This is a probing question designed to find out how you function within the workplace, specifically working with other people. Presenting a long list of personal irritants might give the impression that you're not always able to block out distractions, or that you'll have difficulty working with certain types of people.
Discussing pet peeves which are more work-related can help produce more grounded responses, showing that you're focused on the job. Make it clear that the only quirks which you take notice of are those which take away from the task at hand.
Points to Emphasize
Even though you're talking about behaviors which get on your nerves, keep a generally positive tone with your response:
- Think of work-related pet peeves, such as co-workers cutting corners.
- Consider highlighting actions you might take to curb problems rather than ignoring them.
- Maintain a sense of humor while responding honestly to display patience and understanding.
- Keep a constructive outlook overall—talk about making progress and finding resolutions.
You'll probably have plenty more pet peeves in reality, but a focused answer is better than a comprehensive one in this case.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
It's easy to get carried away when venting about things that bother you, but don't lose sight of why you're being asked this question.
- Avoid taking a negative tone, rolling your eyes, voicing exasperation, etc.
- Try to suggest pet peeves which are resolvable. Listing off problems without solutions isn't a highly productive behavior.
- Don't get into specifics about particular people or situations—the question is general in nature.
- Stay focused on work matters. Even if messy microwaves and empty coffee pots send you up the walls, it's not necessarily interview material.
Don't get hung up on petty problems. Talking about how you can't stand co-workers who cover their desks with pictures of their pets shows you're focused on the wrong priorities at work.
Once again, make sure your response is even and good humored—keep it light and positive and shoot for constructive ideas:
Honestly, I try to keep focused on work, so the only real pet peeves which bother me are when people cut corners. It's a little frustrating when people don't fill out forms properly, for example, because it usually requires someone from our department to chase down the missing information, which costs everyone extra time. Weekly or monthly reminders and e-mail bulletins definitely can help stem those kinds of issues, though—you just have to be diligent.
This is a good example which answers the question directly, keeps the focus on work, and also touches on possible solutions for good measure.