7 Great Interview Questions About Teamwork To Find Better Candidates


You’ve worked hard to make your open positions more visible to job seekers, and now it’s paid off. With a stellar lineup of candidates, you’re ready to take the next step: the interviews. They’ve all got the right credentials, and they all look like they could be a great fit — at least on paper.

But while a candidate might have all the right industry knowledge and training to succeed in the role, there’s one key interpersonal trait every candidate needs: teamwork. It can be difficult to measure someone’s ability to work in a team before hiring them. However, if a candidate can demonstrate they are a team player and a great collaborator, they’ll be more of an asset to your entire organization.

What questions can you ask during the interview to find the winning candidate (and weed out those without great teamwork skills)? Here are 7 tested interview questions that will help you do just that.

Why You Need a Team Player

Teamwork skills are applicable to all industries, from healthcare and technology to finance, education, and beyond. However, that doesn’t mean teamwork always looks the same.

But there’s one common thread across industries: teamwork is when a group of different individuals work together with their strengths to achieve their collective goals and drive innovation.

Teamwork improves organizational performance and productivity while increasing a company’s adaptability to changing market dynamics. When you’ve got multiple people focused on the same problem, their chances of finding a unique solution increase exponentially.

It’s more than just approaching an issue from multiple vantage points. Collaboration also fosters creativity and problem-solving among team members, ultimately leading to better outcomes. Teamwork can also contribute to a positive work culture and help individuals align their work with the core values of your organization.

After all, it is teamwork, more than anything else, that shapes employee engagement, retention, and organizational identity. If you’re looking for a candidate that can fit with your company culture and smoothly assimilate with other employees, teamwork skills are a must-have.

7 Effective Interview Questions About Teamwork

Here are seven great interview questions that can help you assess a candidate’s ability to perform well on a team.

TIP: Approach the interview with a great understanding both of the position requirements and what the candidate has to offer (i.e., learn their resume). With that knowledge, you may want to tailor these questions to align with your goals for the role, the employee’s background, and the whole organization.

1. Do you prefer working with others, or alone?

This question explores the candidate’s basic work style. The best approach is to ask the question straight out. At minimum, you’d like someone who enjoys working with others. However, you don’t want someone who needs continual hand-holding.

A good answer would be something like:

I love working on a diverse, multi-talented team to develop unique solutions! I tend to find my place in a team easily and enjoy the give-and-take of collaboration. That said, I don’t mind working independently either and am used to taking initiative.

If you’re looking for someone who excels at teamwork, you want an enthusiastic answer. True, some people who don’t necessarily enjoy teamwork can work in a team if needed. But if it’s not their preference, they probably aren’t great at doing so.

A less ideal answer would be:

 I prefer to work alone, though I can work in a team as needed.

This is not a teamwork-oriented candidate, and you might do best to hire someone else.

2. Have you ever had to work with someone you didn’t get along with? How did you handle it?

Personality conflicts happen, but you want a candidate with the skills to handle them when they arise. This question can shed light on the candidate’s professionalism and their ability to focus on completing the project successfully, compromising as necessary.

A good answer might be:

I was assigned to a team with an individual who had a domineering personality. At first, I found it incredibly frustrating to be constantly checked in on and told what to do. As time went on, I realized that his leadership was really catalyzing some intense productivity across the team and that I shouldn’t take his comments personally. We ended up with a great relationship.

This shows both honesty and a willingness to overcome differences for the sake of teamwork.

What you don’t want to hear is bad-mouthing or escapist strategies, like this:

I didn’t get along with my boss at my last job, but I stuck it out for as long as I could. Finally, I realized I deserved better, which is why I’m looking for a job today.

While the candidate’s situation may be perfectly true and reasonable, this answer misses the point. The answer doesn’t really demonstrate a willingness to work through difficult relationships for the sake of the company.

3. What role do you think you usually play in a team?

Is this candidate a natural leader, or are they better suited for a supporting role? Are they a natural organizer, or a mediator and conflict resolver? You’re looking for two things here: a good fit for your open position, and a thoughtful answer that demonstrates they have some level of understanding of team dynamics and models. If they don't have a clear answer or their answer is just "whatever I need to be." they may not understand that everyone brings unique strengths to a team.

If you’re hiring for a supporting position, an ideal answer might look something like this:

I consider myself a helper, and love working behind the scenes to ensure that everything is on track and everyone on the team is supported. When my teammates succeed, I feel like I’ve won a gold medal myself.

Here’s an example of a poor answer:

I’m really flexible, honestly. I’m a great, charismatic leader, but I can also take a back seat to help keep things moving. What role would you like me to take on?

A wishy-washy answer like this is a sign of someone who may not have the level of teamwork skills you need for this position.

4. Suppose one of your team members is constantly falling behind. How would you respond?

In order for a team to work, everyone needs to pull their own weight. People also make mistakes, and team members must be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. But what if someone is consistently underperforming?

It’s easy to ignore these types of issues, or simply report them to higher management. But either option would hinder teamwork (at least in the short term). Much more helpful would be a multi-step process in which the candidate offers support to the struggling teammate and helps troubleshoot a solution. This question will help demonstrate how the candidate would deal with this situation.

A good answer might be:

I’d first talk to my teammate and find out what was going on, and if there was anything I could be doing on my end to help them meet their goals. I’d try to help them think of practical steps they could take to get over whatever challenges might have presented themselves. If it seemed appropriate, I’d approach other team members or our team leader to talk about how we could work together to help this teammate succeed.

This shows a true commitment to teamwork and a willingness to go beyond their own duties for the good of the whole team. Bonus points if the candidate’s answer is about their real-world experience with such a problem. Someone who has already dealt with this situation successfully will be better equipped to do it again.

Judgmental answers should raise red flags:

I’ve been in that situation, and though I was always on top of my own work, our team kept getting behind because no one else cared. I started out trying to keep my teammates on schedule and reminding them of our deadlines and why they mattered, but in the end, I realized I was getting stressed out over what I couldn’t control, and I should just focus on my own performance and let them do their thing.

This shows someone who is primarily concerned with themselves. While they are setting some professional boundaries which may have been necessary, they aren’t displaying an attitude of cooperation.

5. Tell me about the most successful group project you’ve ever been part of. What made it so successful?

Here, you’re giving the candidate a chance to talk about their wins — but asking for a little analysis at the same time. How well does this person understand what goes into true success as a team? Did they take decisive action, or were they just along for the ride?

A good answer might be:

I was part of a task-force with the goal of figuring out why we were seeing such low adaptation of our new product in a certain demographic and what we could do to change that. Our team was composed of about six very different people, with very different skills and talents. We were able to combine those talents to both find the cause of the dissatisfaction and solve it. Working in a diverse group where everyone’s strong points were recognized and utilized really made a difference, as did our strong communication skills.

This answer demonstrates a focus on team dynamics rather than any individual contribution.

Here’s an example of a poorly-thought-out answer from someone who doesn’t quite understand what teamwork is all about:

I’m very proud of the way I was able to bring up product adaptation figures during my last quarter at Company X. The company had seen six months with no improvement before my team was asked to take on the challenge. We all did our best, and it was my initiative and ability to crunch numbers that really turned things around.

This answer may be true, but it only shows the individual’s contribution. A truly teamwork-minded person would be focused on the team as a whole.

6. What do you think makes a team work successfully?

This question further probes the candidate’s understanding of teamwork dynamics and the factors necessary for successful collaboration. A good answer will provide a nuanced, thoughtful perspective of several elements that lead to team success.

Here’s a good answer:

I’ve found that good communication is an important foundation for team success. Regular meetings give everyone a chance to stay on the same page, discuss problems that have come up, and benefit from troubleshooting sessions. But not everything can be dealt with during a meeting. It’s also key to have communication channels open between everyone during the regular workday.

This provides a clear answer about what the candidate believes is a core element of teamwork (good communication). It also demonstrates the candidate was paying attention to how good communication was achieved through practical means (regular meetings).

Here’s a “red flag” answer:

Teamwork success seems to depend chiefly on the motivation of everyone involved. If everyone is excited about what’s happening, we’re going to be successful. If no one really knows what’s going on, it’s going to be harder.

This shows the candidate may not have thought about the issue before, and therefore may not be a great team player. It is a less practical answer and doesn’t address the nuances of team dynamics.

7. Why/how do you think teamwork is beneficial to success at an organizational level?

This is more of a philosophical question. Look for both a great understanding of collaboration and a conviction about its importance. Emotions matter here, as they show the potential level of engagement a candidate may develop with the whole organization.

A great answer might be:

When people are working together toward a common goal, it creates momentum and better work overall. Fewer errors are made, and any issues can be noticed and dealt with early in a trouble-shooting stage. Teamwork also provides an extra safety net: team members can support each other, filling in for individuals who might be having a difficult day or week. Honestly, it’s what makes the whole organization effective and worthwhile. Without good teamwork in every department, things fall apart.

This answer shows an understanding of why effective collaboration and teamwork matter and how they can set the groundwork for a successful organization.

A poor answer would show a lack of understanding of the results and benefits of teamwork.

Teamwork is about everyone working together for a common goal, working toward the same thing, and that’s what will give our organization real success.

This effectively just repeats the question without any real sense of conviction or practicality.

Tips for a Successful Interview

These questions can help you plan your interview around the concept of teamwork. But in order to make the most of them, you’ll want to improve your interview process. Here are a few tips:

Final Thoughts

As you go into your interview, remember the importance of choosing a candidate who can work effectively as part of a team. Your organization is built on collaboration, and you don’t need candidates who won’t fit in with your productive work culture.

Teamwork questions like these can help you hone in on the best candidate. Sometimes, the decision is an easy one: you know the right person as soon as you meet them. In this case, their answers to your questions only confirm your instinct. Other times, you’re faced with a difficult decision between two qualified individuals. These questions can be the deciding factor between a good candidate and a great one.

Either way, hiring decisions are easier when you have all the candidate's information organized and accessible in one place. Criterion HCM is designed to help you do this and much more. Start nurturing your new hires from day one with:

With Criterion, you gain an entire system designed to help your employees and HR leaders do their jobs more effectively. Improve teamwork in your organization with an HCM that puts people at the center of your work. Schedule a Criterion demo to learn more.

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