Tough Interview Question - Would you rather work with information or with people?

Would you rather work with information or with people?

Similar interview questions:
Are you a people person?
Do you enjoy working with things or with people?
Would you rather be heads-down in the data or meeting with people all day?
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
Most jobs have a combination of three different elements: people, data and/or things. Different jobs have different levels of combination of these elements. So the interviewer is trying to understand your preferred balance. And trying to find out if you are unbalanced in your preference (especially in relation to the specific position for which you are interviewing).

The best approach to answering this question:
Although you may prefer one element over another, the reality is that most jobs require a balance of two or three elements. Most professional-level jobs are focused primarily on people and/or data. So while it's acceptable to state a preference for one over the other, the best answer provides an example of working with both (or all three) elements.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"My job is primarily focused on information, but there is also a strong people element to it. I have found that as I progress in my career, the emphasis has gradually moved away from information and toward people. There are quite a few people in my profession who are excellent in dealing with information, but lacking in dealing with people. It's important to excel at both. My recent promotion was due to my ability to work well with both information and people…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"My schoolwork has focused on the information element, yet my recent internship focused both on information and people. While most of schooling focuses on individual accomplishments, my internship focused on getting results as a part of the team. I'm equally comfortable working with either element and I have seen through my internship how the people element will continue to grow in importance as I move forward in my career…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Definitely information. Some of my co-workers even refer to me as a closet coder. You know, lock me in a closet and let me code. Occasionally slide some pizza under the door and I'm good. I don't deal well with interruptions and usually keep ear buds in with loud music so that people won't interrupt me during the day."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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