How to answer job interview questions about teamwork

In this post, we will outline how to answer job interview questions about teamwork so that you can effectively prepare for the competency questions during your next interview. 

Why Interviewers Ask About Teamwork

Teamwork is a skill that all jobs require and all employers need.

The hiring manager will want to determine:

  • Are you easy to get along with
  • Can you work well with different personality types
  • If you will contribute your ideas and actively listen to others

Questions about teamwork are common behavioural interview questions. So it is rare not to find it among the job interview questions you are likely to be asked.

What makes your teamwork skills different from anyone else’s?

Whenever a graduate comes to me for interview coaching or interview mentoring I always tell them that interviews are won on the smallest details.

If you can find the smallest detail with regards to what makes you stand out you could shift the balance significantly in your favour when answering job interview questions.

The science of interviewing and to winning at them is to know what you have to offer; and to sell those skills in a way that meets the need of the company.

So, looking at job interview questions about teamwork will help if you understand what makes a successful team work well.

In order to sell your teamwork skills in a job interview, you need to know what you have to offer as a team member. So how do you really operate within a team?

Most people who answer this as a job interview question will say something general like: ‘I’m good at working with people’, ‘I can motivate and inspire others’, or ‘I am a good team player.’ But if you think about it these limp responses aren’t really telling the employer very much at all about the way you operate within a team. Chances are you are going to just sound like everyone else.

Demonstrating an understanding of teamwork skills in a job interview

During your job interview you may be asked by the interviewer to imagine a group of people in a teamwork situation. What many overlook while answering such questions is the behaviour of others in the team. You may be able to faithfully describe how you might work, but what about others?

You can demonstrate how you engage with others in a team environment by mentioning the following skills:

  • Active listening
  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Delegation
  • Communication
  • Leadership

Here’s a scenario. A team meets to brainstorm possible ideas to achieve a shared work goal but one of the members is an action orientated person and so keeps trying to move the meeting to the stage of assigning tasks. His attempts are honourable and needed – but not at the brainstorming stage of a teamwork activity.

Similarly you could have another team member who is the type of person who looks for risks in a situation and so keeps on highlighting why a given idea will not work.

In situations like these the action orientated person could be goaded toward using his gifting to offer ideas that he has been involved with in the past and the risk-adverse person to focus on the solutions rather than just the problems.

It may be that when you understand the strengths of the team members you choose the best phase of the project to bring a certain person in, and when to leave them out.

This does not mean they are not good team players. It simply means they contribute different values to the team project at different stages.


Answering job interview questions about your teamwork skills

Do you know what values you contribute to a team scenario?

You would do well to highlight these unique characteristics in your job interview answer about teamwork.

  • Review your CV and identify times where you demonstrated your teamwork skills.
  • Don’t forget about the non-academic activities you got involved in whilst you were at university. Being a member of a sports team or having a role within a society are valid examples of teamwork.

Examples of teamwork interview questions: 

  • Do you prefer working as part of a team or independently 
  • Tell me aboout a time you worked well as a part of a team 
  • Describe a time you had to resolve conflict in a team 
  • Tell me about a time where you had to give constructive criticism to a team member 
  • Describe a time where you had to adapt to consider a team member’s views. 

Mark Murphy, the founder of LeadershipIQ, wrote an article for Forbes where he states that he asks candidates an open-ended question about teamwork. 

He simply asks: “Could you tell me about a time you worked on a team?” 

How to answer questions about teamwork in your interview

When answering competency based questions, use the STAR interview response technique.

  • Situation – explain the team environment and provide context.
  • Task – state what needed to be achieved as a result of working as a team.
  • Action – describe what you did. Highlight any team leadership skills.
  • Result – emphaise what was achieved as a result of working as a team.

When talking about working on a team project, mention what others contributed. This will show that you are a team player and that you focus on others as well as yourself.

How to answer job interview questions about teamwork: summary

When it comes to knowing how to answer job interview questions about teamwork, preparation and empathy is key.

Teamwork isn’t all about you hogging the limelight but about understanding the skills and assets you bring to the team, how they fit into the whole team dynamic and when it is best to bring them in.

If you understand the same about those around you, or can indicate that you can learn, this is obviously an asset.

You will then be able to guide those with less self-awareness of their own strengths to use them in the best way for the whole team.

Because interviews are won on the smallest details, the science of interviews really is about dissecting those small details and presenting them to the interviewer in a way that will meet his or her needs.

How to answer job interview questions about teamwork

How to deliver an effective job interview pitch

Going on a job interview? Here’s how to pitch yourself into the job

Imagine doing your best to present your ideas before a job interview panel only to see them yawn and glance at the clock. That’s kind of what happened to me as a young advertising executive pitching to a panel of clients – yet just a day later these top decision makers where shaking my hand on a deal. How did I turn it around?

I simply made it easier for them to see that they wanted what I was offering. From that day forward I began winning business for my company by using the same method.

Many moons later as a job interview coach I teach candidates to turn things around at job interviews by using this same method.

Now this method will only work if you are being true to who you are, because you need to be relaxed and natural when you make your pitch.

The job interview summary pitch

Back when I was in my new advertising role I had a pretty broad Geordie accent (much broader than it is today!) and while this was great with clients from up north it could get in the way when speaking with companies from down south.

I did my pitches well but I wasn’t making the kind of inroads in the company I wanted to until I focused on using one of the greatest strengths I had: interpersonal communication skills.

I had a natural ability to make people feel at ease and when I began to focus on this rather than what I didn’t have I started to see things change. I started to focus on the client and what they wanted.

The main point of the pitch is to show the interviewer three things: 1. You understand his need; 2. How you are going to meet his need; and, 3. How you are going to exceed his expectation.

So here is what you need to do. When you get to the end of the interview do these four things in order to summarise your job interview pitch:

  1. Say something along the lines of, ‘Before I leave, I want you to know why getting this job would mean so much to me.’
  2. Next, focus on what’s most important to them. However wonderful you are as a candidate those interviewing you aren’t really as interested in what you want as they are in what the company needs, so you need to show that you understand this. What is the core focus of the role you are going for? Now think about the added value can you bring to that role? Say, ‘I know that as a company you want to increase awareness of your health products among the 30-something age group, etc. etc.’, or something like that.
  3. Now you need to bring yourself back into the picture. Pick no more than two or three skills or areas of experience that will help you achieve the role objectives, and plus one or two that will enable you to go further and add value to the role. Here’s an example: ‘My analytical, organisation and communication skills will enable me to meet the job objectives by creating effective marketing materials, but my inquisitiveness and need for results will push me further to stay abreast of trends in marketing to this group so the company always knows what’s going on.’
  4. Finally, complete with a line like: ‘If you choose me for the role I know I will deliver what you ask for and more.’

Suddenly you’re human, you’re not just a candidate anymore. You could be a daughter or a son!

What you will have done is made the shortlisting job easier for your interviewers by summarising what they need. And, most importantly, you will have left a lasting impression in the minds of the interviewers so they remember you.

Career coaching for graduates who want to fly high

We look at 3 articles on how career coaching can help high flying graduates

From successful sportsmen and women to actors, business people, presidents and prime ministers, all ambitious people have coaches or mentors to help them reach the top of their game. It should be no different for graduates with ambitions to fly high. Standing out above others is no easy feat. A graduate career coach helps you discover how, and that’s why graduates who have career coaching are much more likely to be successful in their efforts to find the job they want. They are more focused, self-aware and therefore confident at job interviews and beyond.

We have pulled out three articles from our archives that look at some of the areas graduate coaching can help with.

Graduate coaching helps with your transferable skills

You face a highly competitive graduate job market and so getting a degree is only the first step to your goal to get a good job. Graduate career coaching can help you get past the job interview even if you have little actual work experience.

The key here is to emphasise your employability skills, or soft skills, which employers really do look for. You essentially build these skills through work experience but you can also develop and transfer them from other experiences, like those gained through college, university, gap years, church or community and voluntary work.

These skills include: team working, problem solving, self-management, knowledge of the business, literacy and numeracy competence, ICT knowledge, leadership skills, and good interpersonal proficiencies. According to the Edge Foundation, these soft skills can be developed by training yourself to think and talk about them.

Graduate coaching can help you to bring out strengths and abilities you didn’t know you had and then to sell them during the job interview.

The following article on how to transfer the skills you gain from non-workplace based activities will give you further insight.

Graduate coaching can help you to answer interview questions better

Many graduates look great on their CV but crumble at the job interview stage because they’re nervous. They know what they want to say but their minds simply go blank.

It all comes down to knowing how to answer interview questions. Through practice, practice and more practice graduate coaching can help you to overcome such dilemmas altogether by helping you to gain more insight into the job role and industry. You will find it easier to give natural responses to job interview questions asked in a variety of interview styles – and not just generic questions, but actual real questions about YOU. When you are confident about what to say when answering interview questions about your own skills and experience, you will feel much more relaxed about the whole experience and less likely to feel caught off guard. Our article on interview tips and techniques can provide more insight.

Graduate coaching can help you become much more career focused

Another advantage of graduate career coaching is how much it can help you to become sharp and focused. People who know who they are, what they are about and what they want attract attention. Coaching can help if you don’t have a specific career in mind – perhaps you find yourself applying for such a wide variety of jobs that there doesn’t seem to be any logic to your job finding efforts. Or perhaps you do have a career focus in mind, in which case you will gain direction and therefore acceleration of your efforts. Having a specific career in mind does not necessarily mean having a specific job in mind; it just means being clear on the field you want to enter and the type of work you want to do in it. When you know what career steps to take it removes a lot of the guesswork – as well as the extra time, effort and frustration that comes with it. See

How to use your weaknesses as leverage when answering job interview questions

Is it possible to answer job interview questions about your weaknesses that get you noticed? We think so.

When you get asked to tell the interviewer about your weaknesses what do you say? Do you answer like most people and try to make your weakness look like a strength? If that’s the case you may say something like, ‘I never stop working’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’.

Avoid standard responses to job interview questions

Trouble is the interviewer will probably know that you are just spinning something out of the usual book of responses; he or she will know your answer to the job interview question doesn’t truly come from your heart.

The other problem with this usual type of response is that is diverts your attention from really focusing on what’s being asked and you will not be able to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

The worse kind of answer of course is to say something silly like, ‘I don’t have any’ or ‘I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it’.

Answers to interview questions like these indicate that you don’t really know yourself, that you don’t take time to think. The science of interviewing well requires that you fully understand what is being asked and know how to provide the best answer.

Use your weaknesses to sell your strengths in response to job interview questions

We all have weaknesses, even Superman had one; so a better and more believable response is to use your weaknesses to sell your strengths. Explain how you use a strength to nullify a weakness.

So, first let’s think about your strengths, what you do well. Think about the last time you felt really energised and alive while at a task. It should be a task that you feel you can’t wait to do again, one in which the time flew so quickly you barely noticed it.

What were you doing? Filing? Trekking? Playing your guitar? Organsing a party? Chatting with a stranger? Brainstorming ideas?

Now let’s think about your weaknesses, the things that de-energise you. What kind of situations make you feel bored or frustrated, and why? Is there anything you find you just can’t do well no matter how much you try? Perhaps you don’t even want to do it well!

Okay, look at your two lists. The first should give some indication of your strengths and the second your weaknesses. Remember, a strength is something that is born from tasks that energise you; a weakness the opposite.

Interview yourself with these job interview questions

Ask yourself this job interview question: What is it about the task that made me feel energised and excited? Write down your answer(s).

Ask yourself the same job interview question regarding your weakness: What is it about the task that makes me feel bored or frustrated? Again, write your answer down.

Now think about how you can use the information on your strengths lists to combat that on your weakness list.

Formulating job interview questions about weaknesses to sell your strengths

You may be lousy at organisation but have a strong sense of not letting people down. You could say something like, ‘I notice that I often want to just run ahead and get things done rather than organising things first but my sense of responsibility helps me to stop and plan out my work first because I just can’t let my team down.’

You may be really talkative but you could say you have learnt to use your strength as a strategic thinker to plan out how you are going to make what you say clear and relevant to your listeners. You could point out that people often choose you when something needs to be said and no one else wants to say it.

Are you the sort that hates conflict? You don’t like taking sides? Conflicts are inevitable wherever people are so you could sell yourself as the person who strives for peace and harmony so are good at pacifying irate customers or clients.

Being able to answer interview questions about your weaknesses with genuine and well-thought out answers that really do describe who you are and what you have to offer will enable you to stand out from among your peers at any graduate interview.

Graduate job interview training tips to help you sell yourself better

Job interview training yourself to leverage advantage

Whether you are looking for tips for graduate job interview training you can apply yourself or interview coaching from a professional, try the following advice – it will provide some really useful hints to help you sell yourself much better.

It will explain how you can answer interview questions in a way that will make you stand out more than others with the same skills set. During our graduate job interview coaching sessions we explain how most interviewers use your graduate CV as the basis for guiding the questions they ask you at your interview. They will likely have a copy of your CV or application form in front on them and use that to raise specific questions about what you have done. Likely on your graduate CV you will have put down something about your key skills, achievements and details about tasks you have carried out at current or previous employment. You will likely have listed skills such as interpersonal skills, organisational skills and the ability to work well as team but what makes you any different from anyone else with those skills? No matter how the interviewer frames his questions he will be trying to find out what makes you tick, what makes you stand out and whether you are really as good as you look on paper.

So how can you convince him that you are all that and more?

Job interview training tips you can use right away

If you boil it all down it’s about your strengths: what are you good at, what can you bring to the company? And why should they believe you?

On your graduate CV you will have framed the answer to these questions in the form of the tasks and achievements listed, and the one way to get more juice out of your answers is to really drill down as to what makes you really different. This is where you can really get some leverage.

The science of being really good at interviews is to understand how to give different answers than others do to the same interview questions everyone else gets asked. So, how can you explain what makes your interpersonal skills different from someone else’s? Think about it.

Job interview coaching yourself to gain leverage

According to the strengths approach to skills and talents there are around nine different types of interpersonal skills – that is, skills we use to build relationships with others. Some people are good at starting relationships. Others are good at developing them. Some people are good at seeing differences in people and so can tailor communication to different people really well. Others are good a bringing resolutions to disagreements between people – so helping team members to see each other’s points of view. Some people are good at making others really feel welcome and a part of the group while others are good at inspiring people and helping them to see the positive side when stuff goes wrong.

These are all aspects of different types of interpersonal skills but here is the surprise: not everyone that has good interpersonal skills has all of the above. Some people are good at initiating the conversation and so work very well as starters. They will also work really well with others who can take that relationship onwards and develop it.

More job interview training tips on selling yourself at an interview

Let us take another example from the field of execution where you get things done. On your graduate CV, you may have said, ‘I am good at meeting deadlines’, but why? What is it about your skills that enables to you meet deadlines?

Is it because you are good at arranging things, you know, you see all the details and know what should happen when, or because you have a passion for fixing things (you used to fix everything around the house when you were growing up and now use this same skills to ensure no one drops the ball in team projects)?

It may be that you are consistent, focused or are driven by a great sense of responsibility that will not allow you to fall short on anything expected of you.

The trick is to know what makes you different within the skill set you share with others. Where to do excel the most? Which aspect excites you the most? Take the time to interview coach yourself to dig deeper before you go along to your next graduate job interview. It will pay off. Guaranteed that when it comes to answering your interview questions the employer will sit up and take note because she’s never heard anyone be so specific in their responses.