Interview Question: What Would Be Your Ideal Working Environment?
It might sound like a silly question but when hiring managers ask about your ideal working environment, they are giving you an opportunity to shine. The question is rather important and it will be a good opportunity to show them why you’re such a good fit – giving them another reason to hire you.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know to get this question right. The guide is divided into the following sections:
- The purpose of this question
- The three core aspects to build your answer on
- Tips for making your answer great
- Example answers
- The big mistakes you must avoid
- The steps to prepare for the question
So, let’s get started!
THE PURPOSE OF THE QUESTION
When it comes to answering job interview questions thoroughly and with poise, you should understand the reasons behind those questions. You can be more successful with your answer if you know what the interviewer wants to hear.
So, what is the purpose of asking about your ideal working environment? The interviewer will essentially be focused on two things.
Your understanding and knowledge of the company culture
Employers don’t want to employ people who aren’t passionate about working for a specific company. The interviewer wants to check if you’ve done your research into the company and the role rather than having just walked in unprepared. So, you really shouldn’t take this as a question about your ideal work environment. Rather, this question is actually, “Do you know what our working environment is and what do you like about it?”
Your values and their alignment with the company culture
Of course, the interviewer doesn’t just want you to talk about the organization and what you know about it. The question does look into your values as well – those things you appreciate in a work community. You don’t want to lie here but simply focus on those elements you appreciate in your working environment.
The deeper point here is about aligning your values with the organization’s work environment. You want to ensure you show how well you would fit in the workplace because you share common values with the company.
BUILD YOUR ANSWER AROUND THREE CORE ASPECTS OF A WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Three core aspects define most working environments. When you are conducting your answer, you should focus on and talk about these three things in your answer.
It’s especially important to strike that balance of your ideals and values and the kind of working environment the company offers in relation to these three things. As mentioned above, you want to show you’re a good fit and these core work environment elements can help you highlight it.
Formal vs. informal
The first big thing is whether you like a formal working environment or not. Below is a chart of the kinds of things that define informal and formal work environments.
It’s a good idea to look around the company’s website and in your research find what type of work environment the employer has. If there’s a clear difference between the two styles, you could consider mentioning the benefits of that in your answer and how your work style fits that specific structure.
For example, if the company has a very informal work environment, you could highlight your ability to think on your feet and come up with innovative ways of doing things on your own – thus, working better in a creative and less formal space.
Big vs. small company
In some situations, it can be helpful to talk about the company size when answering the question. This can be especially beneficial if you are joining a small company but it can work with larger corporations.
Both have their benefits and it’s a good idea to list those down when thinking about your answer. You can even look at your work history and the kind of companies you’ve worked with in the past. For instance, if you’ve worked in larger companies but you’re now interviewing for a smaller business, you can mention the lessons you learned. You could say that working in a busy environment taught you to appreciate peer relationships or efficient rules and regulations.
The idea is to reflect your history, the possible future workplace and your own preferences. With this and the structures mentioned above, the key is not to pick one or the other but to highlight the positives of both in light of your personality and the kind of work environment you’d be working.
You might also want to talk a bit on the topic of work-life balance. This is slightly tricky and you’ll learn more about why in the section on the mistakes you must avoid. But it’s, nonetheless, an important part of a working environment and your job interview might even directly ask about it.
You should conduct some research and have an idea of what kind of work environment the company promotes. If they allow a lot of flexibility in terms of work schedule, you can bring up the good things about this and highlight why you’d flourish in that environment. For example, you can say you prefer flexibility because it suits your style of being a more creative thinker.
The key is to make a note of the importance of having a balance – you don’t want to emphasize your need to get time off all the time.
However, you can talk about how important it is to bond with your colleagues, for example. It’s also a good idea to describe any possible personal and professional development opportunities you know about.
You want to emphasize how you want to improve your skillset, even on your own time because you are ambitious and hardworking.
TIPS FOR ANSWERING THE QUESTION
You can now have the core things you want to talk about in your answer. But what else should you know about answering the question effectively?
It’s important to focus on four elements when constructing your answer. You should:
Showcase your ability to adapt and be flexible
You don’t want your answer to sound too rigid. You can’t make it about a single type of environment and that’s it. This is crucial especially when you don’t know that much about the company and it’s working environment.
You want to showcase your ability to be flexible and your willingness to adapt. You can talk about how you like to learn new things and ways of doing things – the employer is looking for these qualities in a candidate.
Talk about values as well as the environment
You should also focus on big values such as sustainability or family-focused workplaces. You don’t just want to talk about a physical space or the business structures. The truth is that a company’s values will showcase in the work environment as well. A company that’s looking to improve the local community will probably have a strong team-building environment. It’s a good idea to match your answer with the company’s broader vision.
Emphasize growth and development
Employers will appreciate employees that want to develop their skills. Therefore, you want to talk about how you enjoy a work environment that nurtures talent and helps it to grow.
The interviewer is looking for someone with a long-term interest in the role. You don’t want to make it seem like you’re using the role as a stepping-stone. So, talk about how much you value in improving in your role and the importance of loyalty, for example.
Mention your personality
Of course, you should always show a bit of who you are with your answer. While it’s important to tailor the answer to match the workplace, you also want to highlight what kind of person you are to truly let the interviewer see why you’d be the best pick.
You should focus on your top qualities and especially those needed in the job. If you are good at communication, you can mention how you’re a big people person and you love working environments that allow you to meet and collaborate with people.
If you’re big on innovative thinking, you can mention that you work best in environments that are flexible and creative. Show your talent by describing it and matching it with the workplace.
3 SAMPLE ANSWERS
To help you get creative and have an idea of a good answer, here are three sample answers for you to examine.
“My ideal work environment is one that focuses on teamwork. I like companies like yours that put an effort in gelling the group together and making sure everyone is supported. I like that sort of structure and formality of knowing what you’re supposed to do and when you are aware of the situation. I work best when I have a group of positive people working around me and where I can focus on putting my talent to work.”
The answer is direct and it highlight the candidate’s desired workplace and appreciation towards specific type of employers. It shows what the candidate would need to succeed.
“I enjoy working in a small business environment because I like to get to know the people I work with. I loved the drive small businesses have to improve and innovate. I like trying to find improvements and working with people who are just as passionate is really important to me. I feel like you get it much more in a small business environment than in a large corporation.”
Again, the above highlights the person’s skills and shows what kind of working environment can boost them.
“I’m a big people person and I love big companies with a diverse staff. I think the more people with different backgrounds you have, the better your ideas and implementation will be – you get more opinions and viewpoints. I like flexible working environments as well. I think it supports my creativity and innovation a lot more than very rigid spaces. Of course, rules do matter but I like environments where you have a framework and the people can just excel within it as they want.”
This answer highlights the person’s personality and skills. It talks a lot about values, which is a good choice. It explains what kind of values and spaces the person understand and shows the reasoning behind it.
MISTAKES YOU SHOULD AVOID
The above will help you in building your answer. You know why the questions are asked, the building blocks of good answers and the tips to focus on the right things. But you can also improve answering the question by knowing what are the things you shouldn’t be saying.
You have to avoid making four major mistakes when answering this question about your ideal work environment. These are:
Mistake #1: Build your answer just with the company’s website information
While you have to tailor your answer with the company in mind, you can’t just look at what the company says about its working environment and parrot those as your favorite. You have to be honest and avoid saying meaningless clichés.
Mistake #2: Making the answer just about yourself
It’s important to touch on the wider company culture and its impact on you. While you can’t just parrot the company culture, you also don’t want to make the mistake of talking just about what you want to have around you. It’s a great answer if you can also point out the importance of team culture.
Mistake #3: Talking about your desire to have holidays and time off work
Having a good work/life balance at work is important to us all. But your answer shouldn’t be about how much you love to spend time off work. The question is about your ideal work environment, not your ideal time away from work. So, don’t mention your love of holidays or taking time off work.
Mistake #4: Focusing on negative work environments
Above all, you want your answer to be positive. When you think about your ideal work environment, it can be tempting to think about what you don’t want the workplace to be. But this isn’t going to be a good option in a work interview.
In fact, negative attitude and focus on the negative is hardly ever a good idea in an interview. This is because it can come across judgmental and whiny – qualities the employer won’t appreciate in its employees.
PREPARING FOR THE QUESTION
You should now have a good idea of the kind of answer you should give. You probably have a few ideas in mind and it’s time to start forming your answer in your head in preparation with your answer. To ensure you focus on just the right things in your preparations, here are the three steps to take:
Step 1: Research the company, focusing on the company culture
As you have noticed, many of the good answers are built around an understanding of the company’s working environment. Your answer should be to show them how you’d fit that environment and make a great addition to the team.
Therefore, you have to start building your answer by knowing what the company is like.
You can start by examining those three core aspects first. Find an answer to the questions:
- Is it a large or a small company?
- Does it have formal or informal structures?
- What kind of approach does it have to work-life balance?
You should enhance your understanding by also researching the company culture and vision. This kind of information is usually available on the company website. If you know anyone in the organization, you should also ask him or her what it’s like working for the company.
Step 2: Identify the things you want from a workplace to flourish
You should then consider your own ideal working environment. The best way to do this is to think about the kind of work environment that helps you to be at your best. It’s important to think about your ideal working environment honestly because lying won’t really get you far.
So, go over the things you’d actually want from a workplace. Think about what type of environment best matches your skills – perhaps you can think of the previous workplaces and consider the pros and cons for each.
Step 3: Align the two and find common ground
The ideal answer would reflect your fit with the company’s working environment. You want to have an idea of the kind of workplace you’re going into because it gives the interviewer the peace of mind you’d fit right in. You want to highlight those qualities.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just parrot what the company culture is and lie about your actual preferences. You want to find common ground between what the company working environment is and what you like. In your answer, you want to focus on the strengths of the workplace and how it helps your best qualities to stand out.
Build your answer by examining what you know about the company and what kind of work environment best suits you. Stay neutral but show your personality, using the tips mentioned above. When you’re authentic but focus on highlighting your match to the organization, you will succeed in giving just the right answer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The interview question, “What would be your ideal working environment”, is just another opportunity for you to highlight your match.
You want to reflect your skills and talent in the light of the kind of working environment the company has. You want to put the interviewer at ease that you would fit in the organization and flourish in the position.
When you know this while maintaining your authenticity, you will succeed in answering this common interview question.
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