Teamwork interview questions: How to find out if a candidate is a team player

In-House Recruiting
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Team work is a phrase that is cited a lot in the workplace for its importance but with the average teamwork interview questions it can often be difficult to gauge if a candidate is really a team player.

The ability to work as part of a team is crucial to any project, and with the gap between work and personal lives increasingly becoming blurry, it’s never been more important to ensure that teams you are hiring for can collaborate with each other. We’ve pulled together top questions to ask to ensure you can identify the team players:

How would you define teamwork?

Perhaps a better way of addressing this team player question, is asking what the candidate’s own personal understanding of teamwork is. This more dynamic interview question really offers an opportunity to get to know the candidate’s personality a little more. For example, it could be pulling together with the team late one evening to make sure that they meet that client deadline, or maybe making a cup of tea for a colleague who is having a tough morning.

Pressing them for examples of team work in action can also be important. Their less formal answers may offer you more of an understanding of the candidate, rather than the classic answer – ‘I love working as part of a team’.

Top tip: Especially for graduates and new starters, it’s important to ask them for their definition of teamwork, which might not be in a working environment – perhaps a sports team, book club or choir practise!

Teamwork interview questions: How to find out if a candidate is a team player

Image: Adobe Stock Library

Do you prefer working on your own or as a team player?

Asking this question in an interview is often a more traditional way of asking if they are a team player, as on the surface it reads fairly black and white. It is worth however, considering what you want the candidate response to be made up of.

A candidate may approach this interview question by approaching each section in equal measures, saying that they enjoy both. They may enjoy collaborating with their team, but also express they are able to work independently on things if needed and progress through their own to-do list. If you are looking for more of a team player however, contemplate what you actually want from the answer.

Could you ask for more specific examples? Or maybe you want to delve more into the culture at their previous workplace to get a fuller understanding?

Can you tell me about a successful project that demonstrates your team work skills?

For many candidates approaching this question, they will view it as an opportunity to detail one of their biggest achievements at work – a moment to ‘show off’. As a recruiter however, you can go beyond finding out about their individual competencies to their teamwork skills. The trick to this is in reading between the lines on how they provide details.

For example, do they say “I” a lot in detailing their achievements? Such as “I created a structural formula…”, or did they go, “With my team, we developed a structural formula”. You can actually tell a lot from a candidate’s wider answers and how they talk in relation to colleagues in their former teams.

This also underlines why competency based questions can be helpful for recruiters comparing like for like candidates. This question can also be flipped to: ‘Can you tell me about a project where you disagreed with your team?’ The details of how they resolved this can also help you assess the candidate on their collaboration.

Teamwork interview questions: How to find out if a candidate is a team player

Image: Adobe Stock Library

How do you rely on others to make you better?

This is an open and honest teamwork interview question getting straight to the heart of how they interact with other team members. In short, the question tests a candidate’s self-awareness. Often the most collaborative of candidates that you could hope to hire realise their own limitations and where they need to bring in their team to help.

Having good self-awareness is an important quality of a team player as they know which of their skills and qualities they want to improve on and develop. That focus on continual learning vital, as it shows transparency with the team on wins, as well as losses.

Without doubt having a good culture where employees work together as a team is one of the gold standards for any recruiter. In interviews, it is important to ensure that you are asking a number of well-rounded questions in order to build up a good picture of how a candidate will work in a team. Of course, it is always best to put this into practise and test the candidate in a team working interaction.

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