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Teamwork: why all graduates need the skill

Teamwork: it's high on the graduate recruiters' wishlist

Teamwork is one of the fundamental skills employers look for and it's on the graduate recruiters' high priority list. Show you can collaborate, influence and compromise.
Emphasise how your personal contribution allowed the team to reach its full potential.

Teamwork is all about being able to operate smoothly and efficiently within a group. Doing this draws on a number of abilities:

  • The ability to encourage and inspire other team members to perform better.
  • The ability to compromise and ignore your own ego.
  • The emotional intelligence to better understand team members’ behaviour, actions and responses.
  • Communication and other interpersonal skills such as negotiation, influencing, advising and interpreting.

How can you develop 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.

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 cliched answer to teamworking interview questions, so it might be best to provide other examples if you want to stand out.

Sports clubs are an excellent place to build up teamwork skills. Obviously, it has to be a team sport, so golf is probably out of the picture. If the sports field is not for you, drama clubs and choirs can provide similar opportunities to work with others.

However, teamwork skills can be developed in many different extracurricular activities. Joining the committee of a student society is a perfect way to gain experience of both working as a team and of managing others. If you volunteer for a charity, you will often be paired with others to reach a common goal.

Internships and part-time jobs are good places to develop teamwork skills because you will be working with new people 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.

Which graduate employers want teamwork skills?

Teamwork is a high priority for most graduate recruiters. They may be interested in looking for individuals who can bring different strengths to teams – some graduates may be particularly good at monitoring or evaluating progress, others may urge the team on when it starts to flag and others may be great at contributing bright new ideas. But in the vast majority of graduate roles, being able to work well with colleagues is crucial.

How do graduate recruiters assess your teamworking skills on your application?

Graduate employers will probably begin to judge your ability to work well with others by looking for examples on your CV or application form.

If they use online situational judgement tests or video ‘immersive experiences’, they may see how you would act in scenarios that involve building good relationships with others.

How do recruiters assess your teamworking skills at interviews and assessment days?

At an assessment day, recruiters will want to see your teamworking skills in action by setting you a group exercise.

At an interview, you may be asked competency-based and strengths-based teamworking questions. Often they will touch on other skills such as problem-solving and relationship-building, too. Example teamworking interview questions include:

  • Tell us about a time when you worked in a team to achieve an objective.
  • Tell us about a time when you worked in a team to solve a problem.
  • Tell us about a time when your contribution made a big difference to a team’s success.
  • Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with another team member. How was it resolved?
  • In your opinion, what makes a team work well together?
  • How do you work best: in a team or by yourself?
  • Would you prefer to lead a team or provide back-up support?

How to write up and talk about your examples of teamwork

When you’re explaining your teamwork skills on your CV, a graduate job application form or at interview, emphasise how your personal contribution allowed the team to reach its full potential. Recruiters are ultimately more interested in your actions and skills than the overall team’s achievements.

If your team managed to bring in a troublesome project ahead of schedule and under budget because of something you did, this would be an excellent example. Similarly, if you were able to outperform rival teams or win a competition because of your actions, this would be a great example.

How to say you work well in a team: ‘I helped my team to beat competing groups by encouraging everyone to speak up and contribute their ideas in meetings. I also supported those who were struggling to meet their commitments by offering to take on some of their tasks.’ You should give specifics of how your actions helped the group work together.

How NOT to say you work well in a team: ‘I led my team to victory by personally beating all previous sales records.’ This doesn’t actually show how you have worked with others. Remember to focus on how you have interacted with others.

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