Let’s start directly with ten great sample answers to this question. Below the answers you will find some explanations and tips on how to prepare an excellent answer to this interview question, one that suits your situation and level of experience. I will also elaborate on two alternative questions you may face, similar to this one but with slightly different meaning.

Sample answers to “Describe your working relationship” interview question

  1. I would describe it as highly professional and beneficial for everyone involved. We didn’t hesitate to share constructive criticism within the team, and I believe that we helped each other to grow, both as professionals and as human beings.
  2. It was a friendly relationship. When you share close quarters behind the bar with four or five colleagues on a shift, you didn’t really have another option than being friends. Cooperation would be impossible otherwise, and it would end up in poor customer experience. So I would describe it as friendly, and honest, though there was some tension on busy days. But in my opinion it is completely normal to experience minor conflicts in work.
  3. Working as a programmer before, I was more of a lonely wolf. I didn’t have a close contact with my colleagues, since we didn’t work in teams. Each of us has certain programming tasks assigned to them, and we worked individually in our offices. Having said that, anytime I had to deal with a colleague, I tried to do it with respect.
  4. Speaking honestly, I didn’t have the best relationship with my former colleagues. Some of them played emotional games and tired to benefit from the work of the rest of us. They were hanging around and the rest of us had to handle the workload. I didn’t really like it. I tried to talk with them, but they did not listen. It is actually one of the reasons why I left the company. I am looking for better relationships in the workplace.
  5. I had a great cooperation with the colleagues from the sales team. Since we weren’t paid on commission basis, we did not compete for attention of a customer. We could focus on our strengths, and encourage each other to provide the best possible customer service. We also had a lot of fun in the store. I enjoyed working with them…

* A must read: 15 most common interview questions and answers.

  1. I have quite a lot of conflicts with my colleagues at the moment. But it is nothing personal, emotions play no role in the conflicts. I just do not agree with certain processes in the company, have a different idea about how things should be done. And I can’t be quiet about it, because it has an impact on both employees and customers. But my colleagues are reluctant to make any changes, and it is one of the reason why I am trying to find a new job.
  2. This is my first job application, so I have no experience with good or bad relationships with colleagues. But I am not a conflict person, try to see the good things in the others, and respect the differences in opinions, attitudes, and in everything else. I believe that my attitude will help me to build good relationship with my colleagues in work.
  3. It is hard to describe my working relationships with my current colleagues. Maybe I would describe them as complicated. People form groups and these groups often lead useless fights in the workplace. The atmosphere is really tense. I try to somehow stay outside of it, to focus on my job, and not get involved into any stupid conflicts. But it is not easy, since I also have emotions and a need to belong somewhere. I hope to find better atmosphere in the workplace in my new job.
  4. We have a good relationship with fellow teachers and para educators. It is important to respect the differences and the roles each of us has in the classroom. I think that we help each other, trying to achieve the same goal–the best possible education for each student in the class.
  5. I think that it would be better if you asked them. Trying my best to work hard, and to be attentive to the needs of my colleagues, trying to be a positive force in the workplace, I felt I had a good relationship with my colleagues. But whether they perceived it in the same way is hard to say.

 

Show some humility, do not be afraid to talk about problems

Your goal in an interview isn’t to present yourself as a superhuman, the best of the best. Hiring managers are not stupid. They know that perfect employees don’t exist. Everyone has some strengths and some weaknesses.

Feel free to talk about conflicts, or about any other problems you had with your colleagues. The important thing for the interviewers is to hear that you are aware of the problems, and at least tried to address them. You made the first step, and didn’t wait for your colleagues to come and apologize. That’s the right attitude.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only tricky question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other situations that man happen in the workplace on any day. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

 

Do not blame the others when talking about relationships

It’s always easier to see the mistakes of our colleagues than to spot our own flaws and imperfections. But companies do not want to hire people who will always blame the others, who will always think that they are right.

If something went wrong, try to find where you made a mistake, and what you could do differently, in order to have better relationship with your colleagues. We cannot change the others, but we can change ourselves, and the way in which we perceive the actions of the others. That should be the attitude you present in your job interview.

 

Alternative question: Describe your relationship with your manager

Sometimes they will inquire about one relationship in particular, and typically it is your relationship with your past or present manager, your direct superior. In this case, you should be more specific about the communication in between you two.

How often do you talk? Do you have regular one on one meetings? Does the manager criticize you, and do you share your feedback with them? Do you work more or less independently, being aware of your goals, or do they manage you every day, telling you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do?

Ensure the interviewers that you respect the line of hierarchy in the company, but at the same time aren’t afraid to talk openly to your manager, about challenges and problems, but also about suggestions on how things can be done better. You should also avoid excessively negative comments, such as saying that your past manager was a complete idiot. Maybe they were an idiot, and it is the no. 1 reason why you left the company, but you should say it differently. Perhaps you can say that you weren’t on the same page with the manager, or things just didn’t click, which can happen between any two people in the world.

 

Alternative question no. 2:  How do you maintain good working relationships with your colleagues?

In this case, they are interested mostly in the ongoing process, that means what you do every day or every week to maintain a good relationship with colleagues. You can point out that you regularly ask them how they are, and whether they do not need help. What’s more, you try to be attentive to their non-verbal communication and if something looks wrong, you will immediately approach them and try to help.

You can also say that you try to spend some time with colleagues outside of work as well, to strengthen the relationships. Maybe you go to play bowling or ride a bike together once in a while. Say that you do not mind taking the initiative and inviting your colleagues to this or that event, which also helps with maintaining good relationship.

 

If you have a good reference, share it with your interviewers

Perhaps you prepared a list of references for your interview, and have a few names and phone numbers of people who would likely say a few good words about you, and about the working relationship they had with you.

If it is a case, you can say that your former colleagues will know better. To get an honest opinion about your working relationships, the interviewers should consider calling your former coworkers. Doing this you actually show a lot of confidence into your ability to act in a friendly and professional manner towards your colleagues in any circumstances.

Interviewers may or may not call your former colleagues, but you’ve already made the impression you wanted to make

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! But it is not the only tricky question you will face in your interview. Check our Interview Success Package for up to 10 premium answers to 100+ interview questions (including 31 dreaded scenario-based questions), and get ready for every challenge you may face in your interview. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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