This query could fairly be described as a trick question. It attempts to force you to choose one from a pair of admittedly important characteristics. How you respond will depend on your qualifications and the job's specific duties, but be careful not to pigeonhole yourself with your answer.
The hiring manager is asking this to find out something about your values and priorities, and to see how you respond when given a challenging task. If you can finesse a polished yet substantive answer, you'll present yourself as confident and able to think on your feet as well as qualified for the position.
Points to Emphasize
No matter what question you're asked, the interviewer's goal is to learn about you. This isn't really a question about creativity or efficiency, but about how you will perform if hired.
- Remember that each of these qualities is important in different situations.
- Interweave specific information about how one or both of these traits have contributed to success in your career.
- Frame your response around the expectations of the position you're seeking. Discuss these traits in terms of how they're important to this job.
- If you are stronger in one of these qualities, emphasize it.
Choose a response that addresses the question while shedding the best light on your skills and how they fit the position.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
This question is designed to challenge you, and there are a number of possible pitfalls associated with it.
- Don't assume that you must choose only one response.
- Try not to appear wish-washy. Tie your response to specific situations and back it up with reasoning.
- Be careful not to portray yourself as completely lacking in one characteristic or the other.
- Don't attempt to answer this question without knowing something about the company's mission and values. Your response should align with them.
Give an answer that shows the hiring manager that you know when to tap into each of these traits but that you're capable of utilizing them both.
A solid answer to this type of question should go something like this:
I've found in my experience that each of these traits is essential in different situations, and that at times, one leads to the other. When my company was facing efficiency challenges, my ability to contribute to creative solution strategies ultimately helped to solve some critical problems. Efficiency is a necessity when working under deadlines or following through on promises of product delivery, but I know that my strong creative side allows me to see problems from angles that are sometimes missed by others."
This response offers a balanced assessment of the question while informing the interviewer of the candidate's merit.