Describing in an Interview How You Get Along with Others

Barbara writes:
I do engineering design work (AutoCAD/3D) and I am not a college grad. I
recently had a phone interview for a position and one of the questions was
“do you get along with others..?” This is a subjective question and no one
really gets along with 100% of the people 100% of the time — that’s LIFE.
Why would this question be asked and how should one respond?

The Career Doctor responds:
You’re taking this very typical job-interview question a bit too hard. Of course
prospective employers do not expect you to answer this question by announcing
you love all people and have never had any problems working with anyone — even
the office screw-up. In fact what would stop even the biggest jerk from lying and
saying he gets along with everyone?
So why do employers ask it? Because so much work is now done in collaboration
with others — either within your department or in cross-functional teams — the employer
wants to get a sense of your ability to deal with others. Think back to grade school
where report cards had that statement “plays well with others.” The employer wants
assurance that you have decent social skills.
The best way to answer this question is to provide one or two short anecdotes that
demonstrate how well you work in teams. An even better answer shows how you
mediated disputes between other members of the teams. And always avoid any kind
of negatives.
Finally remember that the overall goal of any job interview is to sell yourself — your
unique mix of personality skills abilities and intangibles — to the employer. Your focus
should be providing every reason for the employer to make you a job offer (or at least
invite you to the next round of interviews).
You can find lots of great interviewing resources — including the Job Interview Question
Database — by visiting the Interviewing
section of Quintessential Careers.