How to answer job interview questions about teamwork

Mar 31, 2015

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.

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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

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