Tell me about a time when you worked with a person who did things very differently than you. How did you collaborate?
This question has been answered 7 times by professional recruiters and hiring managers. View their answers below.
The interviewer wants to understand if you are a team player. These situations seem to happen often in the workplace since everyone's work style is a bit unique. Maybe you are organized, and you had to work with someone who is not organized. Perhaps you are a 'big picture' thinker, and you had to work with someone who micromanaged the details. Maybe you are a technology whiz, and you had to work with someone who likes to do things with paper and pen.
Start by discussing the project you were working on and the ways your work styles differed from each other. Explain how you came to a mutual consensus on how to conquer the project. Show the interviewer that you are capable of giving merit to different working styles, even if they do not match your own.
Admin answer example
"My coworker in HR had a completely different working style than me, even down to how we organized files. I made a list of the areas in which we conflicted, and sat together to understand each person's thought processes. We divided up tasks that would be better suited for one person to do (instead of both), compromised on some procedures, and powered through the rest by understanding each other."
Basic answer example
"My fellow administrator and I approach deadlines differently, and that is okay. I prefer mapping out the situation and putting myself on a timeline whereas she prefers to just jump right into the task. We have found a good balance of our two working styles after discussing our differences. On our last project, we agreed to split the tasks up and come together at the end of each day to put the pieces together. We have also agreed to keep the lines of communication open throughout the day. As different as we are from each other, we both agree that so long as we get to the end goal together, it doesn't always matter how we got there."
Manager answer example
"When I began my most recent role, I replaced a manager who very much believed in a dictatorship management style. It was a huge challenge to undo the damage created, while safely implementing my more relaxed management style. My team was so used to a stringent workplace that they resisted my methods significantly. Once trust developed, we were able to create a comfortable workplace culture."
Marketing answer example
"I recently worked with a peer that had a very different work style regarding how they organized and prioritized work. I approach work by scheduling meetings in advance and having a list of items to review to make the most of that time together. My peer was rarely prepared for the sessions, spent a great deal of time talking about personal items and operated in reaction mode to many situations. I took it upon myself to speak to that person about our different styles and come to an agreement how we could work best together. I am open to working with all types of people and welcome challenges with a smile!"
Retail answer example
"In a previous role, I was one of two shift leads, and we split the duties of an assistant manager. Since we were sharing the responsibility, we often had clashing opinions. By spending time writing out our main strengths, we were able to divvy up the work according to each other's strengths. This method solved the 'too many cooks in the kitchen' issue entirely."
Sales answer example
"When I started my current job, my direct boss did things very differently than I. She was great with closing deals but was a tornado heading into meetings. She was always in a state of scrambling, due to disorganization. It was hard to address with her since she was my superior, but one day over lunch we talked about how we each work and why, and how it impacts the other person. We were able to cordially brainstorm ways that our styles could complement each other in the workplace."
Teacher answer example
"One of my colleagues and I have opposite views on teaching. That said, we are often both tasked with working collaboratively to lead the direction our department will take. I work very hard to be respectful to her love of worksheets and homework while demonstrating the importance of movement and variety in the classroom. I used studies, as well as my own student's test scores, to show her how much they enjoy the class. Together, we came to an agreement on some of the basic ways we have to teach. These including putting a limit on the amount of desk work we assign per unit. By agreeing to this, I've agreed to include some worksheets, and she's confirmed she won't use too many. This compromise was a huge win for the department and, particularly, the students."