“Tell me about a time you worked in a team” is a common interview question that you need to be ready for. Due to the importance of teamwork in professional settings, hiring managers will pay close attention to your answer!
This guide will help you give a great response and improve your chance of getting the job.
Why This Question Gets Asked in Job Interviews
Interviewers often ask questions to learn about your ability to work with others. Most jobs today require collaboration with colleagues, and organizations thrive when they have teams that operate like a well-oiled machine. But you may also get asked this question if the job is predominantly solo.
So why do interviewers want to hear about a time when you worked in a team?
Ultimately, this question is a way to gain insights into your communication skills, leadership, and overall teamwork. It doesn’t matter whether the job will require frequent or little collaboration, you must know how to work with others in order to move the project and company forward.
Hiring managers want to know that you can work with different people and get things done. It’s about communicating your needs effectively and navigating different personalities so that you can contribute to larger objectives. Employers want to see that you’re willing to help others, ask people for assistance when you need it, and work within a more complex operation to serve the company’s needs.
How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time When You Worked in a Team”
Questions that ask you to tell a story can be tricky. They feel open-ended, but there are many things interviewers listen for when you deliver a response. Here are a few tips to ensure you check off all the boxes and provide an answer that works in your favor.
1. Choose a Time That’s Relevant to the Position You Want
If possible, the best approach when talking about a time you worked in a team is to relate it to the position you’re trying to get. You may or may not have direct industry experience or a history of performing similar work. But if you do, always tap into those examples.
There’s no doubt that hiring managers would want to know if you’ve worked with a team doing a comparable job before. Discussing your background could significantly improve your chances of getting a job offer because you have proven experience in a collaborative environment similar to the job you want.
Think outside the box if necessary and reflect on the types of team environments you were a part of to find ways to connect them back to the position.
2. Share What You and Your Team Worked On
Once you settle on a moment to discuss, lay the groundwork by detailing what your team was working on at the time. Provide context to give interviewers a better idea of the group dynamic. You don’t have to go into fine details, but interviewers want to know as much as they can about how you work in team environments.
It’s also wise to discuss the actions your group took. Tell a story about what the team did to accomplish its goals and what steps you all took collectively. You can also explain your reasoning and how you made crucial decisions.
3. Describe Your Role Within the Team
Next, you should describe your specific role in the team.
True teamwork requires an equitable division of tasks. Everyone needs to complete their portion of the work to contribute to help the group function as one. Reviewing your role will help interviewers understand what types of interactions you experienced and add more weight to your contributions.
This tip also helps provide clarity and eliminates confusion for hiring managers.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Share the Challenges
Many people assume that you must stick to the positives only. That might be true from a high level, but you shouldn’t be afraid to touch on some of the challenges you faced when working in a team.
Talking about the hurdles you overcame and what you did to reach the finish line can be beneficial. It shows that you can collaborate while simultaneously finding solutions to the inevitable challenges that you’ll be presented with.
5. End on a High Note
Finally, don’t forget to end on a positive note! This is especially true if you detailed some of your team’s challenges.
Always finish your answer by highlighting the positive outcome of your collaborative effort. What did you accomplish? Were there any important lessons you learned from the experience?
The goal is to showcase how your contributions ultimately benefited your previous company’s bottom line. You also want to assure hiring managers that it was a positive experience and that you’re willing to work in teams again.
Mistakes to Avoid
“Tell me about a time you worked in a team” is an interview question that can do a lot to shed light on your capabilities. However, there are also many mistakes you can make when giving your answer. Saying the wrong thing could raise concerns with employers, ruining your chances of getting a job offer.
Here are a few mistakes you want to avoid.
Don’t Say You Don’t Have Team Experience
One of the worst mistakes you can make is shrugging your shoulders and saying you don’t have any experience working with a team. Not only is it a red flag for employers, but it’s also not true!
You might not have professional team experience. But if you reflect on your education, you can find practical examples. Most people have either worked on group projects in school or participated in team sports.
While professional experience is preferred, examples from your education can work, too. You just have to think creatively to connect your experience.
Saying you’ve never worked as part of a team will be puzzling for interviewers. They may think you have something to hide or are too inexperienced for the position.
Don’t Badmouth Old Colleagues
Refrain from talking ill about your former teammates. Remember that hiring managers want to know that you can be productive when working with others. You don’t have to like all your coworkers. However, you must know how to put your differences aside for the common goal.
Speaking negatively of your colleagues will paint the wrong picture. It makes you come off as unprofessional and possibly immature. Either way, it’s a big turn-off for interviewers because no one wants to invite negativity into the workplace.
Don’t Imply You Hate Teamwork
Finally, avoid saying anything that gives off the impression that you can’t stand working with others. You can express your preference but must always make your adaptability known.
The job you want may not require much collaboration, but you can expect to interact with colleagues. Coming off as a “lone wolf” who can’t stand working as part of a team will likely get your resume tossed.
Need some inspiration? Your answer about times you worked in a team should always be unique to your experience. However, we have a few sample answers to get the creative juices flowing and show you what solid responses can look like.
Our first example is a classic example of teamwork in action. The job-seeker uses their experience working in retail to highlight their ability to work with others and resolve challenges.
“When I was still in school, I worked in retail and was part of a large team, including cashiers, stockers, clerks, and multiple supervisors. My primary responsibility was to work the sales floor and interact with customers.
During the holiday season, we always encountered challenges maintaining the pace with rising customer demand. Our store was always packed, resulting in several lengthy checkout lines.
When times got chaotic, I often juggled multiple responsibilities. I would jump onto an open register to help reduce wait times for our customers, tend to the fitting rooms to avoid clutter, and help stock shelves to keep our store presentable. It was tough, but we all worked together to increase revenue during those critical sales periods.”
Next up, we have an example of a job candidate with years of experience working in a team. They relate the example back to the open position, making it easier for interviewers to envision them in the new role.
“I have many years of experience working in a team. Before I got into marketing, I was part of my previous company’s sales department. I worked in a team of 10 for about five years.
The sales team’s job was to reach out to new prospects and create pitches that would eventually lead to lucrative deals. There were many moments when we had to pitch to new startups with little information. We would divide and conquer, gathering intel from every possible source to create compelling pitches that were hard to forget.
While not all pitches led to deals, we had a success rate of about 60 percent. My time on that team taught me a lot about problem-solving and creative thinking. We had no choice but to work around a lack of information.
I attribute much of my success in marketing to that time because I learned how to work with others under tight deadlines and mounting stress.”
In our last example, the job candidate doesn’t have much professional teamwork experience. But, they refer to their education to illustrate their ability to collaborate and be part of a successful collective.
“One of my proudest moments working with a team was when I was part of a group project during my senior year in college. As Communications majors, we completed many unique assignments to prepare us for the real world. This particular project required us to create a mock advertising campaign for a local shop in our area.
This store was still relatively new, so it lacked impactful marketing materials. As a result, we went in blind and decided to create fresh branding from scratch.
I was tasked with learning about the store and developing the brand story. After speaking with the owner and learning about the store’s mission, we created a solid mock campaign. The owner loved it so much that he hired our group to do some real marketing for his store.
It was like a side internship we all gladly took during our final year. That experience showed me what I was capable of and gave me an in-depth understanding of the many moving parts involved with successful advertising.”
Telling interviewers about a time when you worked in a team doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, we all have situations where we’ve worked with others to achieve a common goal.
Take some time to think about experiences that are relevant to the job you want, and start practicing. That’s all it takes!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.