There are few jobs that can be done in isolation. This means that a person in any role – from an entry-level assistant to a retail worker to management-level employees – needs to be able to collaborate productively with others. Therefore, expect job interview questions about teamwork when interviewing for almost any job.
A typical interview question about teamwork is, "Give us some examples of your teamwork."
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
An employer will ask this question to learn how you have worked with other personnel in the past. This will give the hiring manager an idea of how you might get along with colleagues at his or her company. Employers want to hire people who are team players, so respond in a way that will show the hiring manager that you're able to work well with others.
How to Answer "Give Us Examples of Your Teamwork"
Use the STAR interview technique. The question "Give us some examples of your teamwork" is a behavioral interview question. Employers are asking you to reflect on your past experiences in order to show how you might act at the new job.
When answering a behavioral interview question, your best bet is to use the STAR interview response technique:
- Situation. Provide a bit of context about the experience. You want to let the interviewer know a bit about the team. You can mention the number of people on the team, your specific role, and so on. While you do not need to go into a great deal of detail, providing a bit of background information is helpful.
- Task. Explain the team's goals – in particular, what project you were working on. If there was a specific challenge that your group faced (and overcame), explain that problem.
- Action. Explain the steps taken (including your own) to meet the team's goals. Perhaps you were all very good at delegating specific tasks and accomplishing them. Maybe you all had strong communication skills, and avoided conflict by expressing any concerns quickly. If you mention a problem the group faced, explain how the team solved the problem. This will demonstrate your effective problem solving within a collaborative work setting.
- Result. Conclude by explaining the results of the team's actions. Emphasize what your team ultimately achieved. Did you meet or even surpass your goal? Did you complete the assignment ahead of time?
Don't Focus Too Much on Yourself: While you might mention an action you took to solve a problem or help the group, don't focus too much on your own achievements. Emphasize how the group worked together as a whole. You want to demonstrate your ability to work with others, and that includes sharing your success with the group.
Express Confidence and Positivity: You want to convey that you do well working with others and that you enjoy it. Therefore, try to sound positive during your answer, especially when you discuss your successes. Similarly, avoid anything that might sound negative about your team – don't place blame on others, or complain about another person's failure.
Examples of the Best Answers
In my last position, I was part of a software implementation team. We all worked together to plan and manage the implementation schedule, to provide customer training, and to ensure a smooth transition for our customers. Our team always completed our projects ahead of schedule with very positive reviews from our clients. Our ability to communicate effectively was what made us such a good team. People expressed concerns clearly and openly, so we resolved issues as soon as they arose.
Why It Works
This response clearly establishes the project, along with the positive outcomes (completing ahead of schedule and receiving positive feedback) and the reason the team worked together smoothly.
I was part of a team responsible for evaluating and selecting a new vendor for our office equipment and supplies. The inter-departmental team reviewed options, compared pricing and service, and chose a vendor. We once had to implement the transition to a new vendor, which was difficult because each team member suggested a different vendor. However, we held a brief meeting where each member made a pitch for his or her suggested vendor. Everyone thoughtfully listened, and we ultimately voted on a vendor. That vendor has now been working successfully with the company for years.
Why It Works
This candidate establishes a common challenging aspect of teamwork, along with how team members were able to move past it.
At my current position, I'm part of the team that coordinates the company's lunch-and-learn sessions. Each week, we meet to brainstorm who will be our upcoming guest speaker. We all work together to ensure a diverse mix of speakers, aiming to appeal to a wide swath of people in the company. Because everyone on the team comes from different areas within the company, we've all learned so much about big ideas, from marketing to tech.
Why It Works
Often, people struggle to work with others in different departments. In this response, it's clear that the candidate can work smoothly with people from other teams.
As part of a software development team with tight project schedules, there were always fires that needed to be put out. Perhaps the greatest challenge we faced together as a team was when our project lead was suddenly hospitalized, ten days before our final rollout. Even in her absence, we overcame this challenge by working overtime and making an extra effort to ensure that all team members were "in the loop" regarding daily project statuses. The release went off without a hitch.
Why It Works
This response has a clearly stated challenge, along with the steps taken to overcome it.
Examples of Answers for Student Job Seekers
In high school, I enjoyed playing soccer and performing with the marching band. Each required a different kind of team play, but the overall goal of learning to be a member of a group was invaluable. In college, I continued to grow as a team member while on an intramural basketball team, and through my advanced marketing class where we had numerous team assignments. In particular, I have learned the value of recognizing and celebrating each team member's strengths. This allows the team to more easily delegate tasks to the appropriate people.
Why It Works
As this candidate deftly demonstrates, experience playing team sports is a good stand-in for on-the-job collaborative work.
I have had many experiences working with a team as a member of my high school athletic program. As a member of my sports team, I understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than myself. Team sports have taught me how to work with a group to accomplish a shared goal.
Why It Works
Companies want to hire candidates who are interested not just in personal glory but working toward something bigger — this mention of the big picture is quite appealing to interviewers.
As captain of my debate team, I acquired many different team-building skills. I have learned how critical it is to make every member of the team feel important, included, and motivated to be the best that they can be.
Why It Works
In this response, the candidate is able to show off important leadership skills, as well as an understanding of the factors necessary for a smoothly-functioning team.
Over the summer, I interned at Just Practicing Law Firm in downtown Detroit, and six of us teamed up to research a particularly difficult case. We decided to split up the research and meet twice a week, and then pool our research results. I discovered that I could never have completed the work on my own, but working together we got the job done. I enjoyed the shared experience in which each of us used our best skills and talents to produce one cohesive result.
Why It Works
This response walks through many of the advantages of teamwork in a personal and thoughtful manner.
Tips for Answering Questions About Teamwork
- Prepare for this interview question by reflecting on times you have worked as part of a team in a work situation. Try to think of at least two examples from your recent work history (ideally, from the past couple of years). If possible, think of examples that relate to the type of teamwork you would be doing at the new job. For example, if you know the job requires a lot of team project work, mention some examples of successful team projects you have completed in the past.
- Turn to school projects, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities for examples ifyou are an entry-level employee.
- Keep it positive. Don't include any experiences that ended in conflict, or experiences where the team failed to complete its goals.
Think of at least one example where your team met and overcame a challenge. This will help show your ability to solve problems with a team.
What Not to Say
- Negative results. Did the team fall apart in conflict or fail to deliver? These can be powerful learning opportunities, but during an interview, you're better off focusing on something positive.
- Long, rambling responses. It can be hard not to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of a project. But in your response, try to give the background, and any results, in broad strokes. Avoid talking too long, using company-specific jargon, or getting lost in your storytelling.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- How do you feel about working in a team environment?
- Tell me about a rewarding experience on a team.
- Describe a time you worked with a team, and the project did not go as planned.
You can share examples that didn't occur at work. Look to volunteer work and extracurricular activities if you do not have on-the-job experience.
Just about every job will require teamwork and collaboration. Even roles that seem solitary (such as an artist) require a person to interact and collaborate successfully with others.
Use the STAR technique. Avoid rambling and frame your answer effectively with this tactic.