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I just returned from an interview that I felt I did sufficiently good, except for one thing that kind of bugged me:

Towards the end of the interview, the Manager says: "Well, since you're just two people working together, the most important thing is that you get along."

At that point I look at the other person, that I would be working with should I get the job. He's staring at me and I stare back, and I feel that both of us have this question hanging in between us: "Will we get along?".

You can't really decide on a first impression if you'll be able to get along with someone, can you? I'm not really a type of person you can easily fit into a category, like "hey, I've met someone like that before.", but I tend to get along with almost everyone.

Question: If "getting along" tends to be a non-issue for me, how should I have reacted to the manager saying this, given that the person I would be "getting along" with was sitting in the same room?

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Just to clarify, what is the situation with the interview? Was this person already hired? Are you already hired? Were you both going through the interview at the same time? If there's nothing that indicates to you anything about that other person, it would have been good to ask a few questions along those lines DURING the interview. –  Michael Lai Jun 18 at 1:10

4 Answers 4

An answer was expected. You could have said something like: "I don't see why that would be a problem; I get along pretty easily with almost everyone."

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Normally I am not a big fan of short answers like this, but in this case I dont think it really needs more of an explanation. Canned question, canned answer. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jun 16 at 21:13
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... and staring to the other person without saying anything shown that either of you may have a problem in this area. –  Peter Masiar Jun 16 at 23:54
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+1 And "look at the other person and smile as you say it" = success. Icy glare, shuffling avoidance = failure. –  mxyzplk Jun 17 at 13:03
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+1 Even just a light-hearted, "Well, you seem all right!" would have been better than saying nothing. –  starsplusplus Jun 17 at 23:38

I typically use this question/statement of "do you fit in?/can you work together?" to reiterate that I have worked with "difficult" people in the past, and that I have always felt that I was able to get along with anyone in a professional sense.

This is a great chance to discuss previous difficult employees and how you were able to get past differences and work together for the success of the company.

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Given that the exact person the candidate was supposed to get along with was in the room, it doesn't seem like a good move to explain how the candidate has been successful in dealing with difficult people ;-) –  Stephan Kolassa Jun 16 at 21:23
    
@StephanKolassa haha, that's a good point. I've never been in that situation, but were I, I would have been sure to specify that I'm sure the new coworker wouldn't be hard to get along with, just that I've dealt with difficult people in the past, and feel confident that I can deal with them now. –  Garrison Neely Jun 16 at 21:26
    
@GarrisonNeeley Good for you. I don't suffer fools gladly, and I can't stand incompetents and liars. As my favorite actor Clint Eastwood says "A man's got to know his limitations" :) –  Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 16 at 21:33

This is a really softball question. I mean, who is going to say "oh dear, I'm afraid I don't get along with other people at all" in an interview? An ideal answer:

  • agrees that getting along with the coworker is more important than technical skills, working environment preferences, and whatever else was discussed in the interview (which seems odd to me, but is what the interviewer said.)
  • states firmly that you're confident you will get along with the coworker
  • ideally, backs that up with something specific about the coworker (surely this person said something in the interview up to this point, or something was said about them)
  • in the absence of some trait in the coworker you can use as proof of your confidence in the getting along, provides a one or two sentence elaboration of your general get-along-itude.

Something like:

Yes, I think when you have a small team like [name] and I would be, being a true team and sharing the effort and knowledge is key to success. I know we could work together like that. We have a similar approach to [something coworker asked about] and our backgrounds complement each other well. [Name], if you'll backstop me on [something coworker is clearly good at] I have your back on [something you know you're great at and were asked a lot if you were good at, so you know they need it.]

or:

Yes, I think when you have a small team like [name] and I would be, being a true team and sharing the effort and knowledge is key to success. It's important on large teams too though it can be a challenge there with so many different workstyles and personalities. I've had great working rapport with [name three or four job titles, like "DBAs, sysadmins, testers, and other developers" or "plumbers, architects, landscapers and interior designers"] and with people who were very detail oriented and finicky all the way to free spirits who felt process was for everyone else. Getting along is important to me and I always find a way to do it.

Then smile - the interviewer has handed you an easy question and you haven't thrown it back at him because you can't predict if the guy next to you is someone you can get along with or not. Nor have you argued with the interviewer or corrected the question. In this way you're actually showing you can get along with people.

One other warning. Some interviewers may be reverse psyching you here. They might expect:

Sure, getting along is important, and I get along with just about everybody I've ever worked with, but the most important thing is [shipping software, making clients happy, contributing to the profits of the company, curing babies of cancer, building schools] and I never forget that. I enjoy my work a lot, which makes me easy to get along with. That said, my integrity won't let me gloss over shortcomings or problems even if discussing them can get a little uncomfortable. I'm not rigid and I don't always insist on building a Cadillac with a Kia budget, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that getting along can't always be the most important thing, even though it's something I'm really good at.

If you think you might ever need an answer like this, work on it in advance a little. It's easy to wander over the rails and look like that guy who doesn't care about budget and does what he wants because it's right, or holds up urgent fixes for days refusing to implement a workaround, or reports coworkers for spending too long in the bathroom. I'd rather take the question at face value myself. I'm just alerting you that the interviewer may not be saying what they appear to be saying.

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I think using the word Pinto might date you. –  HLGEM Jun 17 at 18:11
    
That could work –  HLGEM Jun 17 at 18:18
    
+1 for your warning. You cannot be all things to all people. "getting along" is important and you'll make the extra effort to do that. But "getting along" cannot be an end in itself, and there is a point at which you have to draw the line. –  Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 20 at 11:49

Simply shake your head in approval and say "Duly noted!" You're non-committal - The reality may turn out that there will be enough substantive differences between you and your colleague to keep a minor civil war going briskly, but in the absence of data, you'll cross that bridge if it comes to that. Keep sending out your resume, though. Fortunately, you'll usually find within less than a week from your start date whether you entered a spider's parlor.

And no, you came for an interview. You did not come for a fight. You came to work together with the interviewer on whether the interviewer should be making you an offer. You are not here to knock the interviewer on their butt, even with your superior intellect. If you have displeasure to express, you can express that displeasure effectively enough by turning down the job offer and stating explicitly why you are turning down that job offer.

Follow-up comment from @Vector "I don't know why this answer has been down-voted. The manager threw a curve-ball, perhaps even baiting - with such an answer you're fouling off the pitch. :) I don't think "Oh I get along fine with everyone" is a good answer - anyone with a brain and a mind of their own will not "get along well with everyone" - it's impossible. Saying that you do means you're either lying or you're spineless."

Their downvoting says more about them than about the answer

I learned long ago that the kind of person I get along with and the kind of person I DON'T get along with - this sends an unequivocal message about the kind of person I am and whether they can trust me and rely on me.

Follow-up comment from @JeffO to @Vector "Don't take the use of "everyone" so literally. And if the definition of getting along literally means 100% of the time, then none of us get along with anyone"

Until further notice, the word "everyone" means "everyone"

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