Interview Questions: how to answer “Are you a team player?”

By: Darren Wrigley

Whether you are being interviewed to head up a team or for a position that requires you to report to someone more senior, being able to demonstrate that you are a good team player matters.

Teamwork is an inevitable aspect of pretty much every job and work environment. Even if you’re out in the field for a lot of the time there will still be instances where you will need to interact with others at certain times. The concept of teamwork can vary from working together intermittently to teams where every member works closely with each other. So it’s inevitable that a question about teamwork will be included in most job interviews. Your interviewers will be looking for evidence of several things:

  • Your ability to communicate and interact with colleagues
  • How receptive you are to the opinions of those around you
  • Understanding of your role within a team and the contribution you are expected to make.

Essential prep

In preparing for this particular question you should consider carefully the ways in which the job for which you are to be interviewed will require you to be a team player. Are you to be a leader? Do they want an ideas person? Do they need someone to put new ideas actually into practice? Once you’ve analysed the job description and understand what you will most likely be expected to contribute, you can then plan how you can show that you can meet those expectations through examples of what you’ve done in previous roles. (It’s also worth pointing out that understanding the level of team work involved is essential – if you prefer working alone and the job description suggests that you will be expected to work closely with others, this may not be the right job for you.)

Make sure you have good evidence

Your interviewers will want good evidence of your team player qualities, so think about:

  • How you can clearly express that you are a team player – what personal qualities do you possess that make you better than good?
  • Why you enjoy working as part of a team
  • How you’ve dealt with situations where other team members may not be contributing sufficiently
  • How you have positively impacted on a team’s performance
  • Any experiences where team members have not got along and how you dealt with the situation – were you able to influence and create a positive outcome?
  • What is your ideal team scenario
  • What is your greatest contribution to a team. Do you bring people together? Are you a motivator? Are you the grafter who will always go the extra mile to achieve a positive result?

Make sure that you can draw on experiences and situations that will clearly show your effectiveness within a team. If you introduced new ideas that improved the team’s working processes or that you were able to motivate an underperforming team to exceed sales targets, then you need to be ready to discuss your achievements in the interview.

Show you are willing to learn and develop

Don’t forget that a little humility goes a long way too. Being a good team player is not always about what you bring to a specific situation. Think also of examples where you have learnt from those around you and show that you are prepared to listen to others’ opinions.

It’s also important to strike a balance, to show that you are not so dependent on other team members that you can’t function without them. So be clear that you don’t need someone to hold your hand all the time, that you can work independently and with confidence as well.

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