Interviewers throw this out to sort employees. Very rarely is one response actually preferred, because people with different styles do well in different roles, but if you have an extreme preference one way or the other that might be an issue. It might also be an asset, so understanding the culture of a prospective employer is essential before you can put together a clear answer to this question. Once you have your research in hand, though, there are a few tactics that really help your answer to pop.
Points to Emphasize
As you plan your answer, these points can help call attention to important aspects of your answer.
- Whichever way you go, discuss how it helps to fit your style and make you more productive in measurable ways.
- Advocate for your choice, to show how pushing things just a little more that way can help organizations with a mixed approach.
- If possible, tie in the roles or situations that make one preferable to the other, to demonstrate flexibility.
- Measure your response, and try to keep things specific, so that you are using clear examples.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This is a question where there are a few ways you might accidentally misstep. Prepare your answer well in advance so you can edit it extensively for these features.
- Don't disparage one choice as you explain the other.
- Remember not to assume that you know the preference of the interviewer, even if you know the culture of that particular workplace.
- Respecting both choices is different from refusing to choose, so don't let your answer equivocate.
- As with many other behavioral interview questions, focusing too much on the personal pulls focus away from your fit in the workplace.
Here's one way to approach the answer with a sense of balance and proportion.
I'm really motivated by entrepreneurial workplaces, but it's been my experience that they do not work well for everyone. I think it's important to support everyone, so when an entrepreneurial workplace has a clear program for mentorship or a great training and professional development program to shape that focus and that drive to succeed, it really works well.
This answer is clear and works well because there's a clear judgment about how much structure you need to balance out the entrepreneurial environment, but there's no actual negative statement about either more or less free-form environments. This allows the listener to focus on the positive aspects of the scenario in front of them, ensuring that they get the right take-away from your answer.