Have you ever thought about your ideal work environment? What would it look like? How would it feel? Who would surround you, and what would the vibe be? These are all factors you should be thinking about before taking a job. It's also a question that may come up in the job interview — and you should be prepared to answer it thoughtfully.
Here are some of the qualities you should research about the company for which you are interviewing before answering the question, "What is your ideal work environment?"
First things first, you'll want to figure out what the work-life balance situation is — and how it works or does not work for you, in particular. In other words, does your employer value your time off — your vacation days, your weekends, your evenings after work hours, etc.? Are you going to be able to tend to your family and personal obligations while managing your workload? Are you allowed to take personal days if you need them?
Of course, you are not going to want to ask a bunch of questions about how much time you can take off during your interview. After all, you don't want your first impression to be focused on how much you can not work rather than how much you can work. But knowing a bit about the work-life balance from checking out reviews on job boards like Fairygodboss or talking to people who already work there. The key is to do your research!
Studies show that flexible working conditions are a key benefit for employees. Many people prefer to have a choice to work from home (or remotely) rather than always having to go into the office. That said, other people much prefer to go into the office where they feel more productive with less distractions from home. Which do you prefer, and does your company allow you to do it?
Again, it's important to do your research about the company's policy on flexible working conditions. This way, if the interviewers asks you what kind of work environment you like, you can let them know your ideal working conditions that ideally align with the working conditions they offer.
Does the office have an open floor plan? Are you going to be working in cubicles? Do you have your own office? Are the department teams mixed together or separated by teams? Do you have a preference for any of it — and what's the environment like at this company for which you are interviewing? While this may not be something you're able to figure out ahead of the interview, you'll certainly get a feel for it right away if you are meeting in the office. If you are meeting over the phone or via video call, it is certainly a question you can ask.
After all, you may be someone who likes to work with others in an open space. Or you may prefer to work on your own, only really engaging with others during meetings and when necessary. Knowing yourself and knowing what the company has to offer can help you answer the question, "What's your ideal work environment?"
Managers comes in all shapes and sizes. Do you prefer to work with a manager who spells it all out for you and constantly checks in to make sure you're hitting your goals? Or do you prefer to work with a manager who gives you a little more creativity authority and keeps an open door policy so you can turn to them whenever you want and/or need.
In the same vein, what is the hierarchal structure? Do you prefer to work for a place that rewards seniority or innovative ideas? Perhaps it's a hybrid of the two.
What kinds of benefits does the company offer? Are there professional development or learning opportunities available to you? Can you enroll in programs with the company, or will the company help cover some of your tuition to pursue graduate school? One way to find out these things is by talking to people who work at the company. You can find out what sorts of programs in which they are involved. You should also scope out the company's social media pages, if there are any, to get a sense of what their community looks like. Most people (and companies) share their highlight reels on social media, so you will be able to see what types of programs and initiatives in which the company takes the most pride.
Here are some tips to best answer questions pertaining to your ideal work environment.
Don't lie just because you think the company wants to hear a certain answer. Be honest with your response. Take a look around and, having done your research, name things about the company's environment that you genuinely enjoy. But don't set yourself up for disaster by lying. After all, if the company really wants you, you never know how they may be willing to accommodate you.
Don't be vague with your response. It's okay to be specific about what you like. Knowing what you like and in what environment you work best shows that you know yourself well, after all. And someone who knows themself is confident, which is certainly attractive to hiring managers.
If you know what you want, like the possibility to work remote, and you know the company doesn't generally offer it but can, be intentional with how you phrase your response. Again, you never know how they may be willing to accommodate you if they like you enough.
Don't go rattling off a whole list of specifics you need to have in order to be productive and to do your job well. The last person someone wants to hire is someone who seems difficult to appease. So be honest, but keep it short, sweet, and to the point!
Try to stick to things that you know, from your research, the company can offer you. If, for example, you notice that the company has an open floor plan and a lot of intermixing of teams, you will want to mention if this is the type of environment that you love.
Here are five things you should never say when you are answering the question, "What is your ideal work environment?"
If you don't love the company's office structure, you don't need to work there. Remember, interviews are two-way streets. So you are there to assess the company just as much as they are there to assess you. If you don't think the cubicle life is for you, that is totally fair and fine. You can admit it, but you don't need to badmouth it.
Unless a company culture absolutely needs to be called out for being discriminatory in some way, you don't have to go into the specifics about why you don't want to work for them. If you don't think the people are your people, so be it. There's no need to badmouth anyone just because you don't see yourself working with this team. You never want to burn bridges. If you don't think there's a good culture fit for you, that is totally okay. But no need to go on about it.
As mentioned earlier, honesty is always the best policy. If you say that you prefer working on teams just to seem like a team player, but you actually work better independently, your new boss might put you in more team situations. And then you might not do the best possible job. And then you might lose it. So keep it honest, always.
When in doubt, keep it as neutral as possible. You don't want to come across like you're uneasy to please. You want to come across like someone who is adaptable and flexible — someone who can excel in any environment because they are willing to accept a challenge.
At the end of the day, never say never to yourself. Always go for what you want. If you think you have a crazy requirement but it's a hard necessity, feel free to say it. You'll never get what you don't ask for.
Here are five sample answers to the common interview question about your ideal work environment for your reference.
"My ideal work environment is one in which I am able to work as part of a diverse team to learn and grow my skills. As I've learned from researching the company, this team is committed to amplifying each other's voices and leveraging each individual's unique strengths. I've found that I thrive in these types of environments where I can utilize my skills, while still having a support system to grow together."
"From what I understand given my research into the company, your team seems to be very competitive in a healthy way. I've noticed that, year after year, you continue to achieve awards and accolades. This kind of work environment inspires me because I am a competitive person by nature. I love to work in environments where I am challenged and pushed outside my comfort zone to come up with innovative ideas and think outside of the box."
"I work best independently, where I can work devoid of distractions and prioritize my day-to-day tasks in a productive, efficient way. That said, I love being part of a collaborative team all working together toward one shared vision. That's why I prefer to keep an open-door policy to maintain open and honest communication that goes both ways."
"From the research I have done on your company, it seems like you have a very collaborative work environment — from the open floor plan to the open-door policy with leaders. I appreciate that anyone of any level has access to the leaders of this company — and that everyone's ideas are encouraged and shared. I know I would thrive in an environment where I feel supported, respected, and engaged in these ways."
"I am interested in gaining experience in a fast-paced, start-up style work environment to really put what I've learned to the test. I am looking to take the knowledge I've gained and put it into practice by supporting someone who has the passion, time, and willingness to work one on one with me for a truly immersive experience."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
© 2022 Fairygodboss