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How to determine your working style

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

When a prospective Employer asks about your working style, they seek to know how you will slot in to their existing environment. While hard skills, qualifications and experience will determine your ability to do the job, your preferred working style defines the environment in which you will thrive professionally; it illustrates to a hiring manager how you will interact with others, the time it takes you to finish a task and the route you take to get there.

When faced with this question in an interview, however, you may not have a clear answer. If you’re fresh from graduation, it’s hard to know what conditions you need to perform to your best ability. Even if you’re experienced, it may be the case that you’ve been made to work in a certain way for so long that you haven’t had a chance to consider the alternatives.

As intimidating as this question may be, it’s as important to you as it is to an Employer: after all, the last thing you need is to start in a role that requires you to work in a style that contradicts your ethic. Fortunately, there exist a few more tangible questions you can answer in order to find out your preferred working style:

What motivates you?

While the job description may have ticked all your boxes, the relationship you have with your boss will play a key role in determining your job satisfaction. If, for example, you prefer to take direction and receive clear guidance from your boss, entering a company that promotes a laissez-faire approach to management might mean more stress than you had originally anticipated.

If hands-on management is stifling to your productivity, on the other hand, you will usually benefit from a role that gives you the freedom to explore and find the best route. Deciding at the earliest stage what management style motivates you to do your best will help both you and your prospective Employer determine whether or not you will be a good fit for the job.

Do you prefer a solo mission or a team effort?

Working as part of a team is effectively unavoidable when you join a company: even the IT professionals who notoriously keep their heads down are working towards a shared business goal. That said, the nature of your role and the company culture will dictate how much autonomy you have in your work: if you’re a natural team-worker and love sharing ideas with those around you, a position that sees you working statically and taking full-ownership of a project may not be best-suited to your working style.

However, while collaboration is often hailed as a super-pill to business success, certain tasks really are best left to an individual to complete. If you prefer to keep your responsibilities to yourself and take full control of a project, it doesn’t mean you cannot work as part of a team – it simply means you are more productive when working alone.

How do you prefer to communicate?

Employees of all industries are often encouraged to either pick up the phone or meet face-to-face in order to prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings. However, this isn’t always beneficial: when we communicate face-to-face, emotion inevitably rears its head and controls the conversation to some degree. It’s no surprise that many Employees prefer to communicate via email, getting everything in writing to create a paper-trail they can refer back to at their convenience.

If you are direct in nature, prefer face-to-face interactions and can leave emotion at the door when asking for feedback or reporting on progress, you might find writing extensive emails filled with bullet-points and sub headers tedious and time-consuming.

How do you organise your time?

Working in a high-pressure environment isn’t for everyone. With a raft of deadlines fast-approaching on the horizon, the stress of tackling tasks on time can be overwhelming to some. Yet, to others, it’s this kind of atmosphere that promotes productivity. If a ticking clock is the spark that ignites your best work, you won’t feel out of place in a job that requires you to work to strict deadlines.

Of course, your prospective Employer won’t expect you to go into this much detail about your preferred working style. However, communicating the key elements will be essential in helping them to determine your suitability for the role.

If it so happens that they’re seeking someone who works differently to you, don’t be downhearted: if anything, you dodged a bullet. While you can always adapt your working style to suit the requirements of a role, your best work is born from an environment that promotes productivity by playing to your strengths.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.    

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