This question is usually meant to gauge your personality and to assess where you will fit into a team, because your answer will help them to see what you’re likely to do best with and what you might have a hard time adjusting to. While it’s important to say something meaningful, it’s also important to keep one eye on the job you’re interviewing for. Your ideal work environment doesn’t have to be the one you are trying to gain entry to, but it definitely needs to share some common elements with it.
Here are a few ways to spice up your answer so that you make sure your response fits the job you’re interviewing for.
Make sure that you describe the elements in the workplace that make it easier to do the job.
If possible, tie in the idea that this ideal is something you can build, a process or a goal that you have for places you work.
Discuss one or two aspects of the job you are interviewing for that are similar to the ideal you have.
Include some thought about why this ideal environment works, and who it works for, to give your interviewer an image of a place in motion instead of a personal preference.
As you work on your answer, try to revise out these missteps.
Don’t promote yourself to a new position. The question is about the environment, not your personal ambitions, but sometimes it’s easy to get confused or to have them overlap too much, and then the answer is unclear.
Avoid reflecting too much on past job experiences, because talking other employers up or down can be tricky.
Never compare-and-contrast workplaces to rank them, or to do anything else that sends the message that disparages past employers and coworkers.
The ideal work environment is about more than perks. Make sure you use this question to show your management solutions, not just your wish list.
Here’s one way through the question that emphasizes the relevant points.
My ideal environment would be one where employees have a great deal of leeway in their process and where communication is easy because it’s flexible, where employees are given multiple ways to reach out for help or to provide it. Mixing face-to-face meetings, conferences, a variety of electronic communication tools, and so on allows people to be more flexible and to work on the go, which makes them more productive by letting them have more control over their circumstances without sacrificing on support.
The key is to discuss how and why the ideal environment works.