You never really know what an employer is going to ask you in an interview, so it’s near enough impossible to be 100% prepared and ready to go. However, being able to prepare some answers in advance can really help take the edge off. There are a few questions that interviewers are likely to ask you, so having these prepped in advance can be a real help when combating nerves and overthinking answers when put on the spot. Teamwork is a skill that a lot of employers look for and value in their employees, so when they ask this question, be ready to tell them exactly why you are the right fit for this job.
Why do employers ask this question?
It’s highly likely that you will be working within or part of a wider team, whatever the job. So, employers want to know that you’ll not only get along with the people you’re going to work with but fit in well with the team dynamic that currently exists. Being able to work well within a team is an important soft skill that allows you to communicate well with your colleagues in order to complete tasks, business as usual work and be able to plan projects and events. This skill not only helps you carry out your role but allows you to integrate well into a team and help the people around you.
All workplaces are different and have a team made up of people with different skills and personalities. The key to asking this question is to find out if you will work well with the existing team. They want to know what you can bring to the team and aid them in a way that helps the wider team and company. The employer will want to know how you work, what your values within a team are and how you work with others as well as alone.
So how should you answer it?
There are loads of different ways you could answer this question and we're going to break them down for you. The key to this question is to include your own experiences. Employers want to know what environment you work best in, what you may bring to the team and how you’d react to the team they have. They want to know how they could make you part of the team as well as looking out for the team they already have. It’s about making sure they are finding the right fit for all parties involved.
You can include positive and negative experiences in these answers, but always make sure to end on a good note. Talk about how the negatives pushed you to become better and learn, so there is always something positive to end your point with. So, what are the different ways you could answer this interview question?
Use the STAR method
The STAR method is a great way to form any answer in an interview. If you haven’t had the time to prepare in advance or you just didn’t consider this question, you can still come up with an answer using this method.
Situation – Think of a specific situation in your current or past jobs where you had to work as part of a team. Whether that be in your everyday job or a specific project you were working on, ensure you are quick in getting to the point.
Task - What was the goal in this situation? Did you achieve it? If not, why?
Action - This is your chance to shine. Give them some perspective on the point you are trying to make. How did you achieve your goal? What did you do as part of a team? Did you learn new skills? If you didn’t achieve your goal, how did this experience help you in the future? For some, this is the most important part of your answer.
Result - What did you learn? What did you accomplish? This question may be focusing on teamwork, but what did you achieve from this? Focus on yourself, it’s you that’s interviewing for the job.
If you’d like to learn more about the STAR method and how you can use it to answer this and other interview questions, head to our careers advice page where you can read the full article.
Discuss how you feel about working in a team
Different teams have different dynamics and when you move teams and meet new people, they may work in a way that is different to what you are used to. Teamwork isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone, it can take time to build up the confidence you need to work well with a new group of people. So talk about this. Teamwork isn’t just about how you will fit in with a team, but it’s about how the people around you are knowledgeable and equipped to help new people feel a part of the team. If employers know how you feel about working in a team, your weaknesses as well as strengths, they can help you integrate into the team and the wider company. Also, perspectives change. Just because you were nervous at one point in your career, doesn't mean you’ll feel that way in this job.
Discuss what working in a team means to you. How you like to work and why you think you’d be a good fit. Chances are you would have done your company research, so you know the kinds of projects they work on. Do you think you’d be good in that type of working environment? Teamwork isn’t just about being a good team player; it’s about admitting your weaknesses and allowing others to help you become a better professional.
What do you think makes a good team?
You can say you’re a good team player or you work well in a team, but what does that mean exactly? Individuals have different priorities, and they are going to differ from your colleagues. One thing that’s important to you, may not feel as important to another team member. So, how do you get round this?
Teams are usually made up of people from different backgrounds, different knowledge and strengths. You can’t be good at everything, so a good team has people that can provide an array of different skills and perspectives. So, what can you bring to the team and how do you work? It can be important to share these insights, to ensure that you are happy when joining the team. What you think makes a good team can be widely different from another colleague.
Include your negative experiences
Not everything always works out perfectly and it would be ridiculous to tell the employer otherwise. They know that everyone has different priorities, skills and opinions. We all work and think differently, but bringing these individual mindsets into one team is what makes many companies successful. However, things do go wrong. When people with different ideas are put together in a team, it doesn’t always result in the best outcome. Things go wrong, people disagree and sometimes, they simply don’t work well together.
However, this doesn’t mean you had bad intentions. Not everything can work and be 100% perfect all the time. It’s when we acknowledge that, work towards a better outcome, and push past the failures to ensure the task at hand is finished. Teamwork doesn’t mean agreeing with each other, it’s about letting that go, learning from each other and becoming better whilst working. This is why talking about downfalls and failures in an interview is just as important as the positives. This allows the interviewer to see how you work when things don’t go to plan and how you grow. It’s a skill in itself.
So, when answering the ‘How do you work in a team?’ interview question, you want to try and touch upon the points made above. You don’t have to include everything, but make sure you are giving the employer a good understanding on who you are, how you work in a team and if you’d fit into the team they have. There's no way to know if you are the perfect fit, you just have to be honest. Discuss situations you have found yourself in before, give examples and be open to hearing about their experiences. You can even use this opportunity to ask about the team. What kinds of projects they’ve been working on, their successes and what they’re like. They may like the fact you are interested in hearing about their team. Be open to listening.
Take the time you need to prepare and be ready for interview questions like this. You can read more interview questions and answers here, on our careers and advice page.