How to tackle teamwork interview questions and improve your teamworking skills
Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:39
Discover how to show graduate employers that you possess sound teamwork skills with targetjobs’ expert tips for answering teamwork interview questions.
For any graduate role, it’s almost a given that the employer will want evidence that you understand the importance of teamwork skills, including examples of your ability to operate effectively within a group.
Read on for tips to answer teamwork interview questions and how you can improve your teamwork skills at university.
- Why employers ask teamwork interview questions
- How to answer teamwork interview questions
- More example teamwork interview questions
- Other ways employers assess teamwork skills
- How to build teamwork skills at university
- More help from targetjobs
Why do employers ask teamwork interview questions?
Asking teamwork questions allows employers to assess how well you work with others, often in combination with a range of other skills and competencies including:
- your problem-solving abilities
- your ability to build relationships
- your ability to compromise and ignore your own ego
- your ability to inspire other team members to perform their best
- your communication and other interpersonal skills such as negotiation and influencing
- your emotional intelligence and how well you understand and interpret team members’ behaviour, actions and responses.
What are examples of teamwork interview questions and how do you answer them ?
You may be asked any of the following types of teamwork interview questions:
- Competency-based typically asking you for an example of when you have worked in a team in the past to discover whether you have good teamworking skills.
- Strength-based typically asking whether you enjoy working in a team and how you work best in a team. This allows an employer to see whether you would work optimally in their team environment.
- Values-based typically focusing on whether your values align with the employer’s, which could include working well with others.
- Scenario-based or hypothetical asking what you would do in a certain situation to see how you would handle working in a team in practice.
- ‘How you think’ or ‘finding out more about you’ : an example here would be ‘What makes a great team in your view?’.
If an employer is following a competency-based recruitment process, you are unlikely to have strengths-based questions (and vice versa), but it is worth bearing in mind that values, scenario and how-you-think questions could appear in both types of interview. What’s more, many employers don’t follow one set recruitment process. Instead, they may ask a mix of that will help them best assess candidates.
Even if you are not asked for an example of your teamworking skills directly, it will often strengthen your answer to provide one. Any teamwork skills examples you share should be structured by using the STAR method; providing details of the s ituation, t ask, a ctions you took and r esults of these actions.
How do you work best: in a team or by yourself?
This is the quintessential teamwork interview question and it’s designed to elicit an instinctive, quick response. Although there is no absolute right or wrong answer, if the role you’re applying for requires lots of teamwork, then your answer will need to demonstrate an ability to work effectively with others.
However, you should be honest with your answer, and so you can say both ‘in a team’ and ‘by myself’ or that it varies depending on what the context is. You could also say that while you prefer working in one of the ways, you can work in the other when called for.
Read the following example answer, which highlights strong aptitude and preference for working within a team, but also the ability to work as an individual when the need arises.
I work best in a team as I find it motivating to know that my teammates and I are all contributing to the same goal. Teamwork also makes work more sociable for me, as I enjoy interacting with colleagues to get tasks done. However, I thrive in a team environment where I also have the autonomy to make decisions that help move the team forward. This attribute highlights my ability to also come to conclusions independently and work well by myself when necessary.
For example, I’m a committee member for my university’s tennis society. One of my favourite aspects is meeting to discuss event ideas and find that these group discussions really stimulate me to contribute ideas. At the same time, I’m able to come up with ideas for events and alternative ways of engaging with the university tennis community by myself – and I share these ideas in our committee WhatsApp group chat.
In your opinion, what makes a team work well together?
Employers ask this question to gain a sense of what you think is important to a successful team and, by implication, how you would act. To answer this question, think back to times when you have worked in a team or times when you have observed others do so. What went right and, just as crucially, what went wrong? From that, work out what you think would make a team successful. For example, was it…
- Having a clear understanding of goals and a clear sense of direction from the team leader?
- Having clear lines of communication?
- Having an environment where everybody felt able to speak up?
- Having a group of people who were empathetic and willing to help others?
- Being organised and having a good sense of priorities so that tasks were completed on time?
- Ensuring that everyone was allotted tasks that played to their strengths?
- Or something else?
Let’s say that you think that communication and working efficiently are essential for a team to work well. You could say:
I believe that a team works best when members communicate clearly with each other and work with the aim of delivering outcomes efficiently. For example, I work part-time as a waitress in a restaurant. I always take the time to relay orders to the kitchen clearly, both when speaking to kitchen staff and writing orders on paper to give to them. Communicating clearly is crucial as this allows the kitchen staff and I to work well together to serve customers their exact orders as quickly as possible.
Tell us about a time when you worked in a team to solve a problem
Graduate recruiters like to ask this competency-based teamwork question as many of the problems that arise within the workplace can only be resolved through collaboration. Consider the following example answer.
My university rugby team was preparing for a championship game, but the week before the game our grounds flooded. I suggested trying to find other venues for our remaining training sessions before the big game. I helped to collate a list of venues that we could contact and divided the list among the team so that we could quickly contact as many of the venues as possible.
I personally phoned around different leisure centres and local rugby teams to see if someone could rent or donate their grounds to us. One of the rugby teams was willing to help and rented us their pitch for a small fee. We were then able to fully prepare for the championship game.
Is it important to you to be part of a team and have you ever demonstrated a sense of team spirit?
For any team-based role, employers want to know that you understand the importance of being a ‘team player’ and that you are willing to act with the team’s best interests in mind. The following is an example answer that highlights that the candidate possesses a sense of team spirit.
In a university football semi-final cup match, my teammate was sent off. They were playing a position that was key to our tactics and formation for that game. A couple of my other teammates nominated me as the best player to cover my now sent-off teammate. Although the position to be covered was one that I did not particularly enjoy playing, I covered it.
I did this without complaining because, although I would have preferred someone else to cover that position, my teammates had agreed that my abilities made me the best replacement. Therefore, for the team’s sake, it was better that I moved to the alternative position instead of suggesting somebody else and stalling resolving the problem.
I was able to successfully cover in the alternative position and helped the team to score two goals: first with an assist, and second by scoring the goal myself. We went on to win the game by four goals to three, despite being a player down.
Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with another team member. How was it resolved?
Graduate recruiters want to know that you are able to handle any level of conflict with diplomacy and grace. This competency-based teamwork interview question assesses that.
This next answer is a good example of how to show that when it comes to a disagreement, you are willing to compromise and look for a solution that pleases all parties involved, and, most importantly, puts the team’s needs first.
A group of friends and I were competing in a coding competition and the aim was to design a small, fully functioning website. I organised a team meeting before we started the project to figure out how we could divide tasks between ourselves.
During the meeting, I mentioned that I would like to work on the front-end design of the website. One of my teammates disagreed, arguing that they would like to have this responsibility and that I should pick up an alternative task.
I highlighted that I had a greater deal of previous experience creating front-end designs and so was very suited to taking on this responsibility. However, I recognised that my teammate was also excited to tackle the front-end design. Therefore, I suggested that we split the design between us.
My teammate agreed with this solution and we broke the task down into its individual requirements, splitting them between us based on our strengths and past experience.
Resolving this disagreement meant that all teammates were now in agreement with the responsibilities they would take on and we were then ready to tackle the project.
See our article on answering the tricky interview question ‘How do you deal with conflict?’ for more guidance on answering teamwork interview questions concerning disagreements.
How not to answer teamwork interview questions
Avoid saying or implying that your efforts were the sole reason for your team being able to achieve the collective goal. While you should never be falsely modest, an example that downplays your teammates’ contributions or that doesn’t explicitly demonstrate cooperation will not bode well with the employer.
The following is a good example of how not to answer a teamwork interview question:
I led my team to victory by personally beating all previous sales records.
This is a weak answer as it does not actually demonstrate an ability to work with others at all. Therefore, in your answer, remember to focus on how you have interacted with others.
What are more examples of teamwork interview questions?
These are more examples of teamwork interview questions you could be asked. Practising answering them following our previous tips will help you to prepare for your interview.
- If you were the team leader, how would you ensure your team members stay motivated?
- Tell us about a time when you worked in a team to achieve an objective.
- Tell us about a time when your contribution made a big difference to a team’s success.
- Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone whose personality was very different to your own.
- What is your approach to giving feedback to teammates?
- Would you prefer to lead a team or provide back-up support?
How else do graduate employers assess your teamworking skills?
Graduate employers will probably begin to judge your ability to work well with others by looking for teamwork skills examples on your CV or application form . If they use online situational judgement tests or immersive experience videos , they may see how you would act in scenarios that involve building good relationships with others. At an assessment day, they will probably set you a group exercise to see your teamworking skills in action.
Whether highlighting examples of your teamwork skills on an application form, in your CV or an at an interview, keep in mind the STAR method. When undertaking an assessment centre group exercise, remember the behaviours that are essential for successful teamwork.
How can you improve your teamworking skills at university?
You may have already gained teamwork skills without even realising it. If you haven’t already got a solid body of evidence to call upon in applications and interviews, it’s never too late to make a start.
Develop teamwork skills through group projects
If you are asked to complete a group project as part of your course, this is a great way to try out working in a team. Be aware, though, that ‘the group project completed on my course’ has become a clichéd answer to teamworking interview questions, so it might be best to provide other examples if you want to stand out.
Develop teamwork skills through societies and clubs
Student societies and clubs are an excellent place to build up teamwork skills. Obviously, it has to be a team activity, so golf is probably out of the picture. Sports are the obvious choice, but if that’s not for you, drama clubs and choirs, for example, can provide similar opportunities to work with others.
Develop teamwork skills through volunteering
Volunteering is an excellent way to develop teamwork skills along with valuable work experience. If you volunteer for a charity, for example, you will often be paired with others to reach a common goal.
Develop teamwork skills as a student society committee member
Sitting on the committee of a student society requires participating in meetings to share ideas and organising events. These are ideal experiences for developing teamwork and management skills.
Develop teamwork skills via an internship or part-time job
Securing an internship or part-time job is the most ideal way of improving your teamwork skills as you will be able to demonstrate to employers how you honed your teamworking abilities within a professional environment.
You can also practise working in teams in a recruitment environment by attending any mock assessment centres run by your careers service.
A final helping hand
The targetjobs platform is packed with careers advice to help you on your journey to securing a graduate job. By creating your free targetjobs graduate profile , you’ll get advice content tailored to the career interests that you tell us about.
targetjobs editorial advice
This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.