Unless you apply for one of those rare jobs for lonely wolfs (think a lighthouse keeper as an excellent example), you will always belong to some team in the workplace. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will work on tasks together with your colleagues, or even meet other team members on a daily basis. But you will follow the same goals as a team, and you will have meetings with other people. Close or not, you will have to cooperate with other employees, and the hiring managers wonder whether you have the right personality for such a cooperation.
As it is often the case, they will use behavioral questions to find the answers. Inquiring about a situation from the past, they try to understand how you’ll react to similar situations in the future. In this case, they inquire about a situation when you had to work with someone else. Your initial answer could lead into an interesting discussion. They may inquire about the challenges you faced while trying to achieve the goal, conflicts you had with the colleague, and other things. If you decide to make something up (lacking real experience with similar situations), make sure to prepare an answer to additional questions they may have. If you struggled to answer them, they would immediately doubt the authenticity of your story….
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers. You will find on my list answers for both experienced and inexperienced people, as well as some unconventional answers. I hope at least one of them will resonate with you, or at least help you understand the attitude hiring managers expect you to show while asking the question. Do not forget to read also the notes at the end of the article, to make sure you won’t make the same mistake many job seekers make while answering similar interview questions.
7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time you had to work with someone else to achieve a goal” interview question
- I’ve had a close cooperation with my colleagues in my last job in retail. We had to generate a certain sales volume each month as a team. In order to do that, we could not compete for customers, or trying to stand out as individual sales associates. We had to work as a team, everyone specializing in certain merchandise, and taking care of customers in the best possible way. As you can imagine, some days are better and some are worse in retail, and mutual encouragement played a big role here. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the cooperation, and hope to find a similar working environment in my new job.
- This is my first job application, so I cannot talk about an experience from work. However, I recall a situation from school. The teacher divided the class to teams of two–alphabetically, not that you worked with a best friend, and assigned a seminary project to each team. I was supposed to work with a girl who wasn’t really the best student, and it wasn’t easy for me to cooperate with her. She had a busy schedule, hardly find time to meet me, and in general it was tough to get the work done. But I did what I could, adapted myself to her schedule, and did the majority of the work. Eventually we managed to present a good project at the end of the year. I must say it was a great learning experience for me, because I had to overcome some challenges to make sure our cooperation would work, and we would meet the deadline set by the teacher. Hopefully I can benefit from this experience in the workplace, in my new job.
- I had to work with 4 members of the marketing team in my last job. We all had our roles when it came to new campaigns, and I was responsible mostly for tracking and analytics. At the end of the day, however, a good marketing campaign is like a jigsaw, different pieces have to fit together, and unless we were on the same page, we would not be successful. I cannot say that everything went smoothly. We experienced challenges in our cooperation, conflicts. But once you have an open mind, and respect for the opinion of another person, and follow clear goals, you can always find a compromise and move on. We eventually always managed to find a way, and achieved our goals.
- I’ve never worked anywhere, but I can give you a good example from a local soccer team. I play midfield in the team, but there are twenty one other people on the pitch–eleven in each team. If we want to win the game, we have to play as a team. It means following the same strategy, but also supporting each other verbally in the matches, and being ready to sacrifice something for our teammates. My team has not won the league, or anything similar. But considering the little budget we have, and that nobody in the team is a professional player, we did decently well. We have improved our standings in the table each year… In my opinion, things won’t be much different in the workplace. We will also have to work as a team, and follow the same strategy, in order to succeed and achieve our goals.
- I’ve been more of a lonely wolf until now. Working as a freelance programmer, I simply had to deliver the functional code to the customer. I didn’t really work with anyone in the process. Got the order, worked hard to meet the deadlines, delivered the work, and got paid. That’s how I’ve been working up to now, but it is a time for a change. I started missing human interactions, and would like to belong to a team. I know it will be challenging, and I will have to learn how to work with someone else, overcoming the differences, finding compromises. But I am looking forward to it.
- The best example I can narrate is a very personal one. When my marriage broke down two years ago, I fell into a deep depression. I quickly lost interest in everything, including work, and as a result I lost my job. Spending days in front of a TV eating junk food, I was gaining weight and losing contact with reality. Luckily enough my mother stepped in, and arranged me a meeting with a therapist. I started visiting them two times a week, talking about life, trying to find the way out, and regain motivation to live and work. Everyone who experienced such a deep crisis knows how hard it is get out of it. But I did not give up, opened up to the therapist, and we really worked together to achieve our goal–to overcome my depression and return back to normal ways of life again… I have won my fight, and I am glad to have a chance to interview for a great job again.
- I had just simple jobs up to now. Think restaurant, fast food places like McDonald’s and Subway. However, what I learned in these places is that they have processes in place for everything, and each employee have to follow them to the point. People are part of these processes, and the act of preparing and delivering the food to the customer is never really a work of a single person. I always had to work with other people, and I can tell you some of them lacked motivation, and it wasn’t easy. But I always focused on my role in the process. That means taking care of my job in time, and trying to foster good relationships with my colleagues, being attentive to their needs and feelings. It worked well, and I definitely want to stick to the same principles in my new job as well.
You should not complain about your former colleagues
Maybe you were unlucky in your last job. You had a terrible team, they just hanged around, and you had to do the majority of work. Or your colleague found pleasure in starting conflicts (often for no real reason), and you eventually had to leave the place, because you could not cooperate with them anymore.
Perhaps you experienced a complete nightmare in your last job, even worse things that I described. Mark my words though: job interview is not an occasion to talk about such experiences. Nobody wants to hire an employee who complains from the first day (even if they have real reason to do so). What’s more, hiring managers are looking for people who accept responsibility, who do not expect their colleagues to take initiative.
On the contrary, they take initiative in the relationships, trying to be attentive to the needs and feelings of their colleagues, trying to foster good relationships in the workplace. That’s the attitude you should try to show in the interviews…
Ready to answer this question? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Can you tell us about any skills or experience that might be helpful in this job?
- Give an example of a time you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with.
- Can you describe your best experience of working in a team.