It happens in every interview: the dreaded “what would be your ideal working environment” question. You’re often stumped because you don’t know exactly what they’re looking for in an answer.
When asked this tough question, you may think that they’re wanting you to describe exactly what the job is that you applied for, but that isn’t always the case. With this query, they’re really trying to assess your personality. Just like you have different characteristics that build your persona, so does the company that you’re applying with. The interviewer asks this question to make sure that both of your temperaments would mesh together in harmony.
Points to Emphasize
Giving a response to this seemingly loaded question involves a deeper look into you and your various traits, particularly your positive ones.
- Before answering, take into account how their company is structured in terms of work days, formality, small start-up vs. large corporation, etc.
- Focus on wanting an environment that allows for the use and growth of your established skills and qualities.
- Highlight your desire to work in a team-oriented workplace.
- Talk about your work-style and try to word your answer so that it blends in well with the company’s vision.
Overall, interviewers are looking for an honest and confident response. Telling the truth about your ideal working environment is preferred, but make sure that you give an answer that has been pondered upon and is well-worded before jumping the gun.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Every interview question has a pitfall or two. Avoid them by eluding the following mistakes:
- Don’t talk about how your ideal workplace is one with lots of vacation time and flexible hours.
- Do not focus your answer purely on the people you will be working with.
- Try not to stray from the actual company and its workings by making it all about you when you respond.
- Don’t essentially read off the job description or company’s “about us” page.
One of the greatest mistakes that you can make when faced with this question is not making it personal to you and then becoming forgettable.
A great way to answer a question about an ideal work environment would go something like this:
My ideal work environment is one that is centered around working as a team and that allows everyone’s talents to flourish. When I was researching your company, your desire to cultivate each of your employees’ skills was very impressive to me. I find that I work best in an environment that is empowering and positive, no matter what the work is that I’m doing.
Remember, just as with any interview question, to be yourself.
Popular Interview Questions
How to answer the job interview question: ‘What is your ideal company?’
Hint: Give an answer that aligns your ideal workplace with the employer you’re talking to.
It's important to find the right culture fit.
When a job interviewer asks, “What is your ideal company?” you may think to yourself, “Hmm, one that pays six figures, offers unlimited vacation, and has a four-day workweek.”
But while that may be your fantasy, you need to remember that the hiring manager is looking for an answer that’s more grounded in reality.
“They are interested in finding a match for the position and the company,” says Michele Jennae, executive career coach and owner of Perpetual Career Management in Sacramento, California. “A match doesn’t just consist of qualifications, but motivation, attitude, potential, culture, and more.”
These suggestions can help you find a way to describe your ideal company and provide an answer that will impress your interviewer.
To avoid giving a canned, predictable response, you need to know what you really want in a workplace—and understand that isn’t the same as what others may want.
“Think about what an ideal company really does look like for you,” says John J. Brady, executive director of Protem Partners in Philadelphia. “When you know what it looks like, you can answer truthfully, which will also come across more convincingly.”
You need to have a clear idea of the type of environment that enables you to do your best work, says Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University. “Do you work best in a collaborative team, or is a solo practitioner more your style? Do you like fast-paced, innovative environments or more hierarchical if-it-isn't-broke-don’t-fix-it ones? Be clear about how these elements enable your top performance.”
You say: “My ideal company is one that values individual employees and encourages them to speak up and share ideas, but that also has a commitment to sustainability”
Giving an answer based on how your own values overlap with the company’s values is key to positioning yourself well, Jennae says. And here’s where doing your homework on the company pays off. “Use a specific value or two that resonated with you and provide direct evidence as to why it represents your ideal,” she says. This shows both alignment and preparation.
You say: “I know sustainability is part of your mission and something you consider in every project the company undertakes.”
Focus on what you can offer
Your ideal company should help make you an ideal employee—and you want to show that.
“A response that focuses exclusively on perks and benefits to employees probably won’t go over very well,” Brady notes. “It suggests you’re only interested in what you get, rather than what you contribute to the corporate community.”
Your answer should show you’ve researched the company and the challenges it faces, Jennae says. In your ideal company, you will be part of the solution to those problems.
You say: “My ideal company would present exciting challenges that allow me to use my interest in and experience with growing sustainability efforts, and I see how my experience developing metrics could be useful here to propel the business forward”
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