A small team is a basic structural unit of every organization. Whether you fancy the thought or not, you will work in a team, in every single corporate job. And I am sure you have your share of experiences with “teamwork”. Conflicts between team members, one person doing all the work and others just lazying about, managers flirting with their subordinates, people playing all sorts of mischievous games while trying to secure a promotion, or some other benefit on the expense of others. That’s the reality of teamwork in most corporations, because we are human beings after all, with our desires, goals, and mistakes. But what do the hiring managers want to hear from you when inquiring about teamwork?

First of all, they want to hear that you enjoy belonging to the team. And they also want to hear a few power words, strong adjectives that underscore how much teamwork means to you, and that you embrace the opportunity to be part of a hardworking team. But it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to say so. You can give them some food for thought, come up with an unconventional answer, or even say that teamwork means nothing to you, because you’ve been a lonely wolf for the last ten years.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include all sorts of answers on my list. Hopefully you will find at least one which resonates with you, with your idea of teamwork, or at least with the message you try to convey in the interviews. Once you read the answers, do not forget to check also the notes below, for additional hints and explanations. The answers should work well for any alternative phrasing of the same question, such as “How do you define teamwork?”


7 sample answers to “What does teamwork mean to you?” interview question

  1. More than anything else, it means an opportunity to learn, and an opportunity to share both successes and failures with my colleagues. I am just starting in my professional career in this field, and I know that school is no match to the challenges of a real job. Hence I embrace an opportunity to work in a team, a chance to learn from more experienced colleagues, and hopefully also bring something onboard, if not knowledge, then at least motivation and positive attitude. I cannot wait to start.
  2. Teamwork means to me responsibility. When you work on a mutual goal with fellow team members, when the success of you all–and perhaps also the salary of everyone, depends on whether you take care of your duties, meet your deadlines, and so on, you cannot afford to give your job just fifty or seventy percent of your effort. At least I cannot, because I do not want to let others down. In my opinion, working in a team helps with productivity of individual team members, especially if the relationships in the team flourish, if people like each other. And I hope to work in such a team, and also to contribute to good relationships with my attitude.
  3. Speaking honestly, judging by my experience so far, teamwork means struggle to me. I have not been lucky on good teams. Lot of conflicts, people playing their little games, everyone trying to impress the managers, not looking left or right, not caring for other team members. But I have had just two jobs up to this point, so cannot say whether this is a norm or not. And I hope it isn’t a typical climate in a team, because I understand that people form teams in the workplace, and one cannot be an isolated unit–unless they work as a lighthouse keeper, of course. But that’s not my dream occupation. So, when you ask me now, I say that teamwork means struggle. But I sincerely hope that in one year from now, I will have another definition on my tongue.
  4. Every great result is a team effort. This sentence pretty much sums up my definition of teamwork. I’ve been working in project management for years now. And I have learned that people are the greatest asset of every company. If there are exceptions–and surely you can find a few of them, then they only prove the rule. So teamwork is everything really, and as a manager I always strive to build the best possible atmosphere in my team, making sure that people get along well and cooperate, instead of competing with one another.
  5. It means nothing to me at the moment. Or, to say it more precisely, it has always been just a distant possibility. Something I knew existed, but working as a freelance programmer, I never really had a chance to experience it. But today I am here to finally change it. Speaking honestly, I am tired of working on my own, never meeting anyone, barely leaving my house. I want to experience the corporate working environment, with all the daily hassle of a typical agile team. Sure enough, I know it won’t be an easy ride on most days. People have conflicts, people are simply people, and I–a social outsider for many years, may not find it easy to just integrate into a team. But as I said, life is a change and I am ready to give this one a shot.
  6. To me, it is just another corporate buzzword, just like diversity, equal opportunity, ambiguity, and whatever. At the end of the day, everyone cares for their own good, at least that’s what I’ve experienced so far. Sure enough, people pretend to help each other, but even if they do so, it is to impress the managers, get a nice bonus at the end of a year, or to be the one they pick for as promotion when a rare time of promoting arrives. I know I may sound a bit bitter, but I try to be realistic. Look, I want to try my best, take care of my duties, and have good communication with the people I share a workplace with. But I am not naive when it comes to human relations and the selfishness deeply rooted in each one of us.
  7. For me, teamwork is the most important thing in the workplace. Because the workload is huge everywhere. We struggle, we have to stay overtime, we have to leave our comfort zone. I’ve seen that. I’ve done that, and I do not expect things to be much different at your place. That’s simply how it goes in today’s competitive landscape of the business world. However, it makes a huge difference whether you are on your own, or have someone to share both your pleasures and struggles with, someone you can hand a helping hand to or accept one from, someone who stays in the office with you until 9pm on Friday when a deadline looms. That’s what teamwork means to me. And just to make sure you understand me correctly, I know that every coin has two sides. We’ll have conflicts in the team. But I still prefer it ten times to working on my own.


End your answer on a high note

You can have all sorts of experiences with teamwork, and it is fine narrating the negative experience. At the end of the day, it can be the number one reason why you left your last job. However, you should always try to end your answer on a high.

Maybe you had bad relationships with your colleagues. They took advantage of your idealism, or of your hardworking personality. You’ve done all the work and they enjoyed all the accolades, simply because they knew what to say and when to say it in the team meetings. Or your manager was a complete idiot, and you could not share the workplace with them any longer.

One way or another, ensure them that your heart isn’t embittered for good. You still believe that teamwork can work, that with the right group of people you can reach goals you would never ever reach on your own. Regardless of how you describe teamwork, try to end your answer with something positive.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the most difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, solving problems, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 50 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Do not forget to emphasize your role in a team

It is great belonging to a strong team, and reaping the benefits of hard work of other team members. However, the best employees want both take and give. Tell the hiring managers how you want to contribute to the team.

Sure, teamwork is great, it helps to have someone to share things with. But you want to be the one others can confide in with their struggles, the one who’s ready to give a helping hand to their colleagues, one who’s ready to go above and beyond and take the entire team to the next level.

And even if you cannot do that from your position, or with your level of experience, you want at least to bring positive attitude and motivation onboard. In any case, you do not only want to belong to a great team. You want to actively participate on making the team great. That’s the attitude hiring managers seek in the very best job candidates. Keep it on your mind when answering any interview questions about teamwork.

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face in your upcoming interview:

Matthew Chulaw
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