When employers ask you to describe your work style in a job interview, they’re testing you for a few key factors. And there are some great words to use but others that you definitely shouldn’t use.
So in this article, I’ll share the best ways to describe your work style in a job interview, with example answers, so you can impress the interviewer and win the job.
Why Hiring Managers Ask Interview Question About Work Style
The hiring manager is looking for a few key things when they ask you to describe your work style. First, they’re looking to see how you’ll fit into the existing team and company culture. The hiring manager is your potential future boss, so they want to know if they’ll get along well with you, too.
Next, they’re eager to see your work ethic and attitude in general. Do you seem like you’re able to take feedback, listen to instructions, and stay calm under pressure? Those are examples of traits employers want to see when they ask about your work style.
In the next section, I’ll share the best way to answer the interview question, plus a long list of impressive words you can use.
How to Describe Your Work Style: Delivering an Effective Answer
The best way to describe your work style is to pick two to three qualities to mention and then explain, with an example or further explanation, why you chose those words. Keep your answer to this question under one minute and also consider the type of jobs you’re interviewing for so that you can highlight your most relevant qualities.
The most important step is to choose skills that fit what the job requires. Because the interviewer is thinking, “Does this person have the skills needed to succeed in the job I’m hiring for?”
That’s always their focus in the job interview. So if the position is going to require you to work alone, demonstrate you can do that. If you’ll need to work in a fast-paced environment and interact frequently with others, talk about your ability to do that. And if possible, highlight specific accomplishments or results you’ve achieved in your past work, along with sharing a general description of your style of work. You’ll see this soon in the example answers coming up later in this article. You can point to specific areas of experience on your resume when answering this question, too. Consider talking about a related project or great result you got for a previous employer that’s on your resume.
Next, let’s look at some good words you can incorporate into your answer to sound impressive and show hiring managers that you possess the traits they want to see.
21 Work Style Examples: Words You Can Use to Describe Your Working Style
- Big-picture oriented
- Effective communicator
- Open to feedback
There are far more words you can use to describe your work style in the job interview, but these all sound professional and impressive and should give you a great starting point as you plan and practice your answer.
I recommend mentioning two of these words, not just one, in your answer. However, it’s okay to choose a single word if you’re able to back it up with examples and strong evidence of how you’ve used that trait to deliver great results throughout your career.
Now let’s look at some sample interview answers so you can see how a great response will sound.
Describe Your Work Style: Answer Examples
Sample Answer 1 (Fresh Graduate/Entry-Level):
I’m a strong communicator and I take pride in my honesty, too. In university, I led multiple clubs and group projects where I had the chance to build my communication skills including public speaking. And I’m always clear and upfront in my communication. I’m proud of the fact that I’m honest and transparent in my work. I saw on your job description that this position may lead some committees and meetings, so that’s one detail that attracted me to your organization and made me think I’d be able to put my communication skills to good use here.
Sample Answer 2 (Experienced Candidate):
I would describe my work style as flexible and adaptable. I’m able to work independently but also can work in a more team-oriented structure. For example, I’ve collaborated with up to 15 people on certain projects in my current job, for example. I can also react to unexpected challenges and changes and stay focused and effective. In my last role, we faced a number of unexpected issues with client projects and even though it can be stressful, I enjoy working through those unexpected challenges. They don’t throw me off or cause me to panic.
Sample Answer 3 (Manager/Executive):
As a manager, my work and leadership style is transparent and consistent. I try to treat each team member fairly and equally. That’s helped me earn the trust of past teams and grow my sales team in my last position into the best-performing group among 12 sales teams in the company. When somebody works for me, they know what to expect, and they know I’ll treat them fairly and honestly. I’ve found that people not only prefer to work in this type of situation but also perform their best when treated this way.
Tailor Your Interview Answer to the Job You’re Discussing
When you answer an open-ended interview question such as, “Can you describe your work style?” it’s best to hone in on the skills needed in this prospective employer’s work environment. If a job involves only individual work, it doesn’t help you much to say you’re a team player, for example. The best qualities to mention are always those that will help you perform this job. How do you accurately predict what the company values most, though? To give a great answer and know what the company wants to hear, review the job description carefully. Think about how your personal work style aligns with the job duties and skills this employer wants, and in your answer, talk about the areas of overlap/similarity.
That’s a good approach to answer interview questions in general. Also, consider anything you’ve learned about the role in prior interviews with the company. Then, adjust your answer to show you’re well-suited for this exact job. Don’t just copy one of the sample answers above without considering the job.
General Topics to Mention When You Describe Your Work Style
You can mention one or more of the following general ideas/topics as you talk about your work style in the interview:
- Ability to meet tight deadlines
- Ability to handle multiple projects
- Being detail-oriented
- Time management skills
- A tendency toward being a team player
- Ability to complete tasks under pressure or with little room for mistake
- Good communication skills and a communication style that fits what the job requires
- Organizational skills
- Management style, if interviewing for a leadership position
- Being a big picture thinker, if interviewing for a job involving strategic thinking, creativity, etc.
- Emotional intelligence
- Work ethic and resiliency; being a hard worker
- Ability to work solo or without close supervision, if that’s what the job requires
- Ability to work efficiently and accomplish tasks with as little time/resources as possible
All of the above can make for a good answer (or part of a good answer) to “Describe your work style.” The best answers will address what this prospective employer needs, so never forget to read the job description before the job interview begins.
Mistakes to Avoid When You Describe Your Work Style
The first big mistake you need to avoid is telling a lie. Hiring managers will often ask follow-up questions about your answer, and lies tend to lead to more lies, which can make you anxious and cost you the job. Plus, interviewers can often tell if your answer is not genuine or if you’re using words you don’t fully believe in because you won’t seem confident in the interview.
So don’t feel pressured to say that your work style is to thrive in a fast-paced environment if you prefer to work in a calmer setting. What you should do, instead, is target employers who seem to offer the type of work environment you enjoy, and then tell the truth in your job interviews. It’s okay to say that you like some things and dislike others. That’s completely fine, as long as you know what type of company you’re interviewing with so that you can give an answer that fits their style of workplace. This is true of other interview questions, too. In general, tell the truth whenever possible and do your research so that you know your audience.
One other mistake to avoid when answering questions about your work style: Don’t give too many different words or ideas in response to this interview question. It’s important to focus and pick two to three points at maximum. Two is ideal in my opinion. There’s no need to give an answer longer than that, and two to three ideas should be plenty to show them that your work style is positive, effective, and well-suited to their company. (As long as you choose the right words).
As a final mistake to avoid, don’t say, “I’m not sure,” when asked to describe your work style. When the interviewer asks this, they’re trying to determine if you’re a fit for the company, and you’ll leave them with concerns and questions if you’re unable to give a clear, specific answer.
Keep this advice in mind and you’ll be ready to show interviewers that your work style fits their needs, so you can win the job offer more often.