Along with your experience and skill set, interviews are a chance for potential employers to find out who you are as a person and to get a sense of how well you’ll fit into the company’s work environment. After asking about your educational background and skills, the interviewer will say something like, “So, what type of work environment do you prefer?”
The reason hiring managers ask this question is to assess your compatibility for the position and to find out whether you’re a team player who is able to adapt when necessary. Other versions of this question are, “What type of person do you work well with?” and “What type of person don’t you work well with?”
Here are some tips to help you prepare your answer.
Establish your ideal work environment.
If you’re applying for your first internship or entry-level job, you may not know what your ideal work environment looks like. The first step to answering this question effectively is to figure that out. To do that, think about some great experiences you’ve had working on class projects. Do you prefer to work as part of a large or small team? Do you communicate more effectively in group discussions or by email? Once you’ve identified your personal working style, think about the bigger picture. This refers to things like work-life balance or the company’s mission. Focus on what motivates and what you’d like your professional life to look like, then look for roles at companies that have those qualities.
Research the company culture.
Since cultural fit is one of the most important things employers look for when hiring, this is a great chance to show that you know a lot about the company and that you would fit in well as part of the team. For example, does the company seem to have a lot of happy hours or cohesive team meetings? If so, talk about how much you enjoy those types of activities and any experiences you’ve had in similar environments in the past.
If it’s possible, relate your answer about the work environment you prefer to work in to the company’s culture. You probably would not interview for a job with a company whose work environment you didn’t like, so you should be able to fit your answer to the company’s culture.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know much about the company culture, mentioning that you work well in fast-paced and collaborative environments is a great place to start. These are usually good attributes to include because most companies, especially smaller companies, consider themselves fast-paced and most jobs are collaborative in nature.
Be honest, but flexible.
Once you’ve established your familiarity with the company and shown that you would be a good culture fit, talk about one of two things that make a work environment great for you.
No matter what the work environment at the company, be honest in your answer. If the company uses a team approach, for example, and you prefer to work alone, you would not be happy working in that particular work environment.For example, if you are someone who prefers to work alone most of the time, it’s okay to say that as long as you also demonstrate commitment to the team and a willingness to collaborate with your coworkers on a regular basis. This is especially important if the role is described as cross-functional in the job description.
Say something like: “I love a fast-paced environment where I can have a collaborative relationship with the people around me and develop my skill set by learning from other members of the team. Although I do my best work on my own in a quiet atmosphere, I really enjoy grabbing coffee with team members in my spare time and running through ideas together.”
Answering “What type of environment do you thrive in?” with thoughtful examples is a great way of demonstrating that you understand the company culture and are flexible enough to adapt to change. Whether you’re comfortable in a fast-paced environment or a more relaxed one, finding a way to highlight your unique qualities and connect them with a role will show potential employers that you’re the candidate they’ve been looking for.
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