“What’s your ideal work environment?”
Among all of the other interview questions you can expect to run into on your job hunt, this is one you’ll probably encounter at some point or another.
Maybe you can only get work done if it’s dead silent, you’re completely alone, and you don’t talk to anyone at all for eight hours — or maybe you’ve never even considered that different people prefer different work environments.
What’s the bottom line?
Knowing a company’s work environment will help you determine if you’d be a good fit and if you’d be happy working for the company — or if you’d be completely miserable!
A company’s work environment can affect how productive you are, so you want to show them that their company culture will help you work to your fullest potential.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to answer interview questions about the ideal work environment.
“My ideal work environment consists of two major parts:
1. The time and space to get my work done
2. A collaborative environment without company politics
To get my work done, I need for people to have boundaries — even if it is just leaving me alone when I have headphones in. And I need for people to work together — I have no interest in a cutthroat, sabotage your neighbor workplace.”
Why It’s A Good Answer
This answer both describes how you like to get down and focus on your tasks, but are also able to be a team player. It will also help you find a better match by the hiring manager taking you out of consideration if it wouldn’t be a good match.
I know that sounds weird, but it’s better for you long term.
The best way to prepare to answer questions about work environments is to do your homework and learn about the company.
Here’s what you can do to figure out just what kind of work environment a company has:
Check out their “about us” section or mission statement. A lot of companies will give insight into their environment on their website. Their website might straightforwardly say that they have a fast-paced environment, or they might imply that they have a social culture by saying that they “foster strong employee relationships.”
Sometimes, you just have to read between the lines.
Ask a company contact. If you know someone who works for the company, reach out to them and ask their opinion on the company culture or their reputation.
Ask the interviewer. If you just can’t seem to find any information about the company’s work environment, it’s okay to just ask their interviewer and base your answer on what they tell you.
Then you can offer examples of how your work style meshes well with their environment.
When you’re asked about what kind of work environments you prefer, you should be as honest as possible. You don’t want to get stuck in an environment that makes you feel unproductive just because you thought you might not get hired if you answered honestly.
“I’ve found that I work to my highest creative potential when I’m able to work on a team and collaborate with others. I feel that my best results come when I work with others and share ideas. I thrive working in an environment that emphasizes community.”
“I find that I’ve been able to adapt very quickly and easily to many different work environments. I’ve found that I like the challenge of working in a fast-paced environment, but I also appreciate the ability to take my time and focus on one project at a time in slower-paced environments.”
If you haven’t been able to dig up much dirt on the company’s culture, stay neutral and mention that you’re flexible and adaptable.
“I’ve found that I really enjoy the openness and flexibility of working for a startup company, but I also enjoy the solid structure of a company that’s well-established in their industry. I’m not familiar with the corporate environment of your company, would you mind elaborating?”
And remember, you can always ask the interviewer about their company’s work environment and base your answer on what they say.
Fast Paced vs. Slow Paced. With a fast-paced work environment, there’s a lot of stuff happening all at once, and you might be going from project to project without a lot of time in-between.
This kind of environment is great for people who are task-driven, or for those of us who get distracted or bored when they don’t have a lot on their plate.
On the other hand, slow-paced environments are better suited for perfectionists and people who hate multitasking. Plus, it’s probably much less stressful.
This might be the better option for those of us who are easily overwhelmed by a heavy workload.
Egalitarian vs. Hierarchical If you like contributing ideas and feeling like your voice is heard, then you’d probably succeed in an egalitarian work environment.
This is just a fancy way of saying that you like working for a company that provides opportunities based on ideas and contributions, rather than favoring someone just because they have seniority over you.
You might prefer a company with a hierarchical environment if you like working with a set structure of one boss who gives assignments, or if you just don’t like working with people who have less experience — hey, you had to fend for yourself, they should too!
Social vs. Work-Focused. If you’re new in town and you want to make friends, a social work environment could be the perfect fit.
Even if you just don’t want to spend the entire workday in silence and would like to be able to hang out with your colleagues at the office, a social workplace could be just what you’re looking for!
On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who likes to be totally focused on work while you’re at the office, you might be better off working for a company that doesn’t put so much emphasis on employee relationships.
A social work environment could be a special challenge for those with social anxiety, or if you just have no interest in the company-wide golf tournament or forced social gatherings. Instead, look for a company that emphasizes individual work.
Rapidly-Growingvs. Established Working with a company that has a rapidly-growing work environment offers you more opportunities for advancement more quickly than a company that’s well established.
Companies that describe themselves with words like “startup,” “changing,” or “evolving,” can signal that you’ll be able to take on different roles and try your hand at different projects.
If you’re more attracted to the security and certainty that comes with working for a well-established company, you’ll want to look for a company that describes themselves as “stable,” or “conventional.”
The kind of environment a company fosters isn’t something to take with a grain of salt.
A company’s work environment can determine how happy and successful you are in your position, so you’ll want to make sure that your preferences align with what an employer has to offer.
Dig into the company’s website or ask others about what it’s like to work for them, but keep in mind that no workplace is perfect for everyone.
Be honest with yourself and your interviewer about what you’re looking for in a work environment, and find somewhere that’s a good fit for you.