"What is your work style": How to answer like a pro

April 22, 2021

Want to ace your interviews? MentorCruise has put together a useful step-by-step guide on how to craft meaningful interview responses. Read on to learn more.

"What is your work style": How to answer like a pro

“What is your work style?” is one of the most common opened-ended questions asked in interviews. And yet, many interviewees still find themselves stumped, unable to answer this deceptively simple question on workplace collaboration, or worse, they end up rambling on with their answers.

Want to make sure your interview goes well? Make sure you plan your responses ahead of time. Planning ahead helps you showcase your strengths with well-thought-out replies that will impress the employer.

Here is a step-by-step guide put together by our team at MentorCruise, on how to tackle these all-important questions that employers love to ask – starting with “What is your work style?”

What do they want to know?

When planning how to answer an open-ended question in an interview, it makes sense to understand the goal behind the question. Why are employers asking this question in the first place?

Here is a simple breakdown of what the potential employer really wants to know about you, as a candidate for the role, when they ask about your working style:

  • Is your personality a good fit for their company and the team you are being hired to join?
  • How can you contribute to the success of the role and overall team?
  • Are there any red flags that could potentially cause issues in the department?
  • How will you work with your colleagues
  • Can you meet objectives and deadlines on time?

Like any other open-ended interview questions, it is up to the interviewee to steer the conversation. What you choose to highlight in your response is key to helping the employer understand your motivations better too – so choose wisely.

A step-by-step guide to answering, “What is your work style”?

#1. Start by identifying your work style

Not sure how to answer the question because you do not know the answer to it yourself? Not to worry, here is a work style assessment by Psychology Today to help you discover the style that you identify with the most.

There are other popular “work personality” models that you can use instead to determine your work style. One commonly used model for the workplace is Deloitte’s Business Chemistry Model that categorizes employees into four main working styles based on key business-relevant behavioral traits:

  • Pioneers – Detail-adverse risk-takers who are bold and imaginative, drawn to exploring new possibilities.
  • Guardians – Data-driven pragmatists who believe in discipline and rigor, and question anything outside the norm.
  • Drivers – Driven and competitive commanders who value results and logic above all.
  • Integrators – Empathic relationship-oriented diplomats who value consensus amongst the team and maintaining a harmonious working relationship with all.

Take a minute (or more) and decide, which working style do you identify the most with.

#2. Understand the company culture & find the sweet spot

Now that you have reflected on your working style, the next step is to figure out what the employer is looking for. And from there find the sweet spot.

What’s the sweet spot? Essentially it is the overlapping traits of your work style and traits that the company is looking for – hopefully there is at least one! For those with more than one overlapping traits, pick one or two to focus on. Highlighting these specific traits will help show how you are a great fit for the role!

Need to figure out the preferred working style and company culture of the employer? It is time to break out your sleuthing cap and research you can about the company online – from their corporate sites, social media platforms, to even the team member’s LinkedIn profiles.

These should give you a good idea of what are the core traits and values the company is looking out for.

#3. Be honest

Is your work style completely at odds with the company’s valued traits? Worried about what you are reading online about the company’s culture?

Well, sometimes it just may not be a good match. This is why you need to be honest during this process.

If you make up an answer that you think fits what the interviewer is looking for but is not actually how you go about doing things, you might get a job you’ll hate.ob.

#4. Stop giving boilerplate answers and cliches

Trust us. When we say that interviewers have probably heard that candidates are “great team players”, “multitask well” or “detailed-oriented” for more than they ever want to hear.

So how do you stand out from the crowd? Give memorable examples or incorporate fun anecdotes to help them remember you.

Terms like “collaborative” or “goal-oriented” do not make someone remember an interview response. Instead, use interesting stories and anecdotes to help yourself stand out.

For instance, you could share about the time when you rallied a group of team members for a successful brand launch within an insanely short lead time. Include the challenges that you faced and how you tackled them to bring the team to success.

Consider using the STAR technique to help you structure your examples in an easy-to-follow flow:

  • Situation: Give context
  • Task: Describe what needed to be done
  • Action: Share about what you did and how you did it – highlighting the traits identified from the sweet spot
  • Results: Highlight the outcome

#5. Review your answer

After going through the exercise, make sure you write down your response, review, and refine it for a polished answer. Just like how you would for your resume or cover letter.

Go through your answers several times. Make sure that you remember the key points that you want to highlight and can communicate them across clearly and confidently.

Pro tip: Ask a friend to conduct a mock interview and get their feedback on your answers.

But do not memorize it! While you want to come across prepared, you do not want to come across so rigid that it feels like a rehearsed answer.

What does a “model” answer look like?

Here is a sample answer on “what is your work style” to get you started. During your interview, fit the content within your personal context through anecdotes, examples and insights.

Sample Answer: Response to a role where both self-leadership and team player traits are valued.

“I work well both individually and on a team.

In my past experience as the Director of our Enterprise Customer Success Team at BrandBlade, I’ve founded a team of 9 people. Our account management efforts have led to a 45% increase in upsells and crossells in the two years that I’ve been at the company.

As a self-starter, I am organized, plan my milestones, and ensure I check off my to-do lists to keep to a specific timeframe. I am happy to report that I have a 100% track record of completing my projects on time and in full.

_ _

With a team, I am more flexible with the considerations of having other stakeholders that might influence the workflow. Having managed multiple large projects with many stakeholders (both cross-functional and cross-markets), I make sure to factor in more time for getting inputs, reviews, and feedback.

_ _

Additionally, I always ensure that I keep stakeholders up to date with progress, and also help with reminding the nearing of milestones and extending help if required.

_ _

Rounding that off with a fun fact about me. I have worked with more than 7 different teams and 14 different bosses and many more teammates from all nationalities – many of whom I still have enjoyable relationships outside of work.”

Why is this a good answer?

This answer tackles both the traits that the role requires, and it also provides a solid situation that has insights into the person’s work style as a leader.

Bonus: it includes a fun and memorable fact about the interview that also showcases their good interpersonal skills and adaptability.

What to avoid in your answer?

Now that you know what to include in your response, here are a few tips on what you should make sure to leave out:

  • Overly definitive traits that showcase yourself as an inflexible person who is not open to new ways of working. For instance, saying that you always need to have data before making a decision – if the role entails some level of risk-taking, then you would have excluded yourself.
  • Dishonest answers that do not truly reflect what you feel. Even if you get the job, the clash in working styles would end up with the job being an unenjoyable experience.
  • Complaining about your previous role or employers is a big no-no. Even if you had a clash of work styles with your previous employer, it is not the right place nor time to be bringing it up. Keep your answers positive.
  • Vague and generic answers that do not give a clear impression of who you are as a person will not keep the hiring manager interested.

Get a career head start with MentorCruise’s 1-1 mentoring sessions

In this guide, you have learned how to address one of the many frequently asked interview questions in your journey to ace your interview for your dream job.

But that is just the beginning!

If you are keen to learn more about making the right impression at interviews, how to get off on the right foot for a role in a completely new industry, or having that long-awaited promotion conversation with your boss, a mentor is your best bet.

Imagine having an experienced and trained industry expert who can guide you with personalized career advice? Doesn’t that sound like a dream?

At MentorCruise, that is now a reality! Get mentoring from a trained, experienced expert & be on the career track you want to be. Apply today!

What can mentorship do for you?

Our 'state of mentorship' report sums up the benefits, reports and effects that mentorship has on the modern working environment.

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