Teamwork Interview Questions

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teamwork interview questions: Software engineer interview questions

There’s a lot more to the world of teamwork interview questions than asking ‘do you prefer to work individually or as a team member?’. The truth is that even in technical development roles, creating a team environment is important. How your candidate is able to answer teamwork interview questions can tell you a lot about them. Is their answer positive or negative? Are they uncomfortable or confident?

With many startups, software houses, and even corporations using teams as a way to accomplish tasks and foster corporate innovation, the modern team member has to have a wide range of personal skills and a flexible work ethic.

This means that, as a hiring manager, whether you’re hiring a front-end developer, a data scientist, or a CTO; everyone needs to be able to work in a team environment in some way, shape, or form.

Furthermore, the more specific the tasks that your developers have, the more they’ll rely on other team members to take care of tasks that complement their own. So, having the right communication skills to be part of a team, is just as crucial as being able to be productive within a team.

The job interview is your chance as a hiring manager to learn about your candidate’s experience in their previous job. You can enquire about the company culture and group dynamics. How they were able to overcome challenges and learn about their collaboration skills within a group.

A great job interview tip for recruiters is to have a list of teamwork interview questions that let job candidates demonstrate their ability to work in a group setting. The most experienced candidates will have many examples in their professional career where they had to cooperate and contribute as a valued team member. Teamwork questions can show you the many ways your candidate is able to be flexible in order to achieve success. These kind of questions allow a hiring manager to gain insight not only into the candidate’s previous job experience, but also into their mentality and character.

Why you need to ask teamwork interview questions

It’s important to create strong team dynamics. When someone says that they’re great when working in a team environment, or on a team project, does that mean that they’re happy to take on tasks given to them by others? Or they are happy being part of a team member, as long as they can demonstrate their leadership?

teamwork interview questions to use

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When the pressure is on, what kind of work situation will arise with your candidate? Will they do what’s asked of them for the team, or will they take a back seat?

Teamwork interview questions also help you gauge if your candidate is easy to get along with, if they can collaborate, and if they can diplomatically handle tough situations within a team. When answering teamwork interview questions, the ability to demonstrate strong teamwork skills is a marker of a good candidate.

The importance of teamwork skill

Team players are individuals that will drive your company forward. Aside from the skills and work experience of your developer, being able to work in a team is arguably the most important characteristic of a good hire.

Why?

Because team players create a buzz around themselves and make it easier to work with them. They create a positive environment. In fact, 86% of managers see teamwork skills as critical.

So by asking a few of the following common interview questions in your job interviews, you’ll be able to shed some light on your candidate’s attitude towards working in a team.

How to ask and answer teamwork interview questions

Teamwork interview questions, combined with behavioral interview questions, can help you create an efficient interview process. More than that, asking teamwork questions shows that you value the importance of a team-oriented environment. As well as having questions prepared, you can even have sample answers ready so, as a hiring manager, you know what kind of response you hope to hear from your candidates. Structuring winning answers in advance can work as an effective checklist of things you hope your candidate will say.

Common teamwork interview questions

#1: What is your definition of good teamwork?

First and foremost, this interview question sets the precedent for your candidate’s attitude as a coworker within the team.

You are looking to see if they can demonstrate good teamwork skills in various team situations. How do they help contribute to an overall team culture? Have a sample answer ready to make sure their definition of being a team player aligns with yours as an employer.

Find candidates who know what it takes to be team focused. Those who prefer teamwork and cooperating with other team members, as these are the people who will help to make your team successful.

#2: Tell me about a time you contributed as a successful team member.

Behavioral interview questions let you hear a positive experience from your candidate. You can learn a lot about a candidate by hearing how they interacted with former team members. This will give you a good idea of how they will work with a new team member within your company. You are looking for signs that they have contributed to team projects, either as a team leader or as one of the team members.

Teamwork interview question #2: Tell me about a successful team that you’ve been a part of. 

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Getting your candidate to talk about their past experiences is all part of creating a great team culture from the offset. You are letting them know that team success is important at your company.

#3: Tell me about a rewarding team experience.

At first glance, this teamwork question seems very similar to the previous question – although you could argue that one can feel rewarded in other ways than just finding success.

Perhaps your candidate’s team found themselves in front of an insurmountable hurdle. They might not have cleared that hurdle. Still, they learned a lot as a team and individuals in the process. Exercising problem-solving skills can lead to rewards other than success. Has your candidate had a similar kind of experience before, and if so, what did they learn about it?

#4: What do you consider a valuable team-building experience? Do you find them useful or valuable?

Many startups place a large amount of importance on team-building exercises as a way to foster trust, understanding, and communication within teams, but also between teams.

However, employees’ attitudes towards such activities are very very broad. Some individuals thrive and see lots of value in, for example, paintballing, team vs team. Others roll their eyes and feel uncomfortable in these types of activities.

Similarly, work retreats for the entire company with ‘team building activities might look good on paper, but can be quite polarizing.

Therefore, it’s worth exploring this topic with your candidate. Do they see the value and enjoy these team activities, or are they more withdrawn and prefer to be passive in the way they operate?

teamwork interview questions

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Therefore, it’s worth exploring this topic with your candidate. Do they see the value and enjoy these team activities, or are they more withdrawn and prefer to be passive in the way they operate?

#5: Do you perform better individually or alongside other team members?

Being able to work as part of a team is a pretty common soft-skill , if not an important life skill, and this close-ended question is a bit of a trick.

But by asking this, you can explore the ways your candidate sees themselves. Enquire more about their strengths and weaknesses as part of a team or as an individual.

With what kind of tasks do they excel on their own? When do they prefer working in a team situation? The responses to these questions can help you get a more defined picture of the candidate and if they’re the best fit for the role that they’ve applied for.

#6: Describe a time when you had to work as part of a team on a challenging task. Did you complete that task?

This a good way to get an idea of how your candidate approaches challenges in a team situation. This kind of question challenges the range of the candidate’s team-building skills. Do they delegate tasks to other team members?

By finding out if the team task was completed, you’re able to see how the candidate responded to ‘failure’, or to not achieving set goals.

#7: Are you able to work as a part of several small teams?

This is a crucial question for senior-level developers, as they’re more than likely going to be the cornerstones for many different tasks and teams.

Are they able to wear many hats and successfully work as a core part of many teams? If so, how do they prioritize which team and which of that team’s tasks is most important? It’s great if a candidate has the ability to be part of multiple teams, but not if their input to those teams is negligible.

#8: How do you fare working as part of a team remotely?

In this day and age, remote work ischanging the way we develop companies.

Even if your business isn’t 100% remote, remote work may still be an option. In this case, you should get a good understanding of your candidate’s abilities to work remotely but still be a part of their team.

  • What experiences do they have working remotely in the past?
  • How does your candidate problem solve if the rest of their team isn’t available?
  • Do they need any extra communication in order to play their part in a remote team?

These questions obviously only apply if your business gives employees the ability to work remote.

#9: How do you approach working on a team if you don’t get along with your teammates on a personal level?

As an employer, your team player interview questions should also take into consideration personal relationships – both positive and negative.

Whether your candidate will be in a leadership role within their team or not, how they work with the rest of their team when there are personal disagreements, is important. Can your candidate put their personal opinions of a teammate aside in order to fulfill the task at hand? This is particularly important when building a diverse team, as any personal grievances against team members, must not be allowed to affect how well the team performs.

teamwork interview questions for recruiters

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Obviously, you want the answer to be ‘Yes’. Conflict resolution is an important life skill, not just an on-the-job ability.

Teamwork interview question #10: What teams are you a part of outside of work?

#10: What teams are you a part of outside of work?

It’s well known that team building activities increase productivity. While this teamwork question may be a bit of a personal question, it can give you a good insight to the candidate as a person. If the workplace is the only part of their life where they consider themselves as part of a team, this might indicate a limited experience as being part of a team.

teamwork interview questions about teams outside work

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On the other hand, personal activities like team sports, group activities and other social clubs may very well mean that your candidate has a totally different take on the concept of ‘being part of a team’.

#11: Have you ever managed a team yourself in the past?

This is a teamwork interview question directly related to a person’s management skills. This could mean taking charge of an entire team, or leading a small group project as project manager. That said, hiring managers who ask candidates about leading teams in their last job, can lead to other questions about leadership and management experience in their overall professional life.

When asking this question, enquire about the success of the team. What was the goal of the team that they managed, and were those goals achieved? Was it a team with a one-off goal, or a team that had regular, varying and recurring goals?

Being able to run a team demonstrates an ability to delegate and communicate effectively. Many common teamwork interview questions discuss whether the candidate has experience in leading a team project, because this demonstrates personal leadership qualities, while also remaining focused on the team aspect of cooperation.

#12: When working as part of a team, how much interaction do you prefer?

This is an interesting question to ask a candidate, as it’s directly related to their own personal work habits as well as how often they think it’s important to sync as a team.

Many developers prefer to put their headphones on and escape to their own world while they do their tasks. Others need constant contact and support to make sure they’re working in the right direction. Which one of these does your candidate consider themselves?

Furthermore, as part of a team working toward a common goal, how often does your candidate feel it’s necessary to meet with the rest of the team and bring everyone up to speed?

Many developers who work in sprints have stand-up dailies – a small, 10-minute meeting every morning where each member explains what they did yesterday and what they’ll do today.

Other teams only meet at the end of a weekly or fortnightly sprint to discuss the entire period’s work. Which is your candidate best suited to?

13#How do you think other team members you have worked with would describe you?

This question is good to see, not only how past team members describe working with your candidate, but also how a new team member within your company is likely to experience working with them too. A past group project where they have fared well and have made positive working relationships is a sign of future success and something hiring managers should be on the lookout for.

14# Describe a time you had a challenging workplace situation

A good answer to behavioral interview questions like this one will show hiring managers that their candidate has a positive attitude even when things don’t go their way. How a candidate reacts during job interview questions to times that weren’t as successful, often says more about a candidate’s character and resolve, than times when they were successful. You can learn about their skills in conflict management, and hear a real life example of a time when they were put under pressure.

On the fast track to successful teamwork

This article has demonstrated why creating great team dynamics should be an integral part of your overall recruitment plan. Good team performance will create positive team dynamics and may well be the force that drives your business forward.

One final tip:

Hiring managers should take note to see if their candidate uses words like we, us, and our when referring to their last job, or if they use me, my, and I.

Regular use of terms like ‘we did this, our team noticed that’, can tell you whether your candidate truly considered themselves as part of a team.

Take a handful of these questions into a teamwork interview as part of your regular recruitment method. Test, measure, and assess their effectiveness and switch them around from time to time. Dive into your candidate’s previous experiences with teamwork, listen to their stories and use the answers to see if they’d fit into your current team.

Happy recruiting!

Image credit: Pascal Swier on Unsplash

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