interview questions / Job market

How to answer “When have you worked well in a team?”

Given the value of teamwork skills for virtually every organisation this has almost become an inevitable interview question. The era of remote working has also highlighted the importance of team work, both for employee well-being and the success of the company. Even if not listed as an essential requirement in the employer’s person specification, teamwork is undoubtedly one of the most sought after skills by employers in every job sector. Your ability to work in teams will be tested in an assessment centre and in the interview, often by a competency style question.

Why is teamwork so important?

People who can work well in a team can make a real impact and ultimately help an organisation be more efficient and successful. If you work well with others you can potentially contribute to a team that is innovative, that solves problems and that takes initiative. And which may need little supervision as members of the team can lead and motivate each other. The ability to work well with others has been also identified as a key factor in higher levels of job satisfaction in numerous pieces of research . So teamwork skills are of huge benefit to both employer and employee.

Get experience, prove you can work in a team

Of course, you can tell the employer that you work well in teams but to be successful in the recruitment process you have to convince the interviewer. If you have gained experience through volunteering, extra-curricular activities or employment for example, you can provide evidence of where you have worked in teams. Ideally, highlight situations where you made a difference to that team. You could, for example, have been the person who led and motivated others; the person with effective time management skills who ensured the team remained on task and met their deadline; or the creative team member whose ideas helped the team develop strategies and solved problems. If you can present your previous experiences of teamwork effectively in an interview you can persuade the employer that this is the impact you could make in this job role.

Competency questions are also known as behavioural questions and are used by a lot of graduate employers. The interviewer is essentially asking you to recall a scenario where you used a skill required for the job role. If you can talk about your role in that situation confidently it will help to persuade the employer that you are a good fit and you meet their requirements. A lot of the employers we meet at Warwick tell us that the STAR technique (situation, task, action, result) is the most effective way to answer a competency question – used skillfully it is a structured approach that provides evidence of your abilities.

Using the STAR technique to answer competency questions, 5 top tips

Be concise

It’s very easy to get bogged down in unnecessary detail, but try to put yourself in the interviewers shoes. It may be difficult for an employer when they are seeing a lot of job applicants to remember lots of detail, so try to be succinct. The ‘situation’ and ‘task’ can be described briefly, the listener just needs to understand the context and the challenge you faced.

Emphasise your role in the team

It doesn’t always feel always comfortable to talk about ourselves but the employer needs to understand the part you played. In the ‘situation’ description acknowledge that you were part of a team with important contributions from the other members, but explain the difference you made. This will show the employer what you can do for them in this job role.

Be reflective

What did you learn from this team work example? What did you do well but what would you do differently next time? Being reflective shows that you are someone who is analytical and who learns from their experiences. If there was a measurable outcome tell the interview panel, ‘my idea helped to increase attendance at the event by 10%…’

Explain how and why you did something

Highlight the skills you used. It will help the employer to visualise you in the role you are being interviewed for. For example, ‘my ability to listen to and motivate the other members of the team helped to ensure that we all communicated…this helped us to be successful’ Also, explain your rationale for the decisions you made.

Don’t be afraid to talk about failure

There may be a team work example where you wished you had taken a different approach. Showing the employer that you are self-aware will demonstrate that you are someone who can develop and you are worth investing in

Preparation is so important in interview success so carefully consider which examples of teamwork you could use to demonstrate the skills the employer is assessing. Practise using the STAR technique, ideally out loud (there are other similar versions including the SHARE/CARE models). You will feel so much more confident and will be more convincing when describing how you work well in teams.

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