your work style. This is especially important if you're trying to find a remote job, as self-motivation is an important remote work skill.
- Do you like multitasking? Some positions require you to juggle multiple projects with tight deadlines, but not everyone likes doing that. You should seriously consider whether you enjoy multitasker or whether you prefer to focus on one thing at a time. Remember, it's important for you to determine whether you're a good fit and if you'll enjoy working in the role.
- What's your ideal work environment? Think about the type of environment you enjoy working in. Some people prefer open spaces with constant chatter. Others prefer personal space and quiet.
If you're still unsure after working through these questions, consider taking a work style assessment.
Thinking about your work style isn't only about impressing the interviewer. It's equally important for you to determine whether the company is a good fit for you.
This is a lot to consider, and you don't have to include everything. Pick the elements that matter most to you (and the position/company you're applying for) and highlight those in your response.
Finally, don't forget to keep it positive and don't overthink it. If you spend some time thinking about how you approach work and what qualities and soft skills you bring to the table, you'll provide a good answer.
Mistakes to avoid when answering "What is your work style?"
Avoid these mistakes when answering "What is your work style?":
- Buzzwords and clichés: Buzzwords and clichés aren't necessarily bad, but you need to be able to prop them up with specific examples or facts, which is why the STAR method is so helpful.
- Inflexibility: Always be flexible. No job or company will be a perfect fit for your unique work style. Nor will you be a perfect fit for any job. That's why compromise is crucial. If you discover that the company you're applying for isn't right for you, you shouldn't take the job if you receive an offer.
- Lying: Don't say you're a detail-oriented person who loves to manage multiple projects if you don't. Even if you do land the job, you won't enjoy it.
- Long-winded responses: Don't ramble. Keep your answers concise and memorable.
- Saying you work alone: It's fine to have a preference for solo work, but you should never say you only work alone. Every job requires collaboration, saying you don't (or won't) work with others will cause the interviewer to look elsewhere.
- Failing to answer the question: While you don't want to be too rigid in your answer, it's also unwise to be vague. Everyone has preferences regarding work, and this is your opportunity to voice yours.
Possible follow-up questions
- Do you have any questions for me? Read our guide on the best questions to ask in an interview.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What are your career goals?
- What makes you unique?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What can you contribute to this company? This question is similar to "Why do you want to work here?" And will only be asked as a follow-up if you weren't able to articulate your value in your answer.
- Any number of behavioral interview questions. Be sure to use the STAR method when answering.
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