how to answer

How to answer the job interview question: ‘How do you handle working with people who annoy you?’

Get this job interview question right, and maybe you’ll find yourself in a new job with less annoying coworkers.

How to answer the job interview question: ‘How do you handle working with people who annoy you?’

It may sound like a question from an online dating profile, but when job interviewers ask what irritates you about others, they’re trying to assess how you will get along with your colleagues and clients, and how your personality will fit in with the company culture.

“This is not a trick question,” says Stephen Gibson, a director and hiring manager at San Francisco-based JotForm, a company that creates customizable online forms. “They’re trying to determine first if you’re easily irritated and second if you’re irritated by the habits of their existing staff. They want to know if you’re adaptable and a good fit for their organization.”

Be prepared for this question so you don’t begin unloading every habit you find annoying in others, and focus your answer on something that won’t scare off a prospective employer.

Be upfront about what bothers you

Everyone is annoyed by something, and when the pressures of work begin to mount, the irritations can start to interfere with teamwork and productivity. Don’t tell the interviewer you never get annoyed with anyone. Even the most patient people will find themselves frustrated with co-workers at one point or another, so you need to describe a moment when you’ve been legitimately annoyed at work.

“You can cite some things that are genuinely irritating, for example employees taking credit for your work,” Gibson suggests.

You say: “It doesn’t happen often, but I really get irritated when one person makes mistakes on something that was a group effort. I believe in giving credit where it is due and fairness within a team dynamic.”

Show you aren’t bothered by the little stuff

At the same time, employers don’t want to hire people who are going to be irritated by every little thing, so you need to give an answer that shows the little stuff won’t get to you.

“Working with others is challenging,” Gibson says. “People who are easily irritated are difficult to work with, and people who don’t deal with their concerns with others create more issues down the road.”

Also, you want to avoid sounding like you aren’t able to work with people who operate differently than you do, says Tali Raphaely, president of Armour Settlement Services, a title company based in Owings Mills, Maryland. “It’s way too easy to fall into the trap of answering this question by showing a lack of patience or understanding towards others.”

You say: “I’m bothered by big mistakes or problems that have team impact. For example, it would bother me greatly if a co-worker were to miss an important deadline on a team project. It’s unfair to the people in the group who made their deadlines.”

Demonstrate your patience when handling an annoyance

Lastly, you must demonstrate that you handle your annoyances in a calm and productive manner.

“Most interviewers are seeking to understand if the person being interviewed is positive and solutions-based as well as a strong communicator,” says Kerry Preston, co-author of You Did What? The Biggest Mistakes Professional Make. “It is important not to be too harsh or too much of a people pleaser.”

It’s best to explain how you listen to others when there’s a misunderstanding, Preston suggests. Give an answer that shows you prefer to discuss your irritations and find a point of agreement with others, rather than simply remaining annoyed.

“Describe a healthy way to handle that situation,” Gibson adds. “Such as, confronting the employee and alerting your supervisor if needed.”

You say: “Because I know I get irritated when co-workers miss deadlines, I try to always make sure goals are clearly communicated to everyone on the team. If it happens anyway, I try to find out what I can do differently so the problem doesn’t repeat itself.”