Interview Question: 'Describe Your Ideal Work Environment'

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Interviews are not only a way for the hiring manager to evaluate your skills and potential, but they are also a way to assess whether you’d be happy building your career with a specific company. You should spend time preparing for the interview and doing your research about the company. Reading up on common interview questions could also help uncover your preferences in the workplace.

One question that you could be asked is to describe your ideal work environment. This means that you’ll need to talk about which type of environment you thrive in and what best fits your personality.

Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide on how to answer this question:

The purpose

By asking you to describe your ideal working environment, the hiring manager is essentially interested in finding out two things. The first is to understand your potential in the workplace. Many employees get fed up and don’t perform when they don’t feel comfortable in the workplace, and this means turnover.

Turnover is costly for companies and hiring managers try to avoid it. This means that they are especially worried about your ability to adjust to the workplace which is why they never hire someone who they believe isn’t a good fit for the role or the company.

The second reason you’re asked this question is that the hiring manager wants to understand more about your personality to determine whether you’d be able to thrive in the workplace. Studies and research have shown that employees who are happy and motivated at work can perform better than those who are struggling in the environment. As such, through your answer they’ll try to uncover whether you’re the sort of individual who can excel in the type of environment they offer.

How to answer the question

To best describe your ideal working environment you need to make the answer fit your personal preferences, but you also need to ensure that your response reflects the existing work environment.

Some tips to improve your response include:

1. Showcase your personality

Your answer will help uncover aspects of your personality that might not have come up in the interview so far. So to answer this question effectively, you need to showcase any aspect of your character that could increase your employment opportunities. For example, if you are the type of person who likes taking initiative then you need to talk about that.

2. Take how the company is structured into account

Your answer should reflect the working environment of the business you’re interviewing with, so it’s important that you research the company thoroughly. For example, if they allow occasional remote working then the company probably values independence. If on the other hand, they are very strict about work hours, they probably value organisation and structure more than anything.

3. Focus on your vision for growth

Employers know that people who are interested in professional development are very hard-working and passionate about their jobs. To convince them that you’re the ideal candidate you should focus on your aspirations for the future and professional growth.

4. Talk about your teamwork skills

Collaboration is an essential skill in almost every business, so it’s important to talk about teamwork skills and how they relate to your ideal working environment. Your ideal working environment shouldn’t be a place where you don’t have to work with anyone, but a place where you can work with different people to produce the best results possible.

5. Align your ideal working environment with the company’s vision

To do this head over to the company’s website and read their mission statement. It will help you uncover what the company hopes to achieve and what it values which will give you a better understanding of the working environment. Make sure that your answer reflects their values and vision for the future.

6. Research the company’s work environment

You need to prepare for this question by researching the company’s current work environment. To do that you’ll need to go the extra mile. Don’t just stick to the company’s About Us page, but look for any contacts you may have within the company. Also, look at company reviews on websites like Glassdoor.

7. Ask the interviewer about the work environment

If you’re unable to find any information on the company’s work environment, there’s no harm in asking the interviewer about the company culture. You can then tailor your answer around their response, but make sure you don’t do it in a way that sounds like you’re trying to suck up to them.


The examples below can help inspire your response, so take a look:

  • “I don’t have a specific ideal work environment as I am very flexible. I can easily adjust to different environments without any issues. I understand that the environment here is fast-paced and I really enjoys that type of environment as it’s an ideal environment to be creative in and take initiative.”
  • “I enjoy workplaces where teamwork is important. I believe that it’s only in team driven work environments that people can be productive and perform to the best of their abilities. I really enjoyed reading your mission statement and finding out more about the value you place on collaboration. I think I’d fit right in with the team and be able to perform my ”
  • “I am a very flexible individual and I can perform and adjust to any type of work environment. But, I must admit that I thrive in work environments that are enterprising and encourage creativity and ”
  • “I believe that our industry calls for protocols and work routines and find myself most at home when working in a more conventional Having certain rules in place makes work go much smoother, and it lets you focus on the details as well.'

Mistakes to avoid

Not aligning your vision of the ideal workplace with the company’s current environment can hurt your chances of getting the job so it’s important to keep that in mind when creating your response, although you should also be careful about making it too obvious.

Some other mistakes you should avoid include:

1. Avoid discussing work hours

Sure we all love a flexible work schedule and occasional remote working, but that’s not what the interviewer is interested to hear. If anything, you should try to convince the interviewer of how eager you are to commit your time to the company.

2. Focus your answer on the company

Remember that an interview is all about convincing the hiring manager that you’re the right fit for the job and as such your answer should be more concerned with what you can do for them than the other way round. Avoid making the answer all about you and focus more on how your vision aligns with the company’s.

3. Don’t talk about negative work environments

It can be tempting to discuss what is not an ideal work environment, but it’s best to avoid doing that. By keeping your responses on the positive side of things, you are reinforcing the interviewer’s positive experience of you which can help increase your chances.

The key to answering this question effectively is to ensure that your vision aligns with the company’s existing environment. Do your research and tailor your response to reflect that type of environment in a not-too-obvious and natural way.

Have you ever been asked this question? How did you respond? Let me know in the comment section below.


This article was originally published in May 2015!