People are different, which is generally a good thing. Having said that, everyone enjoys working with someone who shares the same opinions and values, someone we are “on the same page with”, when it comes to both work and things we discuss outside of work. That’s not how it works, however, especially in big corporations. A typical corporate workplace is quite diverse. You will share the workspace with people of all kinds of personalities, religions, and worldviews. Hiring managers wonder how you can cope with that, and will often ask you about a time when you had to work with someone whose personality of work style was very different to yours.
Regardless of the wording of the question, they are always looking for the same attitude. They want to hear that you respect other people, look for things you have in common (instead of things that separate you), and do not mind working with anyone, regardless of their personality or work style, unless they make your days miserable, or push the productivity of the entire team down. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this intriguing interview question. I tried to include both typical and unconventional answers on my list. Hopefully at least one of them fits your experience, and the message you try to convey in the interviews. Enjoy!
7 sample answers to “Describe a time when you had to work with someone whose personality or work style was very different from yours” interview question
- I had just one job up to this point, in a fast food restaurant. We were a small team of five people on the shift, and I would say that one guy had a very different personality to mine. They were rather negative and complained about everything in the world. And while it didn’t have the best impact on the rest of the team, the guy was really hard working and always took care of his duties (though complaining about them). Instead of trying to change him, I decided to accept him as a person. I just didn’t listen to his complaints anymore, and if I did, I took them as a joke. When I had the opportunity, I tried to show him the bright side of life. Sure, we didn’t become best of friends, but we could coexist in the workplace, and deliver the expected results. In my opinion it was the most important thing, especially in a fast food restaurant.
- I remember a colleague from the same working group in my last corporate job. They were very different to me, in both physical appearance and personality. They stressed so much about things, always worried what this or that manager would think, and whether we would meet this or that deadline. In this way they brought a lot of pressure to the team, and I didn’t like it, and didn’t find it necessary. On the contrary, I felt that their attitude and work style had a negative impact on the team. I tried to raise the issue with the manager but didn’t get any response. Maybe the manager preferred such an environment in the team and actually liked the guy. Anyway, I eventually decided to quit the job and look for something else. The colleague was one of the reasons. While I was in the company though, I did my best to keep a good working relationship with them.
- In my last job of a supervisor on a construction site I dealt almost entirely with different personalities than mine. Do not want to brag here or anything, but the IQ of the employees on the construction site wasn’t nowhere near my level of IQ. This of course isn’t a valid reason to dislike someone, or to disqualify them from a job on a construction site. What I want to say here is that the people working under me had different viewpoints and we didn’t have many things to discuss together, at least things I’d find interesting. Anyway, I knew that I had to build some relationship with them. For that reason, I took some interest in their lives and things they found interesting, so we could have some discussion and they would respect me more as their superior. It worked great, and I definitely want to follow the same principles in my new job–hopefully with you.
- This is my first job application, and hence I cannot have an experience working with someone totally different to me. But I want to ensure you that I understand how diverse this place is, and that I will work with all kinds of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, with all kinds of personalities. In my opinion, we should always look for the best in other people, and accept their weaknesses. Because nobody is perfect, and I also have my weaknesses, and no doubt some people may find it hard to work with me. Mutual respect and looking for things we have in common, instead of things that separate us, is in opinion the best way to go.
- In all honesty, it happens to me all the time. I enjoy thinking out of the box, you can call me a maverick type of person, and anywhere I worked, I really didn’t find many people with similar personality, work style, or level of productivity. But this is of no importance to me. I am a goal-oriented manager. As long as people do their work, and meet deadlines, I do not care that much about their personality, or about anything else. I also try to really focus on work in the meetings, avoiding any pointless discussions and eventual conflicts that can arise from the differences of personalities, and from the fights of egos. This is my way of working, and some people may not like it. Nevertheless, I rarely had any conflicts with my colleagues, regardless of how different our personalities and work styles were.
- As a fresh graduate I do not have much to rely on here. But I worked on seminary projects with my classmates, all of us with different personalities and strengths. In my opinion, a good leader can organize the team in such a way that it benefits from the differences of the members. Because for me, there’s nothing like an entirely good or bad personality. Sure, some people may approach work and relationships differently than I do, but that doesn’t mean my way is the right one, or their way. What I try to say here is that we should embrace the diversity and learn from colleagues with different personalities, which is exactly what I try to do, and want to continue to do so in my professional career.
- It happened in my last job, and it is actually the no. 1 reason why I quit. My manager had unrealistic expectations, but it wasn’t he worst thing. The worst thing was that they were extremely autocratic in their leadership. I could do absolutely nothing without their approval. For a creative person like me, for someone who likes to bring their own ideas to the table, and make decisions in the job, it just wasn’t possible to work under them. Now I do not want to say that they were a bad person or anything similar. Our work styles and personalities just suffered in that work relationship, and in my opinion it is a valid reason to quit the job…
Diversity is one of the main corporate buzzwords of 21st century
Each corporation tires to promote some values. And diversity is one of the most promoted values across the corporate landscape of 21st century. Of course, what the companies promote on their website, and what you witness while working there, are often two very different things. While hiring managers know it, they still want to (and perhaps also have to) hire people who embrace working in a diverse workplace.
Any example you narrate in your answer, make sure to say that you respected the person with different personality (and work style, religion, whatever). It doesn’t mean that you had to become best friends with them, or anything similar. But you respected them for who they are, and tried your best to have a good working relationship with them. This is the attitude hiring managers seek in good job candidates. Maybe it still wasn’t enough and you had to quit, but at least you tried to make things work.
When you lack working experience, speak about example from school or even from your personal life
Examples from work are the best ones for this interview question. But what if you lack experience, and are actually applying for your very first job? In such a case, you should try to demonstrate the right attitude to diversity with an example from school, or even from your personal life. Someone close to you, for example a family member, that means someone you have to, or had to, live with for a period of time, may be completely different to you. And yet you shared the household, and you somehow managed to respect them for who they are. It isn’t the best example, but it is better than remaining silent.
School also offers many fitting situations. No doubt you worked on some projects with your classmates, or at least on some group exercises during the lessons. You can use such situation to demonstrate that you can work with people with different personalities. It wasn’t always easy, and conflicts did happen, but you tried your best. Building bridges instead of fences, you eventually managed to reach the goals of the team…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Describe your most recent customer service experience.
- What motivates you in work?
- Tell us about a time when you had to deal with ambiguity.