There’s a lot more to the world of teamwork interview questions that asking ‘do you work better in a team or alone?’. The truth is that even in technical development roles, being a team player is important.
But with many startups, software houses, and even corporations using teams as a way to accomplish tasks and foster corporate innovation, the modern ‘team player’ has to have a wide range of personal skills and a flexible work ethic.
This means that 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 are, the more they’ll rely on other team members to take care of tasks that complement their own. So being able to communicate as part of a team is just as crucial as being able to be productive in a team.
Why you need to ask teamwork interview questions
There’s a big big difference between being a team player, and being a team leader. When someone says that they’re great working in a team environment, does that mean that they’re happy to take on tasks given to them by others? Or does it mean that they like being part of a team, as long as they control the team?
When the pressure is on, will your candidate do what’s asked of them for the team, will they take a back seat, or will they go above and beyond for their team?
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.
The importance of teamwork skills
Team players are individuals that will drive your company forward. Aside from the skills and experience of your developer, being able to work in a team is arguably the most important characteristic of a good hire.
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 teamwork interview questions, you’ll be able to shed some light on your candidate’s attitude toward teamwork.
Interview questions about being a team player
Teamwork interview questions, combined with behavioral interview questions, personal interview questions, and technical interview questions or tasks (when relevant) can help you create an efficient interview process.
Teamwork interview question #1: What is your definition of a team player?
First and foremost, this teamwork interview question sets the precedent for your candidate’s attitude toward working as part of a team.
Are they a team player in the sense that they push the team forward, or a team player in that they play their role, nothing more, nothing less? Does their definition of being a team player align with your company’s?
Is your candidate willing to be part of a team that challenges their definition of being a team player? Versatility and agility in one’s working method are of the utmost importance to be a successful team player!
Teamwork interview question #2: Tell me about a successful team that you’ve been a part of.
Another behavioral-based teamwork interview question, this lets you hear a positive experience from your candidate. Your staff work in teams to achieve the best possible outcome, but there can also be some rewarding personal and professional experiences as a result of operating in a team.
Getting your candidate to talk about these moments may reinforce their attitudes to working as part of a team.
Teamwork interview question #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?
Teamwork interview question #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 question #5: Do you perform better individually or as part of a team?
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 as an individual and as a team player. Enquire more about their strengths and weaknesses as a team player and as an individual.
In which 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.
Teamwork interview question #6: Describe a time where you had to work as part of a team on a challenging task. Did you complete that task?
This question is a little wordy, so you might like to rephrase this in your own way to make it easier for your candidate to digest.
It’s a good way to get an idea of how your candidate approaches challenges in a team situation. Did they show initiative and delegate, or did they sit back and do what was needed to be done?
By finding out if the challenging team task was completed, you’re able to see how the candidate responded to ‘failure’, or not achieving set goals.
Teamwork interview question #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.
Teamwork interview question #8: How do you fare working as part of a team remotely?
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.
Teamwork interview question #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 teamwork interview questions should also take into consideration personal relationships – both positive and negative.
Whether your candidate will be in a leadership role in 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?
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?
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.
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’.
Teamwork interview question #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. The definition of ‘leading a team’ will obviously vary from person to person That said, asking if they’ve ever done so can lead to other questions about leadership and management experience.
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?
Teamwork interview question #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?
And here’s one final tip:
Take note and see if your candidate uses words like we, us, and our when answering these questions, 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 teamwork interview questions into your recruitment method. Test, measure, and asses 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 it build a picture of them and if they’d fit into your current team.