Do You Work Best as an Individual Contributor or as Part of a Group?

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One of the top interview questions that comes up is essentially- “Do you work better in a group or on your own-” and it is an important one to most hiring professionals because it says a lot about a candidate’s temperament- problem solving strategies- and preferences. Usually- it is asked in a carefully tailored form- like “Some people work best as part of a group — others prefer the role of individual contributor. How would you describe yourself?” but often it is delivered more directly.

You should not be surprised if you hear various interview questions along the lines of- “Do you value contributing to a discussion or completing your own project-” or “Are you more innovative when you collaborate or when you have time to brainstorm on your own?” Both variations stress different aspects of the question- and the phrasing pushes you to emphasize one component of the question over the other. The core question is the same- though- and the same strategies will work for any variation.

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How to Answer the ‘Some People Work Best as Part of a Group – Others Prefer the Role of Individual Contributor. How Would You Describe Yourself?’ Interview Question

Be Clear About Your Choice: Most of the time- the answer is less important than demonstrating how and why you gave it- because there are plenty of ways that group-oriented people can facilitate more individualistic contributors to a project- and there are plenty of ways that individualistic contributors can learn to support a group. If your prospective job is likely to favor one over the other- finding a way to match your style to the job is more likely to give you results than simply giving the answer you think they want to hear- so be prepared and explain your approach.

Match Your Answer to the Corporate Culture: There are a lot of different ways to perform both roles discussed in this and similar interview questions- and there are negative side effects to having an approach that is too one-sided. To find out what balance your prospective employer is looking for and how they expect people to navigate this divide- just look at their corporate identity and culture to see how both individualistic and group-oriented contributors are expected to fit into the real organizational needs and social structure of the company. That way- you have a better opportunity to turn the question so that it is focused on why you will do the job well- not just why you favor one approach over the other.

Show Flexibility and Firmness: Regardless of which way you lean- acknowledging the strengths of the other approach and showing your ability to interface with people who use it- so that both kinds of contribution are put together for the best result- is going to go a long way. There are some roles where one or the other approach is preferred- but if you match your approach to the job and you show that you understand the other points of view even when you do not necessarily subscribe to them- then you will also show the kind of flexibility that demonstrates your commitment to fitting in and working with everyone on your team to deliver the best results on each project. That shades in the choice and the reasoning behind it by supplying the interviewer with a demonstration of how your ideal approach works on the ground- in the workplace.

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Sample ‘Some People Work Best as Part of a Group – Others Prefer the Role of Individual Contributor. How Would You Describe Yourself?’ Interview Answers

1. I would say that my approach is more individual-oriented- but I know how to adapt that to team work fairly well. The key is to listen to what the group needs and then find ways to break down the tasks so that it is easy for the people who prefer to collaborate to handle the aspects that require that- while people like me can do more individualistic tasks that still support the overall project. I find that kind of adaptability works well when it is time to bridge the gap between the two approaches- so that way I can be an individual contributor who still works really well with groups.

2. My natural fit is to be a group contributor. I get my best ideas when I have other people to bounce things off- and the extra points-of-view also act like quality control. That way- I don’t run too far with ideas that really might not work- and my best ideas are even better once they are ready to go. That’s not to say that I don’t like to have my individual achievements- but I do better when I can stage them out with other people and get feedback.

If you remember to demonstrate how your approach fits into an overall team dynamic- your answer will stand out more for having more detailed information to give it context.

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