How to spot a “Team Player”

Apart from having good communication skills, being a good team player is another very important skill that most employers are looking for. Having great team players on board can give a company the crucial competitive edge. How can you spot the real team player? 

An employee who is used to work alone, or a person who ran a business on its own, and is suddenly expected to work in a team, might face a quite tough time. 

I would like to share some tips that will assist you in finding the right hire. 

  • Mention in your job ad that you are looking for a team player. Include a part in the application form in which the candidate needs to illustrate with at least one example how he added value to the company by being a good team player.

  • Ask specific questions to find some more evidence about a candidate’s abilities of working in a team. Some examples: 

- Do you prefer to work alone or with other people? 

- How do you get along with other work colleagues? 

- Have you ever been a team leader on a project? 

- Have you gained experiences as a supervisor? 

- How do you cope with conflicts at the workplace? 

- If you are faced with taking a decision, how would you take it: on your own or involve the team in the process? 

- What is your personal definition of a “great team player”? (Are there any hints of: communicating effectively with others, recognising and understanding the viewpoint of others, appreciating other members’ contributions, solving problems as a team etc?)

- What is your most memorable experience of working in a team? (In this case listen carefully as to how the candidate describes this experience. Does he just say it or are there fond memories attached to it? Does he share what made it so memorable?) 

- What was your worst experience of working in a team? (This can be very revealing because it tells you whether the person shares the lessons learnt from it, whether other colleagues are being blamed for the failing task or whether the candidate would avoid team work in the future due to this particular experience.) 

- What would be your plan if you would need to join an already successful team? (Finding out about the team members first in order to become one of the team as quickly as possible would be a good answer.)

- What do you do if things in a team don’t turn out the way they were planned for? 

- What makes a great team in your opinion? 

  • If being a strong team player is an essential requirement for the job watch out and listen carefully if there are any indications that may give you a hint that he is working very well in a team. You could do this by asking for his 5 biggest strengths. If in these 5 traits nothing indicates team player skills you should get suspicious. 

  • Another interesting approach is to ask the candidate what they have learnt from working with other people throughout their career. Have they ever shared these lessons with other work mates? 

  • Provide the candidate with real life scenarios and ask how they would deal with it. For example: “You are the team leader. A work colleague comes up with a brilliant idea and it proves to be extremely successful for the whole team. Are you happy to share the success with other team members?”

  • Have a closer look at the “Personal Interests” or “Hobbies” section of a CV. If you can spot team sports among them, such as soccer, football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, rugby, cricket, ice hockey then you can assume that the candidate has definitely some experience in working, playing and succeeding as a team.  

  • If you really want to test a candidate on team working skills there is no better way to find out than by getting him involved in an assessment day. Observe how he copes with the situation, how he interacts with other people and ask what he learnt from this experience. 

As Henry Ford once used to say “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” 

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.