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How to Answer “What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?”

By | Regina Borsellino |

Companies are looking for two key things in any candidate they’re interviewing for a job: the ability to do the work and the ability to thrive at the company. Interview questions like “What type of work environment do you prefer?” evaluate the latter.

“How long are they going to stick around? That’s the question,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Sukola. Employees whose preferences align with the company’s environment will be happier and, in turn, stay in the job longer and contribute more.

So answering the question is simple, right? Just tell the interviewer that your preferred environment matches up perfectly with the company’s environment. Not so fast. While your answer should take the company’s culture into account, it should also be truthful to who you are. “This is your interview, too,” Sukola says.

“I encourage candidates to remember that this is the environment that they are going to be spending most of their waking hours in, so the only ‘right’ answer is the one that is honest and authentic for them,” says career coach Jennifer Fink, CEO and founder of Fink Development.

Read on for detailed advice on answering interview questions about your preferred or ideal work environment—with sample answers included!

What is a “work environment” anyway?

You may think of your work environment simply as the physical location where you do work, but it’s much more. You may have also heard more about work environments in a negative light—like through mentions of toxic work environments. But work environments encompass a lot of things, Sukola says—and they’re far more nuanced than just “toxic” or “not toxic.”

Defining your preferred work environment might include obvious factors like what the office layout looks like (offices vs. cubicles vs. an open plan); whether it tends to be quiet or noisy; and if you work remotely, in an office, or some hybrid of the two.

But it also includes things like: Is most of your work collaborative or solo? How structured is your workday? Is it important that you’re working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or are things more laid-back as long as you get your work done? How much do coworkers socialize (and how and when)? How much interaction do you have with your superiors? Is the office dog- or cat-friendly? Is your job description strictly enforced or are you encouraged to pursue projects that interest you and to collaborate with other departments? Are there opportunities to work remotely?

If you work remotely, there are other considerations: Are there chances to see your coworkers in person? Is the whole team or company remote, or are you the only one? How strict is the oversight for when and how you get work done? How often are you expected to check in with your manager or other teammates? Does your team ever socialize remotely?

So when you’re answering this question, don’t just talk about where you want your desk to be. Talk about what you need and want in a workplace and company culture to do your best work. Here’s how to unpack this even more: 

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