Companies want someone that doesn't just get the work done quickly; they want to be certain that it's done well. Quality is almost always more important than quantity, so they're asking this question to find out how much importance you place on doing a good job rather than just putting in your hours and heading home.
It might seem like a straightforward question, but the interviewer is trying to understand if you are:
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1. An Independent or Collaborative Worker
The best teams are made up of people that can collaborate on all projects, but who can stand on their own two feet as well. If you are a collaborative person that depends on others, don't be afraid to highlight that as an asset. If you are very independent and prefer to work alone, don't hesitate to add, "but I am very open to feedback and input as I work".
2. Easy for Bosses to Work with
The question has been asked to determine if you are easy for those above you to work with. If you prefer your boss to be hands-off, say "I like working with bosses that tell me what to do and let me run with it." If you need interaction with your boss, emphasise that you "like to give your boss regular updates to keep him in the loop of my progress".
If you're a go-getter, you may end up stepping on the toes of those around you. Highlight your willingness to help achieve success as a team, rather than your desire for personal accomplishment.
3. Open to Various Methods of Communication
Some companies prefer written memos for internal communication, while others prefer phone calls, emails, or even meetings. You want to stress the fact that you are good at streamlining your communication, while also adding a personal touch that makes it easy for your coworkers to interact with you.
4. Willing to Work the Hours Required
Some people work very well in the morning, so they arrive early and prefer to leave early. Others prefer to arrive late and leave a bit later in the afternoon. All the interviewer wants to know is if you are willing to put in the hours to be successful. You can tell them how many hours you work per day, but make sure to mention something like"I'll stay as late as I have to in order to complete the task".
5. A Planner
Some people excel at their work because they prepare and plan the night before, while others arrive at the office and take a while to jumpstart their work day. A great way to answer this question is: "I always start the day with the most important tasks, and I make sure that my next day is planned before I go home at night." It will leave the interviewer satisfied that you are a productive individual that knows exactly what they're going to accomplish every day.
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Don't forget to tailor your response to the job you are applying for. If you are processing data, why would you talk about your creative work style? Make sure that your response fits both the work you're doing and the company where you want to work.
Make sure to highlight the aspects of your work style that show just how amazingly productive you are!
Have you ever been asked this question in an interview? What answer did you give? Let us know in the comments section below…
This article was originally published in April 2014.