Why are they asking?
The question sounds so considerate, like a hostess asking “Is it warm enough in here? Can I get you anything?” On an unconscious level you may have even felt a warm glow. “Aww, they actually care what kind of environment I prefer!”
But of course they’re not asking this so that they can accommodate your preferences once hired.
The “work environment” question is intended to find out two things:
- Whether their existing environment is one in which you will fit comfortably, perform well and stick around.
- Whether you’re generally reasonable and flexible in your expectations.
With that in mind, here are some tips for answering:
- Focus your answer on common, reasonable factors that will motivate you to do your best, like opportunities to collaborate, good communication with your manager, or a focus on customer satisfaction.
- If your research on the company has uncovered aspects of the work environment and culture that sound good to you, refer to those in your answer.
- Keep it positive; avoid saying anything about what doesn’t work for you, such as micromanagement or office politics.
- Keep it brief. An over-long answer may make it sound like you’re overly concerned about this.
- Above all, make it clear that you do not require ideal circumstances but can perform excellently under a wide range of conditions.
- End with an open-ended question, such as: “How does what I’ve said match up with the work environment here?” After all, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask it with a smile, implying that you’re confident there’s a good fit.
An interview question about your ideal work environment, like any interview question, is really about you. An authentic yet strategic answer helps assure the interviewer that you’re right for the job.