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How well do you work with people? Do you prefer working alone or in teams?

Sometimes interviewers ask trick questions. This isn’t one of those times. The purpose is to determine if you like working alone or as part of a group. While sometimes a job can be tailored to your preference, most often an employer is looking for someone flexible in this regard. Most jobs require periods of working alone, and periods of interacting with others.

Be honest. What that means is before looking for a job make sure you can work well with a team or alone. People will work better one way or the other, but having flexibility is important in the working world. As always, do research on the company and job to better frame an answer.

A good answer to this question reflects that flexibility, and gives specific examples of working in both situations.

Express Flexibility Directly:
“I enjoy working as part of a team, but also on my own. I read the job description and your web site, and found that there are going to be opportunities to do both. I look forward to each one. The bottom line is meet the goals.”

Story Reflecting Both:
“When I was in HS I was in the marching band. That required long hours of practicing on my own so I could play the music and march the right step length and cadence. Then there were long hours of practicing with the group to coordinate everything. I have to admit I much preferred working with the group, but I know solo work is often part of the overall picture.”

Ten Towards a Loner:
“I feel I get a lot more done when I work on my own. I get into a zone and really crank out the ideas. But I recognize that most tasks take working with others who bring their own unique skills to the table. When I first started college I didn’t much like working in groups, but I’ve learned to enjoy that too.”

The job itself will tell you whether to flavor the answer more with team work or more with working alone. For example software developers often work in isolation, but some software development shops employ methods that require team coding. It would be a disaster to say “I got into software development so I could work without being bothered by other people” in one of those team shops.

One woman didn’t have a clue when she answered the question. “Neither!”

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