Are you preparing for an upcoming job interview? If so, one of the questions you may be asked is about your experience working as part of a team. Questions like these can feel tricky to answer because you have to find the balance between bragging and showing that you’re an excellent candidate.
Although it may be challenging, there are some strategies you can use that will demonstrate your ability to work well with others. Even if you are new to the job market, the chances are you can find ways to showcase past collaborative experiences from school or extracurricular activities.
Why the Interviewer Asks About Teamwork
Working on a team can be a great way to get things done, but it’s not always easy for personalities and different perspectives to mesh. In an interview, a potential employer may ask you questions about your experience working on a team to get a sense of whether or not you’re a team player.
They want to know how well you work in groups and what role you tend to take on a team project. They’ll get a sense of your strengths and whether you’ll collaborate effectively. This is essential for companies that strive to promote a team-oriented work culture.
Formatting Your Answers
For most open-ended interview questions, such as those surrounding your experience working on a team, telling stories from previous roles is the most effective way to answer. You can put the STAR format to work here and explain the situation, what skills you needed to meet expectations, and the outcome.
Common Teamwork Questions With Example Answers
Each hiring manager or recruiter will be seeking specific skills to fill a need on their existing team, so you never know exactly what questions are going to be asked. We’ve rounded up a few of the most common teamwork questions that can help you start brainstorming different experiences you’ve had.
“Tell me about a time you worked well as part of a team.”
I worked as part of a team when I was doing my internship at a law firm. We were all assigned to different aspects of the same project. We had to work together to ensure that the project was completed on time and within budget. I realized that there wasn’t a great overall structure to how we could effectively work together, so I suggested we create a team Slack channel.
At first, several team members didn’t embrace the idea, but they joined anyway. Eventually, they saw how convenient it was for us to be a resource for each other and help out where our responsibilities overlapped. Ultimately, we communicated regularly and made sure that everyone was mindful of the deadlines. We also traded or collaborated on tasks so that everyone could contribute their strengths to the team. As a result, we completed the project successfully and on schedule.
“Do you prefer working independently or on a team?”
In my experience, both working on a team and independently can have advantages and disadvantages. For example, working independently can allow you to move at your own pace and follow your methods, but it can also be isolating and difficult to get feedback or support. On the other hand, teamwork can help keep you motivated and on track, but it can also be frustrating if team members are not pulling their weight or have conflicting ideas. Ultimately, it depends on the situation and what will allow me to do my best work.
I’ve found that it’s ideal to have an overall team dynamic with specific roles and responsibilities assigned in previous situations. We can collaborate and strategize together and then work independently on our individual obligations.
“Have you ever had difficulty working with other team members?”
While there have been a few occasions when I’ve had difficulty connecting with a team member, I’ve always been able to find a way to work through it. For example, early in my career, I worked with a very task-oriented colleague who preferred to stick to the plan, while I tended to be more flexible and adaptable.
We did butt heads quite a bit at first, but eventually, we found a middle ground that worked. I think the key was opening up and sharing our perspectives with each other while also being willing to listen to their point of view. When you can do that, it’s much easier to find common ground and work together effectively.
“How would you handle a problem with a team member not doing their fair share?”
We had that situation in my last role when one member of our sales team wasn’t hitting their quotas. They were often late and seriously underperforming, which meant the rest of us had to do more. Finally, I decided to talk to them privately about it. It turns out that they were trying to support an older parent juggling cancer treatments. Together, we brainstormed ways to make the schedule meet their current personal situation and developed a plan that they submitted to the manager.
As a result, they were able to flex their hours, and the manager assigned a member of a different team to pick up a few of the extra duties. I think that it’s essential to assume positive intent and realize that you don’t always know the whole story. Show that you’re willing to work with them and support them while making it clear that they need to do the same for the rest of the team.
Being a Memorable Candidate
As you can see, there are many ways that a recruiter might try and get a feel for how you would fit into the existing team dynamics. As with most aspects of your interview, you will find the best success by fully preparing for your interview.
This means thoroughly researching the company and ensuring that your answers are tailored to the company culture. You can go a step further by taking a deep dive into the company’s values and providing solutions that magnify you as the best candidate to join the team.
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