Job Interview Question: ‘Are You a Team Player?’

When you’re going to a job interview you can almost certainly expect questions about your team playing skills. Being a team player is important in many job positions and at almost every job will require some level of team skills. Whether you’re applying for a graduate or entry-level position or a more senior or management role: you need to be able to demonstrate that you are able to function successfully within a team. Questions about being a team player are frequently asked job interview questions.

Other ways the interviewer can ask about you being a team player:

Why the interviewer is asking if you’re a team player

Teamwork is essential in most of the work environments. The interviewer wants to know if you are able to function within a team. Of course, you should answer the question ‘are you a team player?’ with a yes and follow up with specific examples that show you are. The answer and example situations you provide the interviewer will give him or her an indication on if you’re easy to get along with and if you’re able to communicate and collaborate with others effectively.

In short, the interviewer is looking for answers to the following questions:

  • Are you easy to get along within a professional setting?
  • Can you give examples of situations that indicate that you can collaborate well with others?
  • Are you able to communicate efficiently and effectively with co-workers?
  • Are you a valuable addition to the current team?
  • How do you cope with different personalities?
  • Can you motivate co-workers to perform (better)?

Answers to the questions above give the interviewer the knowledge that he or she needs to assess whether or not you will perform well in a team environment.

Tips for answering job interview questions about if you’re a team player

Everybody has team experiences, whether this was on a professional level during work, during your time in school, in a volunteering position, or during sports. Make sure you have a couple of team experience examples ready that, if possible, specifically relate to the job requirements of the position you’re interviewing for. It’s smart the thoroughly analyze the job description. By doing so you can play into what the interviewer might want to hear and relate your answer to the specific job you’re applying for. You can imagine that the interviewer would like to hear how your teamwork skills match those of the requirements in the job description.

When answering behavioral interview questions, you need to provide the interviewer with situational examples from previous experiences that demonstrate that you possess teamwork skills. The best way to do this is according to the STAR-method. Below the STAR-method is described in more detail.

Situation

Start off by describing a team situation in which you were involved that had a positive outcome.

Task

Next, talk about the specific task you had in that particular situation.

Action

Specify the actions that you took in the situation to complete the specific tasks you had to achieve your results.

Result

Finally, describe the results that followed due to your specific actions.

Qualities of a good team player include:

  • Being engaged in the project and committed to ensuring that the team successfully finishes all needed tasks and duties
  • Being able, but more importantly, willing to help team members in need
  • Commitment to keep everybody on the team updated on any developments related to ongoing projects and the company’s business in general
  • Demonstrating that you’re reliable, responsible, and communicating clearly

Also, if possible, use a recent example of a rewarding team experience you had. In addition, make sure the situation in your answer is relevant and show that your skills really add value if they hire you.

In addition, prepare for follow-up questions about your specific role in the team situation you describe. It’s very challenging for an interviewer to get a real feeling of what the candidate actually accomplished in relation to what the team accomplished as a whole. The interviewer will ask him or herself ‘did the team achieve those results because of the candidate or despite the candidate?‘. It’s logical that a high performing team has a few team members that are just not as productive as the other members of the team are. If your answer is not clear enough it’s likely that the interviewer will ask about your specific contributions. Therefore, when you can, always try to quantify your input to the team effort. This way you can prove your added value.

Sample job interview answers about being a team player

Sample answer 1:

‘Working within a team environment is something I enjoy and have experience with. I have the ability to compromise, and I’m respectful to co-workers. Also, I’m a good listener as a team member and open to feedback. In my previous job, I was leading the team that was responsible for investigating how we could boost the productivity of the employees by upgrading our office, supplies, and workplaces.

Within the team, we evaluated suppliers by comparing quality, pricing, and service contracts. Based on our initial information gathering we made a shortlist of 5 suppliers who were interested in upgrading our office. Several members of the team had their preferences which made it difficult to make a final decision quickly. I suggested to team up in pairs and pitch each supplier to the team and discuss the pros and cons. This way everybody on the team would get to know each supplier and take them into consideration based on the pitches that were given. During each pitch, everybody listened closely and asked questions. Finally, everybody would get to vote on the supplier that would suit our company best. The company has been working with that supplier ever since and the co-operation has turned out very successful.’

Sample answer 2:

‘I tend to do well in team settings because I can relate to others well, approach situations professionally, and through my experience, understands what it takes to get the job done. For instance, in my previous position, I worked on a project that involved members from different departments with different backgrounds and skills. This group was put together to finalize the project as a collective and produce a result that we could not have achieved individually. As you can imagine, ongoing and clear communication was very important during this project.

The project was led by a Scrum Master who broke the project down in weekly sprints to help us reach our targets. Besides weekly meetings, we had a short 15-minute session at the start of each day where each team member would answer the following three questions: 1. What did I do since yesterday? 2. What will I do today? and what problems am I running into? These meetings made sure that everybody could continue their work instead of waiting for the weekly meeting to discuss their issues. For me, this was a great way to stay in constant communication with the team and not only focus on our own goals but also helping team members in reaching theirs.

The result of the project is that we provided five distinct deliverables and recorded over $200,000 is cost savings in the last two quarters. Furthermore, based on my interest in this agile way of working I am currently following a training to become a Scrum Master myself. For me personally, I learned a lot during this project and I was really happy that I was a part of it. 

Sample answer 3 (entry-level):

‘Throughout my academic and professional career, I have developed my skills as a team player. I have played football since middle school and it has taught me the value of communication, contributing to a team effort and reaching a shared goal. I understand what it means to be a part of something that is bigger than just myself. During my summer internship at ABC Bank, I was asked to join a team to work on a project because they needed an additional team member. As I joined an already established team it was important that I stayed on track to deliver my parts of the project. Even though I was only responsible for a small part of the project as a whole, other team members relied on me proving my work in order to progress.

I made sure I kept everybody updated during the weekly meetings and worked closely with several senior team members. This way I made sure that I stayed on track and was able to get feedback on my work on a frequent basis. I delivered my parts successfully and the project was ready to go into the next phase. For me, this was a very informative and educational experience on efficient teamwork.’