Every great achievement is a result of a team effort. But it doesn’t mean that people have to share the same office, or even talk together, while trying to reach their goals. They may simply change notes and post updates on some online business communication platform, such as GitHub or Slack, while sitting at home in their pajamas, never traveling to work or to business meetings, never seeing each other.
That’s why on obvious answer “I prefer to work on a team” is not always your best choice. You should read the job description carefully, and think whether you’ll spend most of your time in work alone, or surrounded by people. And you should also elaborate on your answer, explaining why you prefer one option or the other.
Just like with most other interview questions, it’s not as easy as it seems to come up with a great answer. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers, as they will help you to choose the right one for your interview.
7 sample answers to “Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?” interview question
- I definitely prefer to work on a team. It is important for me to share my ideas with colleagues, and to hear critical feedback from their side. What’s more, I like the social aspect of going to work. It helps with motivation, and interactions you have in real time cannot be replaced by some chat or emails, or emojis or similar stuff. At least that’s my opinion.
- I do not have a particular preference. Working on a team has certainly some advantages. If nothing else, there is a form of a social pressure. People work hard, and actually do the job–because others are looking at them, or at least they feel their presence in the room. But I personally never struggled with motivation, and I do not need any special pressure to work harder. I enjoy my job, and I have goals I try to reach both in work and in my personal life. If I am alone in front of a computer, I work as hard as I would if other people were present in the room, looking over my shoulder, praising or criticizing me.
- To be honest, I prefer to work independently. In my opinion, a good engineer needs some space for their thoughts. Being surrounded by people, or working in a busy office with many distractions, you can hardly solve some tough puzzles, or come up with some innovative ideas. And that’s the role of a process engineer, or at least I see it in that way. Of course, it is nice to have team meetings and to talk to colleagues on a regular basis. But I prefer to spend most of my time in work alone, thinking about problems, trying to devise solutions.
- I am a team player, but I do not need a regular contact with my team members. I think that we should try to find a good balance. Sometimes it’s fine to be in the office with other people, to brainstorm ideas, to work on a project together. But there are also tasks that require high level of concentration. When working on them, we should try to eliminate all distractions. That’s much easier to do when you work independently.
- I prefer to work independently, but have someone I can consult when needed. Let me explain. Teaching is a nice profession, and you are never alone in the classroom. But it’s you and the students, and you shouldn’t expect someone to guide you in the lessons, or tell you how you should do things better. It is your task to observe the reactions of the students, and to find a way how to make them engaged and how to move forward with them. You shouldn’t rely on someone’s help in this case. However, if you face some problems with discipline in a classroom, or other issues, it’s good to have someone–an AP, head of a department, counselor, etc to talk to, to share ideas with…
- I’ve always been a lonely wolf. That’s why I am applying for a job of a lighthouse keeper. I like solitude, and waves and Moon are my best company. You can be sure I won’t be homesick or miss people in this job. I am not a misanthrope or anything similar. Just at this stage of my life and career I prefer to be on my own, and to work independently.
- Speaking honestly, I do not care. I see a meaningful purpose in this job, and I am highly motivated to try my best, to achieve the best possible results. I do not mind being in a team, and perhaps “infect” the others with my energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps it can help my colleagues achieve better results. But I am also alright about being on my own on the floor, responding for the entire store, trying my best with each customer…
You should not rely on your team to motivate you
You shouldn’t say that you need a team to stay motivated, that you need other people to encourage you in work daily. First and foremost, motivation we get from outside evaporates quickly. Unless you see a meaningful purpose in the work you do, or at least in some goals you pursue (and money you earn help you pursue them), you will struggle in work–whether working alone, or in a team.
You can point out other reasons for your preference to work in a team–getting feedback from your colleagues, having social interactions, being able to discuss your ideas with them in a real time, etc. See sample answer no.1 as a good example.
* 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 tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. 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!
Saying that you have no preference will almost always work
If you aren’t sure whether you’ll work alone or in a team, if it isn’t clear from the job description, you can always say that you have no preference.
Surely, you enjoy team work, you aren’t a misanthrope, you like being around other people, and perhaps you can even help your colleagues. At the same time, however, you do not mind being on your own, and do not need any form of social pressure or supervision to try your best in work.
See sample answers no. 2 or no. 7 for good examples.
If you apply for a job for a lonely wolf, you shouldn’t talk about teamwork
Geologist, lighthouse keeper, or even just a manager of a small store who doesn’t have any colleagues and responds for everything in the store. These are in a way jobs for lonely wolfs, or at least jobs in which you have to decide on your own, and cannot rely on any support from your team members.
Then you have jobs for engineers and scientists, people who need silence and high level of concentration in work. Each distraction is unwanted, and other people in the office are such distractions (two people argue about something loudly, someone is on a call with a customer, or a beautiful administrative assistant walks in front of you, and you start imagining all sorts of things, instead of focusing on your task, the problem you try to solve).
If you apply for any of these positions, you should say that you prefer to work independently, and are perfectly fine on your own. You can even cite it as one of the reasons why you applied for this particular job, and not for some other position… See sample answers no. 3 and no. 6 as a good example.
Ready to answer this one? Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Can you work under pressure?
- What does quality mean to you?
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