“What Is Your Work Style?” Interview Question (+ Example Answers)

By Mike Simpson

What is your work style? While it’s a classic question, that doesn’t mean it can’t be baffling. As a concept, it feels a bit nebulous, making it difficult to navigate.

Plus, talking about your working style off the top of your head rarely works out. If you don’t have a plan for describing it, there’s a decent chance you’ll be left stuttering. But, instead of resigning yourself to being unprepared, you took action. You’re here, after all, so that means you want to nail this tricky question.

Luckily, while “what is your work style” feels like a doozy, it doesn’t have to be. There are a few approaches that work incredibly well, allowing you to answer quickly and appropriately. So, are you ready to stand out from the crowd? Great!

Let’s get down to business.

What Do They Mean By “Work Style?”

Before we look at examples for how to answer this challenging interview question, let’s pause for a moment.

Why?

Because you can’t talk about your working style effectively if you don’t know what one is. So, it’s definition time.

Your work style encompasses your approach to handling your professional responsibilities on a daily basis. Essentially, it’s a reflection of your personal strategy mixed with your preferences and dusted with aspects of your personality. It’s your method for being at your best, and it’s as unique as you are.

Now, you’ll find tons of lists that say that there are a certain number of work styles, with each one given a quirky name like “doing and learning” or “pioneers and guardians.” Sometimes, you’ll see general descriptions that you review for fit. Others rely on “tests,” like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to assign you a category.

The trick is, there aren’t official working styles. What does that mean for you? That you don’t have to reference one of those types when you answer questions about your work style. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand your personal work style. How you approach your day-to-day life as a professional matters; that’s just a fact.

One of the biggest examples is whether you prefer to work independently or as part of a team. While neither preference will automatically prevent you from having a great career, it will influence how your professional life unfolds. It shapes the choices you make, the cultures that feel like home, and the duties you’d rather take on. In the end, that influences where your career goes.

But that doesn’t explain why hiring managers ask you about your working style. In reality, the reason is pretty simple; they want to make sure you’re a good match.

Just as all professionals have working styles, every manager has a leadership style, and every team has a dynamic. Your work style will either mesh with what’s already in place, or it won’t. When it’s the former, you’re more likely to become an asset. When it’s the latter, you may struggle, reducing overall productivity.

Since hiring managers need to gauge your compatibility, the easiest thing to do is ask you about your working style. That way, they’ll hear about your approaches and preferences directly from you.

What Common Types of Work Style Are There?

While there aren’t formal working styles, there are a few traits that can be used to describe a person’s approach. Usually, two concepts will reflect the extreme ends of a spectrum, and where a person sits defines part of their work style.

As mentioned above, one characteristic is whether you prefer to work independently or cooperatively. Those who are independent tend to have a lot of self-discipline and may have strong research and problem-solving skills, allowing them to find their own answers when they encounter obstacles.

Cooperative workers do best when they are part of a group. They enjoy bouncing ideas off of others and incorporating feedback. Additionally, diplomacy and relationship-building are common skills for these professionals.

Another pairing is whether you consider yourself logical or creative. A logical person may be more detail- or data-oriented. Strategic thinking could be a strength, as well as organization and planning.

Creative types may be better equipped to find unique solutions to problems. They also tend to be thoughtful, highly emotionally aware, and very expressive.

And those aren’t the only potential differences. Some professionals are more supportive, while others are focused leaders. Some are big picture-oriented while others have their eyes on the minutia.

Ultimately, the chance that you fit into a single, neat category is fairly small. But, by understanding your preferences in key areas, you can define your working style.

How to Show Your Work Style on Your Cover Letter, Resume, Job Application

When you are filling out an application, writing a cover letter, or updating your resume, giving the hiring manager insights into your preferences is a smart choice. With the right approach, you can even answer the “what is your work style” question, albeit in a roundabout sort of way.

How do you pull that off?

By highlighting accomplishments that showcase your style. For example, if you want to highlight your preference to work independently, focus on achievements that were solo efforts.

Your goal should be to favor traits that give the hiring manager a clue about how you work. For example, if you prefer order and process, spend more time discussing your analytical skills or data-oriented decision-making approaches. By aligning the content with the associated characteristics, you are giving the hiring manager information about your working style.

“What Is Your Work Style?” Example Answers

When you face off against the “what is your work style” question, you need to have a direct answer. Luckily, that isn’t too challenging, especially if you have a good understanding of your preferences.

Looking for more? Alright, we hear you. Sometimes, nothing beats a great example. Here’s a look at three ways to discuss your working style, focusing on whether you are independent, cooperative, or somewhere in the middle.

1. Independent

If you favor working independently, you are in for a little bit of an uphill battle. Nearly every job requires some degree of collaboration, so you can’t completely remove yourself from the need to work as part of a team.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be honest. You just need to position your perspective properly.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“While I do find value in collaboration, I thrive when working independently. It allows me to take ownership of my tasks and ensures I can focus on the activity at hand. Once I have a clear understanding of the goal, I’m adept at seeing the task through, using my research and problem-solving skills to navigate challenges and remain on-target. However, I’m not opposed to collaborating with others. I value the expertise of my colleagues, and will happily turn to them to ensure my work exceeds expectations.”

2. Cooperative

Being team-oriented is usually considered a good thing. But you also want to make it clear that you can carry your own weight. If your answers seems too dependent on others, the hiring manager might worry that you aren’t able to handle your duties solo, should the need arise. So, make sure to tap on your dedication to your responsibilities.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“My work style is collaborative in nature. While it may seem cliché, I firmly believe that there’s no ‘I’ in “team.” Every person’s role and expertise matters, so it’s wise to tap into each other’s knowledge, allowing the group to create higher quality outcomes faster than may otherwise be possible. That way, everyone, including myself, can complete our tasks to the highest caliber, becoming valuable parts of a greater whole. Whether I need to step forward as a leader or take on a supportive role, I enjoy working with others above all else.”

3. Hybrid

Many people are adaptable, working equally well alone as they do as part of a group. However, you don’t want to come off as if you’re hedging your bets. If you are somewhere in the middle, you need to explain when your preferences do kick in. That way, you are showcasing your flexible work style properly.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I’m highly adaptable in the workplace. At times, I find value in working independently, especially when the task is detail-oriented or is analytical in nature. However, when creative thinking is required, brainstorming with a diverse team is my preferred approach. It gives us each the opportunity to learn from each other’s perspectives, spurring effective problem-solving and innovation. Ultimately, I’m equally comfortable working solo or collaboratively, though I believe that each option is best suited to specific scenarios.”

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, a bit of reflection is necessary, ensuring you understand what your working style is. Once you know, focus on highlighting the traits that align with your preferences. That way, the hiring manager knows what will help you shine, increasing the odds that, when you get an offer, you’re genuinely a great match.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.