Can you work on a project independently?

How do I answer this interview question, "Can you work on a project alone from scratch without any team help?"

This can be a tricky job interview question to answer…

This question is only asked to people who are in upper management with at-least 5–8 years of industry experience, however exceptions are always there when HR team might want to check how do you handle a tight situation.

Although there is no explicitly correct answer, different approaches may be more appropriate for different scenarios. Different situations in the workplace may require independence while others will need the efforts of an entire team.

Here are some pointers on how to answer the question: “Would you rather work on a team or alone?”

If you answer: “Work alone from scratch without any team help.”
  • By picking this option, you imagine that your boss-to-be is thinking that you’ll be concealed in your office, unfriendly and unwilling to participate with your fellow colleagues.
  • By opting for this choice, you might think that you are sending a message that you don’t like people and would prefer to work alone.
  • On the flip side, you might answer this way to show that you can self-manage and get the job done without a lot of hand-holding or support.
If you answer: “Prefer working with team.”
  • Quite obvious, everyone knows, “collaboration is a key part of a successful team.” Your immediate reporting manager or your superiors or your hiring manager would never expect someone who is going to be obstreperous during team-meetings.
  • On the flip side, the hiring manager may elucidate this as a sign that you need other people’s input, advice, and that you wouldn’t be able to succeed working independently, which might be a red flag for the hiring manager.
However, you should take caution in exaggerating your abilities to work independently or in a group, as this may backfire. Showing too much independence may concern employers about your ability to work well with others. Likewise, leaning too heavily toward working in a group may indicate too much reliance on others to provide you with direction and/or to carry the load.

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How you should answer:

Point out the positives of both.
The question of whether you prefer to work on a team or alone is really used to determine if you’re an extrovert or an introvert—and how that personality type might potentially affect your work performance in a remote work environment.

One good way to answer this question is to incorporate the positive aspects of both options. You can say something like, “I enjoy both. I can work both on a team, and work alone. Depending on the project that needs to be done, I can work independently to complete my tasks on time, but I also enjoy brainstorming and collaborating with my colleagues.” That way, your potential boss realizes that you like a team environment, but you can also work independently as well.

Few Examples of Good Answers:

  • “As a graphic designer, I work best in a quiet, isolated environment when I’m actually at the drawing board. However, prior to actually beginning work on a project, I find I get my best creative ideas when brainstorming and collaboratively bouncing ideas off of other members on the design team.
  • “Working in sales has strengthened my abilities to work both alone and with others. I am comfortable engaging with a customer face to face, but I also believe in the benefit of sitting and brainstorming with coworkers about best practices, sales goals, lessons learned, and alternative approaches. Additionally, having a team behind me gives me confidence that if I come across something I am unsure of while working alone, I have the resources to consult someone who can educate or help me.”
  • “I am equally comfortable working as a member of a team and independently. While researching about XYZ company, mission statement, and the job description, I could see similarities to previous positions that I have held where some assignments required a great deal of independent work and research, while others were better completed as a group. I truly enjoy the variety of being able to work by myself on some projects and on a team at other times.”

If you come across this question during your job interview, keep in mind that you don’t have to choose one option over another. If you illustrate the benefits of both working alone and on a team, your boss will see that you are a versatile job candidate who would be a great addition to his company.