Job Interview Question: What Would Your Coworkers Say About You?

By Sean Haggard | November 1

The majority of job interviews are based on what you say about yourself—what are your skills, how do you describe your work ethic, why do you want this job, etc. Besides contacting your former supervisor and coworkers, which usually comes during the reference check stage of the hiring process, the only other way the interviewer can obtain an idea of what other people say about you is to ask you.

One of the most common job interview questions is “what would your coworkers say about you?

(variations: “how would your coworkers describe you?” “what would your former coworkers say about you?” “how would your former coworkers describe you?”)

Why This Job Interview Question Is Asked

The question “what would your coworkers say about you?” is asked to assess your relationships with coworkers and your role within a functional team. Whereas other questions evaluate your fit with the required job duties, this job interview question targets your fit within the team structure. It centers on your personality and human qualities instead of your behaviors.

If you are asked this job interview question by a manager…

If you are asked this question by a manager, the manager wants to know how you will play well with others, handle conflicts (but not cause them), and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the team. He wants to know you are someone who will mesh well with the existing team dynamics, someone who can solve minor conflicts and problems without running to his office every ten minutes, and someone who will work and will even pick up other people’s slack when they are not working. If you know of a problem that the existing team is having (needs training in X, needs to be more productive with Y, needs to learn how to get along when Z happens), see if you have a way to solve that problem. The manager secretly wants you to be the answer to his problems, even if it’s not part of your job description.

If you are asked this job interview question by future coworkers…

On the other hand, if you are asked, “what would your coworkers say about you?” by your future coworkers, they have different objectives. They want to know about your day-to-day attitude and work ethic, your ability to get along and be a work friend, and whether you are going to leave them stuck with all the work you don’t do. They want someone who can lighten the mood with an occasional joke or chat a bit to make the day go by faster. Under most circumstances they absolutely do not want someone who is going to come in and pretend he knows it all, even if you do. The teams that are functioning as a cohesive unit now will likely be wary that you will disrupt their solidarity. The teams that are dysfunctional now will worry that you will add to the drama. Consequently your goal is to reduce their apprehension by proving how you will fit in.

Giving the Best Job Interview Answer

Due to varying goals, the answer you give to “what would your coworkers say about you?” ultimately depends on who is in the room. Here are two situations and the best job interview answers for each:

The best job interview answer when your future coworkers are in the room…

Here are some of the qualities your future coworkers might expect to see:

  • Dependable
  • Trustworthy
  • Hard-working
  • Sense of humor
  • Easy-going
  • Considerate
  • Positive

To answer, “What would your coworkers say about you?” you might say that…

  • You are willing to help out whenever needed—and that you frequently offer assistance before it’s requested
  • You like to build strong relationships with your teammates because you’ll be spending eight hours a day with them for many years to come.
  • You like to have fun with it’s appropriate, and you know how to laugh to keep morale high and tension low.
  • You are good at ________ (bringing in doughnuts on Fridays, fixing the copier when it jams, reviewing reports for pesky grammatical errors, etc.)—mention something that people can relate to and that helps them to visualize you in the workplace.

The best job interview answer when you are alone with the manager…

Whereas your future coworkers are judging you by how well you will fit into their team, your future manager is assessing how well you will fit into the organizational unit. Here are some of the qualities your future manager might expect to see:

  • Dependable
  • Efficient
  • Hard-working
  • Great energy
  • Dedicated
  • Organized
  • Positive
  • Punctual
  • Reliable

To answer, “What would your coworkers say about you?” you might say that…

  • You are a team player who isn’t afraid to help out to get the job done, whether it is part of your job description or not.
  • You act as a situational leader for the team when there is a conflict or a non-critical decision to be made.
  • You like to have fun and build up team morale because you know that positive-minded employees tend to be more productive.

Bonus Tip for “What Would Your Coworkers Say About You?”

Instead of just imagining what your coworkers or former coworkers would say about you, wouldn’t it be more impressive (and easier) if you already knew? This job interview question provides a great opportunity to pull out a testimonial.

“My former teammate at ABC Co, Mary Randall, always said that I could make even a room full of lawyers smile.”

“My counterpart in Accounting nominated me for a star employee award because he said I was the only person in the company who tried to make his job easier.”

“My coworker John always said he was impressed with how organized and professional I am. In fact, he even volunteered to write a letter of recommendation in which he shares a few more insights about me.” [pull out letter of recommendation]

Testimonials lend extra weight and authority to your answer. You are not just making up what other people would say about you; you are using real people and their own words. Requesting testimonials beforehand can save you some stress (you know how people feel about you) and save you some time (you don’t have to prepare extensive explanations when you have someone vouching for you).

When you are asked, “what would your coworkers say about you?” just demonstrate the type of person others think you are. While an inadequate answer shouldn’t devastate your job opportunities, a well-prepared response can mean the difference between coming in second and being hired.

What other job interview questions should you prepare for?

“What would your coworkers say about you?” is just one of the many questions you may encounter during your job interview. To prepare fully, check out this list of 75 common interview questions.