Can you work in a team? And do you enjoy being part of a team? Is it easy to talk to you, and to work with you? Do you listen to the opinion of your colleagues, or do you think that you are always right? Are you ready to cooperate with the others, or do you prefer to argue, and start conflicts? Can you express your opinion in a group clearly, or do you just shyly sit, always waiting for someone else to set the course of action?
Each hiring manager tries to find answers to these questions while talking to you in an interview. Because a small team is a basic structural unit of each middle-sized and big corporation, and you will always cooperate with other people in your job.
You will always face at least some questions that inquire about your preference and experience with teamwork. The number of these questions, as well as their complexity, depends on the importance of teamwork for a particular position.
Administrative assistant, waitress, manager, construction worker, programmer, surgeon, stand-seller–each of these positions require a different level of teamwork (or it requires none). The more it requires, the more it will be tested (or at least should be). Let’s have a look at the questions.
In most retail interviews, administrative, or finance & banking job interviews, you will get a few basic questions that relate to your teamwork ability. For example, the interviewers can ask you the following questions:
- Do you prefer to work in a team, or independently?
- What makes you a good team player?
- Do you like to lead, or to be led?
- Have you ever worked in a team? Did you enjoy it? Describe your experience with teamwork.
- Share a rewarding team experience.
- Describe a good leader.
These questions are not difficult. Your only goal is to convince the employer that you have experience with teamwork, that you enjoy being a member of a team, and that you understand the importance of teamwork. Easy as that…
Whether you should say that you prefer leading to following depends on a particular job you try to get (if it is a leadership role, a good answer is obvious). Let’s have a look at sample answers to one of the questions.
Do you prefer to work in a team, or independently?
I definitely prefer to work on a team. It is important for me to share my ideas with colleagues, and to hear critical feedback on my work. What’s more, I like the social aspect of going to work. It helps with motivation, and interactions you have in real time cannot be replaced by chat or emails, or some emojis, if you know what I mean. At least that’s my opinion.
I do not have a particular preference. Working on a team has certainly some advantages, for example the social pressure. People work hard, and actually do the job–because others are looking at them, or at least they feel their presence in the room. But I personally never struggled with motivation, and I do not need any special pressure to work harder. I enjoy my job, and I have goals I try to achieve in my personal life. If I am alone in front of a computer, I work as hard as I would if other people were present in the room, looking over my shoulder, praising or criticizing me.
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Whether you are a leader, or a follower, you may get a few situational or behavioral questions. These questions target your ability to teamwork in particular work-related situation. See the selection below to understand what you can expect.
- How would you communicate a problem in your team?
- Describe a time when you did not agree with your superior.
- If you had a feeling that somebody in a team was not competent (or wasn’t doing their job well), what would you do?
- Tell me about a time you stepped up into a leadership role.
- Describe a time when you had to motivate someone in the team.
- In this company we design various mobile applications, and we work in small teams. How do you imagine your role in such a team?
Situational and behavioral questions are much more difficult than the previous group of questions. But once you understand the job description, and your role in the company, you should come up with a good answer to each question. Let’s have a look at sample answers to one of them.
Describe a time when you did not agree with your superior, and thought that they were wrong. What did you do?
It has never happened to me before, but I understand that the supervisor is likely more experienced. It is their obligation to say what we should do in work. If I did not agree with their opinion, I would briefly explain my point of view, but if they insisted on their way of doing things, I would simply follow the order. After all, I can also make a wrong judgment, and their suggestion may prove correct. I believe it’s important to offer your feedback, but at the end it should be clear who has the power to make a final decision, and other people should respect it.
I know that you are trying to hire someone creative, with a spirit for innovation, someone ready to bring new ideas onboard. And that’s exactly the way I try to act in my work. I do not just blindly agree with everything my colleagues or superiors say—and I hope they won’t agree with everything I say! We should challenge each other intellectually, we should share opinions, and feedback should flow freely in all directions, if we want to be successful as a team of developers. One situation from my last job illustrates this perfectly. I was supporting a complete redesign of the graphics of the 3rd edition of a popular game we were working on, while others were supporting the idea to stick with the original design line, to remain consistent in our branding. But I knew our brand was strong enough, players were loyal, and the original design was outdated. And I wanted to move forward with my ideas, though the leaders opposed it. I did my analysis, made a good presentation, and tried to demonstrate my point in a team meeting. Eventually they agreed, we redesigned the user interface, and the game was a huge success…
Personality oriented questions
After all, not everyone can work in a team. Some people just do not have the right personality for that. And while people can change, and they actually do change, some barriers and block we carry within are hard to overcome…
Your interviewers may inquire about your personality and opinions, trying to uncover these blocks and barriers. It is an alternative way of understanding whether you can work in a team, or prefer to work on your own. Check the selection below to see the common questions.
- Do you like to collaborate with the others?
- Do you feel good among people?
- Do you know how to push back diplomatically when necessary?
- Can you mediate disagreements?
- Is there any group of people you struggle to talk to?
- How do you feel about having a younger boss?
- How do you feel about having a female boss?
- How to you feel about talking in front of other people, sharing your opinion and also some criticism on their work?
Final thoughts, next steps
Teamwork is important in nearly every single job. You can expect to get at least a few questions that will target your ability to work in a team–or to lead it. Their complexity (or simplicity) depends on the position you apply for, and the qualities of the hiring managers (their skills and experience).
The rule of a thumb is that you should try to present yourself as a team player in the interviews. In 95 out of 100 cases, that’s what they expect…
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Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck in your next interview!
* You can also download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
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