Pin Me

Gauging a Job Applicant's Teamwork Experience

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 6/10/2011

Job applicants can be a savvy bunch. Ask a few basic interview questions about teamwork, and you’re bound to get a well rehearsed response. So, how can you determine the candidate’s real ability to work in a team? Using planned behavioral questions around teamwork is a good start.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Teamwork Abilities as Hiring Criteria

    Interview 

    Interviewing candidates for any type of position can be a thankless job. You’re expected to hire the best talent available, regardless of who applies for your job posting and their respective backgrounds. Trying to gauge an applicant’s ability to work in a team environment is never easy.

    However, there are a couple of proven strategies you can use to gather the kind of information you need to gauge the teamwork ability of your candidates.

    Make being teamwork-friendly a key part of your hiring criteria. Spell out as specifically as you can what it is you are looking for in a candidate regarding the ability to work with others. How is teamwork perceived in your company? What would be some examples of successful and unsuccessful teamwork? If you can easily answer these kinds of questions, then you have a firm grasp on what this quality means to you. If you struggle a little with these types of examples in your company, then it will be harder for you to determine whether another person--in this case a candidate--has what it takes to be a team player in your company.

  • slide 2 of 4

    Behavior-Related Questions

    Listening to applicant 

    Once you have a good understanding of the criteria and how it relates to the job, you are ready to start asking the right kind of interview questions about teamwork to uncover the candidate’s talents.

    Planned behavior questions are going to be an important part of your interview process. You’ll want to ask the same basic set of questions of each applicant so you have a frame of reference when comparing all the applicant’s responses. Keep the planned questions simple to understand, and be prepared to follow up the responses.

    Examples

    Let’s look at a few examples of questions you could use. The goal with these questions is to get a clear picture of how the applicant behaved in previous work situations related to teams. The questions are designed to uncover as much past behavior in comparable situations. Past behavior has a strong tendency to predict future behavior. Therefore, you want to ask questions based on previous team-related experiences.

    "What was the toughest decision you had to make on your last team?"

    "What was the best decision you made on your last team?"

    "What did you enjoy most about working in a team?"

    "Tell me about some situations where team unity was important to the success of a project."

    "What do you do when a team member isn’t performing to expectations?"

    "Tell me about a time when you observed a team member struggling with their work. What did you do?"

    "How important is it to build relationships with your team members? What are some examples of how you achieved this?"

    "What are some examples of when you assisted a team member who was unable to complete their work on time?"

    Now, with each of these kinds of questions, you obviously leave yourself open to almost any type of response, which is okay. Some responses will be pretty detailed and useful, while others will be vague and irrelevant. More often than not, it’s the use of carefully crafted follow-up questions that will dictate the level of success you have in gauging the applicant’s level of teamwork experience.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Follow-up Questions

    In this section, we will add a few follow-up questions that will help in gaining a more complete picture about the applicant’s past behavior in team situations.

    Remember, each question around teamwork is designed to gather useful information in selecting the best candidate. The teamwork hiring criteria that you outlined prior to starting the interviewing process will provide you the needed guidance in creating your own follow-up questions.

    Most of your follow-up questions will be in response to vague, theoretical, or opinionated answers. When you hear these types of responses, you’ll want to request more specific details.

    Examples

    "Could you be more specific with an actual example?"

    "On your last team, what would be an example of . . . ?"

    "When that happened to your team, what did you do?"

    "What were the consequences of your actions on your team members?"

    "How did your decision impact the team?"

    "What were the specific results of this decision?"

    "What was the outcome of that team decision?"

    "As team leader, how did you do that?"

    These are just a few of the follow-up questions you can use. Listen carefully to the applicant’s responses, and using your teamwork hiring criteria as your compass, explore any response that does not provide you with useful information to help gauge the experience and talent of the applicant.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Sources

    Information is drawn from the writer's experience in business consultation and training.

    Image Credits:

    Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net