When you think about it, virtually every job requires its share of solo and group work. Even if the division of work styles is 90-10, it’s a rare job, indeed, that doesn’t require collaboration as well as the ability to work alone at some juncture. So why do prospective employers ask job candidates if they prefer working alone or in a group? Most likely, to test their ability to respond deftly to this thought-provoking question. Acknowledge the benefits of both work styles in a positive way and put yourself in great standing for a job offer.
Parse the job description for clues, paying particular attention to the responsibilities. Include some of those duties in your answer so that you can personalize your answer with precision.
Acknowledge that there are times when it’s best to work alone while at other times it’s preferable to work with a group. For example, you may see that the job description requires you to conduct weekly sales meetings and then write a report on the best ideas that were presented. In this case, you might say, “I think that brainstorming ideas is the greatest benefit that springs from group work. But I also like the idea of being ultimately responsible for the final product. I like being held accountable for my work.”
Elaborate on the rewards of both work styles. You might say, “Frankly, I enjoy the interaction and lively dynamic of group work. I think that the best ideas often result from brainstorming with other people. But I also respond well to the deadline pressure of solo work. Because I am self-motivated and disciplined, working alone is appealing to me as well.”
Draw a connection between the two work styles. At this point, you may wish to acknowledge that you are not trying to tap dance around an either-or answer but see a place for both styles in the workplace. For example, you might say, “I think a fully rounded professional excels in both venues and appreciates the importance of independent work that serves a greater team goal.”
Enumerate times that you have worked successfully both alone and in groups. Invoke telling examples from your work history to underscore the credibility of your previous statements.
Let honesty reign supreme. As much as you may want a particular job, bluffing your way through an interview question is ultimately self-defeating. Your work style and preferences will become clear in due time. This said, chances are that if you are applying for a particular job, your disposition and personality are well-suited to it in the first place.