How to answer job interview questions about teamwork

Mar 31, 2015

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

Teamwork is a skill that almost all jobs require and all employers need so it is rare not to find it among the job interview questions you are likely to be asked. 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, for instance, it 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? 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. 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.

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