Part of the reason that a hiring manager might ask you to make this choice is to see how you would fit into different roles within a team, and to gauge how strong that preference is. It's perfectly fine to mention not having a strong preference as you answer, as long as you move past it to engage with the topic at hand. It's also important to make sure that if your preference is strong, it's not too strongly worded, because that can make hiring managers worry about inflexibility.
Points to Emphasize
To get the most out of this question, acknowledge it's a hypothetical and build from there.
- Highlight those skills or traits that make you the best choice for your preference.
- Discuss how you work with people of the other orientation to show how you can build synergy within a team.
- Be aware of the relationship between the big-picture and detail work, and mention it in some way.
- If you have filled both roles, discuss how you learned more about your preference from doing so.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Here are a few areas where it's easy to lose track of the main goals behind asking the question.
- Never refuse the premise. You were asked to make a choice, so you should make it, even if you want to say it's not a strong preference.
- Similarly, you can't lose sight of the fact that both approaches are necessary to solve many problems, so you don't want to use language that undermines or dismisses the other side.
- Remember that advocating and using elevated language are different. Advocating involves using evidence and measurable improvements, and it usually goes further than forceful wording.
- Make sure your answer doesn't miss out on tying your explanation to the current role. If you say you're a big-picture person and you're applying for a highly detail-oriented position, you'll need a good explanation for your choice.
Here's one way to handle this kind of interview question.
Normally, I'd like to say I'm flexible because I'm a long-term planner who still likes to get hands-on with a project. Given the choice, though, I really am stronger with the big picture, because the way different roles come together is just a thing I naturally see. This makes it easy to know when people will need to be available for each other and to help manage processes to get that timing right. Even when I'm on an individual task, my focus tends to be part way focused on how it will come together at the end.