Determine your work style with these 5 questions
“What’s your work style?” is a frequent interview stumper. But asking yourself these five bite-sized questions makes answering it a breeze.
There are a number of job interview questions where the answer the hiring manager’s looking for should be pretty obvious. “Are you a team player?” “Yes.” “How do you handle pressure?” “Fantastically.” “Why should we hire you?” “Because I’m awesome.”
“How would you describe your work style?” is not one of those questions.
First of all, what does work style even mean? The interviewer’s not asking if you like to kick back at your desk in a pair of wraparound shades and Beats. Rather, they’re trying to discern how you’ll fit into an existing work culture, carefully gauging your response for hints about how you’ll mesh with potential co-workers and whether you’re well suited to the demands of the role.
In other words, it’s kind of an important question.
But don’t let it intimidate you or get you tongue-tied. You can figure out your work style with five smaller, far more straightforward questions. By asking yourself each of them, you can learn a lot about both how you work and how to frame yourself in an interview.
1. Do you like to work autonomously or collaboratively?
The vast majority of jobs won’t have you working in a vacuum. Instead, you’ll be part of a larger group that must—get this—collaborate in order to achieve a common goal.
Understandably, many interviewers will expect you to describe yourself in terms of working as part of a team. But if you really do consider yourself a strong, independent worker, don’t worry—there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you mention the importance of external feedback from both bosses and peers when it comes to being your best professional self.
2. How do you like to work with your boss?
We all have an idea of the kind of working relationship we’d like with our superiors, but it doesn’t always take shape beyond some vague notion of cordiality. But how you work with your boss truly does speak to how you’ll perform on the job, and you’ll need to consider this carefully.
Do you like receiving a set of clear-cut directions, so that your goals as a worker are never in doubt? Or do you feel comfortable doing a bit of creative interpretation in terms of what your boss actually wants from you, giving you a bit of leeway to do your own thing?
However you define it, it never hurts to mention that you appreciate the importance of the routine check-in, ensuring you and your boss are on the same page and that your work’s consistently up to spec.
3. How do you prefer to communicate?
In decades past, this particular question would’ve been a whole lot simpler. After all, it doesn’t take much effort to determine if a workplace’s dominant mode of communication involves writing emails or simply yelling, “Watch your six!” across a factory floor.
But organizations that communicate electronically now go a lot further than simply relying on email alone, and this question gives you a chance to prove you’re comfortable with the full range of technologies on hand.
Do you tend to communicate over chat clients like Slack or Gchat? Do you work best within a project management framework, like Basecamp? Whatever your preference, it’s always worth bringing the conversation back around to the necessity of in-person communication—always an underrated asset in our increasingly digitized workplace.
4. What hours do you work?
No, your interviewer’s not looking for you to simply spit back the hours required for the position—they already know it’s a nine-to-fiver, or whatever the case may be. What they want is a sense of whether you’re the kind of person who likes to show up early or won’t sweat staying a little bit late, should the job require it.
Later, down the road in the hiring process, you can go further into the particulars of your schedule, like the afternoons you need to leave 30 minutes early to pick up the kids from daycare or volunteer at the local iguana rescue.
For now, you can focus on projecting your commitment to the job and your flexibility to stick around as long as it takes to get the work done.
5. How do you plan your day?
For an interviewer, this offers one of the best windows into how you conduct yourself at work. Maybe you’re the kind of person who creates a daily action plan, organizes it by priority, and then unwaveringly stays the course. Or maybe you spend your mornings knocking out a few easy tasks or emails, and then dedicate your afternoon to larger projects on the docket.
Either way, sharing how you structure your day gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how you’ll take a purposeful approach to your work—even, as the case may be, if you like to sport a sweet pair of wraparound shades. We’ll defer to your target employer’s attire policy on that one.
Ready for the interview?
Still not sure you’ve covered all the bases for your next interview? Sign up to be a Monster member to get expert career advice such as interview prep, resume tips, and negotiation strategies emailed to you every week. Now that’s a smart work style that’s sure to impress any hiring manager.