Brief intro: We can divide all jobs to two groups. First group consists in jobs where teamwork plays an important role, and good applicants should play for a team (and enjoy being part of a team). 90% of all positions in both public and private sector belong to this group.

Second group of jobs, a minority one, includes jobs where you won’t work in a team, jobs where you’ll spend most of your time alone, and will carry the responsibility on your shoulders.

To be able to decide how to answer the “Are you a team player?” question, you have to understand to which group your new job belongs.

 

Jobs for lonely wolfs

  • Truck driver
  • Mailman
  • Sales representative
  • Literary critic, Translator
  • Lighthouse keeper 🙂
  • Geologist, Physicist
  • Some leadership roles
  • Retailer in a small store or stand, solo waiter in a bar or coffee shop
  • Maintenance technician
  • Any freelancing role

In jobs like these you can’t always look for a helping hand, or shoulder to cry on. You will have to decide on your own, handle the workload alone (even when heavy),and not depend on anyone else.

For most other jobs, however, teamwork is important, and you should present yourself as a team player in an interview. Let’s have a look at sample answers for both scenarios.

 

Sample answers to “Are you a team player?” question

I definitely consider myself a team player. Every great result is a team effort, and I know that I can hardly achieve anything spectacular on my own. Your corporation is famous for the atmosphere in the workplace and excellent cooperation in small teams and within the departments, and it is actually one of the reasons why I applied for a job with you. I can’t wait to meet my new colleagues and add some more diversity to your team.

Judging by my working experience, I’d say I am a team player. In my last job in retail I was lucky enough to belong to an excellent team of sales employees on a shift. We helped each other, encouraged each other, and it was also enjoyable to work with them. And we achieved great results, what confirms the importance of teamwork in my eyes.

I enjoy being around people, I love to pursue bigger goals you can’t attain alone, and I always appreciate a chance to learn from my colleagues, who are often more experienced and skilled. Taking this into account, you can perhaps call me a team player.

I’ve been a team player all my life. Always preferred team sports, such a football or basketball. To share the same vision, or a same passion for something with other people is simply amazing. And I can also sacrifice something for the team. For example in my last job, when we had to push with a new design and I was the only guy who didn’t have a family, I did not mind staying overtime for ten days in a row, working on the design.

To be honest, I am more of a lone wolf. Me and the road, and the truck of course, and hundreds of kilometers each day. That’s my idea of n perfect day in work, and also a reason why I chose this career.

I prefer to carry the responsibility on my shoulders. For example, in my last job in a big electronics store I didn’t find my colleagues particularly motivated, or responsible. I had to do a lot of work for them, two guys were just hanging around, but we all got the same payment each month. I don’t think it was right… Now I apply for a job with you, because I know you have only one person in the store on each shift, and such model suits me perfectly. I am okay with being on my own, and responsible for the entire store and daily sales.

 

Try to elaborate on your answer

Interviewer: Are you a team player?  You: Yes, I am.

You can probably guess that you would not impress many interviewers with this answer. They want to hear more, they want you to demonstrate your teamwork ability. You can do it in several ways:

  • Narrating a situation from your last job, one in which you demonstrated your loyalty to the team.
  • Referring to your preferences to group activities such as team sports, where member of a team have to cooperate in order to achieve the best possible result for the team (to win the game, for example).
  • Explaining how playing for a team (and belonging to one) helps you to grow and progress in your career.

people put hands together to demonstrate teamwork

Other teamwork interview questions

Interviewers may use more sophisticated questions to assess your ability to teamwork. For example:

  • Have you ever worked in a team? How would you describe the experience? What was the best and the worst experience you had with teamwork?
  • Describe a conflict you had with one of your teammates (in work, at school). How did you solve the conflict, and what did you learn in the situation?
  • Describe a time when you had to motivate someone in the team.
  • Tell me about a time you stepped up into a leadership role.

You can see the entire list (20 questions) in our article about teamwork interview questions.

 

Summary, next steps

Skilled HR managers will rarely use “Are you a team player” question in the interviews. It is very direct, and the right answer is obvious to most job seekers (unless it is a trick and they are actually looking for an individualist).

If you get this question, try to understand whether you will work in a team or alone, and choose your answer accordingly. In 90% of cases, companies and institutions are looking for team players. Even when obvious, you should think a bit about your answer. A simple YES won’t be enough for most HR managers.

Try to elaborate on your claim, narrating a situation from your past job that demonstrates your team spirit, or explaining your attitude to teamwork in more detail. That should be enough to convince the interviewers.

Check also answers to other tough interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Matthew Chulaw

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