Small team is the basic structural unit in each workplace. And just like in a family, classroom, or any other place where different people meet and interact, each team member will have their role. The most important person in each team is a leader–but not necessarily a formal one

Leader is someone who goes by example, brings new ideas onboard, together with energy and enthusiasm, and helps other people to grow, and to get the best out of their strengths. Having said that, each team needs just one leader. And unless there are followers–who can have their own specific roles in the team, it makes no sense to have a leader.

What I try to convey here is that this question isn’t as simple as it sounds. Saying that you are a leader won’t be enough, unless you can elaborate on it and demonstrate your leadership with some examples. And in some cases a leader may be the last thing they are looking for.

Let’s have a look at some sample answers to this tricky interview question. Below the answers you will find some explanations that should help you pick the right answer for your particular interview and situation. My selection includes also answers for people who lack previous working experience, and two answers that should help you while dealing with a similar interview question, “What position do you prefer on a team working on a project?”

 

7 sample answers to “What role do you play in a team?” interview question

  1. I love to be the leader of the team, but I do not necessarily force it. Because leadership should be deserved, and if there’s someone with more experience, better motivation, or special charisma, someone who can set the overall direction for the team better than me, and motivate the people to try their best, I do not mind stepping back and letting them lead the team.
  2. This is my first job application, so I have never really belonged to the team in the workplace. But if we talk about a soccer team, or teams we had while working on projects at school, I’d call myself a creative brain of the team. I always liked to think outside of the box, and I do not mind challenging the opinion of my superiors, or even the status quo. Honestly, I believe that in a company like this one, which focuses on innovations, it’s important to have such a creative brain in each team.
  3. I would characterize myself as the responsible one. I must honestly admit that I am neither a natural leader, nor the most creative mind in the city. But when it comes to meeting deadlines, and really taking care of work, perhaps even staying overtime to finish things in time, other team members can count on me. That’s how I’d characterize my role in the team.
  4. I have never worked in a team before, so it is hard for me to tell what my role in one will be. I honestly believe that I can adapt to new conditions quickly, and perhaps the role I will have in a team will depend also on other team members. What I try to say here is that I will be the new force in the company, so I can hardly lead the team, because I lack the experience. But I am eager to learn, and motivated to work hard, and follow the directions and guidance of more experienced team members. I’d say that I have to start as a follower. But who knows what will happen after one year, when I gain experience in the team?
  5. I try to be a good listener, and an empathic soul of the team. It is a natural position for me as a woman, and I am really good in pacifying conflicts, and ensuring that dominant team members can actually coexist together, and follow the same goal we try to pursue in the team. This is my experience, and I’d love to benefit from it in my new employment with you–if you hire me, of course. Because each team needs such a member.
  6. To be honest, I do not believe in a typical division of roles in a team, in leaders and followers. In my opinion, feedback should flow freely in all directions in a successful company. Each team member should not hesitate to share their opinion, and to take on a leadership role, when that’s the best thing for the team. I try to approach my roles in the same way. In some cases I may lead the entire team, and in other instances I may follow the direction of someone else, who has better experience with this or that situation, or who simply proposed a better idea.
  7. Speaking honestly, I am a follower. I need someone to lead me, to tell me what I should so, or at least to set general directions and rules within the team or the project. And that’s exactly why I apply for this position with you. If I understand it correctly, you have excellent leader in your marketing department, or even more leaders, but you lack ordinary responsible workers who will carry out the daily duties. Here I am, and ideal candidate for such a role in a team…

 

Job interview is not an exam at school

You do not need to stick to some standard division of roles in a team, as they teach it at schools. At the end of the day, most of such roles are just technicalities, expressions that do not explain much, or do not tell the entire truth.

It’s better explaining clearly what your strengths are, and what role you typically take in the team–it can be a creative brain, an empathic soul, a motivator, a strategist, or even an ordinary responsible guy… See sample answers no. 2, 3, and 5 as a good example of such explanation.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, 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 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

It’s no shame being a follower

There’s nothing worse like a leader who leads by authority, but doesn’t have the required knowledge, experience, or even respect of their peers.

When you are just starting out in your professional career, or perhaps changing the job field, it makes no sense to force yourself into the leadership role–and the interviewers do not even expect to hear that.

Humility is a highly sought after quality in the interviews. You will rarely spoil anything saying that you prefer to follow the leadership of more experienced colleagues first, because more than anything else you need to learn and gain experience, at this stage of your professional career.

 

Do not be afraid to experiment with an atypical answer

At the end of the day, you will almost always compete with other people for the job. If you say the same thing like everyone else (for example that you love to take on the leadership role), you will find it hard to stand out from the competition.

If you come up with something atypical, however, for example saying that you do not believe in a standard roles in a team (sample answer no. 6), or even admit outright that you are a follower (sample answer no. 7), you can be sure that the hiring managers will remember your answer, and you, once the interview sessions end…

 

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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