Job Interview Question: Teamwork vs. Individual Work

During a job interview, you will get asked several types of questions. The interview will most likely also ask you about your work style and whether you like to work in a team or as an individual. This question might catch you off guard, and therefore, it’s important that you prepare for it. Understanding how to answer and demonstrate your preference for teamwork or individual work is essential. It might even be the difference between getting the job or not.

Also, make sure you’re able to answer the most frequently asked job interview questions.

Why the interviewer is asking about if you like teamwork or individual work

Basically, the interviewer asks you this question to get more information on your personality and to find out whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts are people who enjoy quiet time and solitude. They tend to perform to their fullest when they are ‘left alone’ to focus on their tasks. Extroverts, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoy working with others on a team and are usually outgoing. They thrive on situations in which they can work together with others and are often energized by this too. You probably know which one you are, but in an interview, you have to make sure to give an answer that is related to the job position, if you want to stay in the race.

During a job interview, the interviewer actually wants to hear that you are comfortable in both situations. This is because every job will require individual work and probably teamwork, at least to some extent, as well. It’s not an issue if you have a personal preference towards one, but you should be able to demonstrate that both work for you. If you can highlight the advantages of each situation during a job interview, this will make you a better and more dynamic candidate for the position.

For interview questions that regard teamwork versus individual work, there are no right or wrong answers. Depending on the position you’re applying for, you can steer a bit more towards one. Remember, every job has different requirements, and some positions will require more independent work while others are focused on teamwork to get results.

Advantages and disadvantages of teamwork

Below a couple of advantages and disadvantages of teamwork are described.

Advantages of teamwork:

  1. Teamwork allows collaboration on projects in which multiple people put their efforts towards reaching a goal. Brainstorming, as a team leads to more ideas and productivity.
  2. Based on the creation of more ideas and increased productivity, a team will be more creative and more efficient in solving complex problems than individuals.
  3. A team that consists of different people with different backgrounds, skills, abilities, and experiences is unique. This leads to collaboration and new insights for other team members because they will see things from a different angle and through different lenses because of their team members.
  4. Teamwork leads to increased communication. Members of a team will get used to each other, built relationships, and over time, they will perform and communicate better.

Disadvantages of teamwork:

  1. A challenge that teams often face is that some team members are not willing to put the needed work in and let others do it for them. This can cause conflicts within the team, which in turn can affect the total team performance.
  2. Working with a team requires meetings and get-togethers to discuss, for instance, planning, progress, and deadlines. If meetings are not managed well, it influences the teams’ efficiency or off-topic discussions.
  3. When a decision needs to be made, this can take a longer time when this needs to be discussed with the whole team. Also, if needed, finding a consensus between team members could also delay a project.

Advantages and disadvantages of individual work

Below a couple of advantages and disadvantages of individual work are described.

Advantages of individual work:

  1. Working individually allows you to pace your own work because you do not depend on others to fulfill your job. It’s up to you to decide when you want to do what to finish your work.
  2. By working individually, you can concentrate better and also work faster. This is especially the case if you’re working on tasks that are familiar to you because there’s no one to disturb your day to day workflow.
  3. Individual work allows you to make your own decisions when needed, and you will get the credit for your accomplishments as well.

Disadvantages of individual work:

  1. You’re solely responsible for finishing your tasks. This works in case of success, but also in case of failure. If you fail, you’re to blame.
  2. There are no co-workers to motivate you in your work or track progress. You need to motivate yourself constantly.
  3. Working alone all the time could be boring, especially if there is nobody to discuss matters with.
  4. If you’re working on an individual assignment, this could have consequences if you’re away from work for whatever reason. Work won’t progress and could be delayed.

How to answer questions that regard teamwork vs. individual work

When you answer job interview questions that regard teamwork versus individual work make sure that you don’t exaggerate to the point of no return. This, for instance, means that if you show too much that you like to work independently, the interviewer might think that your teamwork abilities might not be there. This works for the other way around as well. Showing too much that you prefer teamwork might indicate to the interviewer that you might find it difficult to work alone or without direction from others.

Below we set out some example answers that you can use to structure your own:

Example 1 (valuing teamwork and individual work):

‘My five years of experience in different sales positions made me comfortable working within a team as well as working alone. A lot of sales meetings are one-on-one with clients which are good to discuss details discretely, but I definitely understand the value of teamwork too. Creative sessions within our sales teams really benefited my approach to sales strategy, setting targets, and general best practices.  Also, having a team behind you can create greater confidence among the team members because there’s always someone that can advise you in certain situations.’ 

Example 2 (valuing teamwork and individual work):

‘As a system administrator, I thrive best in a quiet environment where I can work on the issues I encounter daily. However, within our technical team, we do have weekly meetings in which we brainstorm about the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of the systems we use within our company. Within this team, everybody has there own expertise, which allows us to come up with creative solutions to make sure all technical aspects are covered.’

Example 3 (valuing teamwork and individual work):

‘Personally, I am comfortable working as part of a team as well as working individually. For me, this all depends on the situation I’m in. If the tasks require individual qualities to tackle an issue and it’s doable without the input of others, I’m happy to work on this alone. However, if the project requires different points of view and different disciplines, which is too much for an individual to handle, I enjoy working on team efforts as well. My experience in this field showed me that most projects are a combination of working individually and collaborating with co-workers to creatively work on the different elements involved.’

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic