How to Tell Whether a Candidate is a Team Player

Steve Lowisz
It’s great to hire a highly skilled individual. But if they are not a true team player, they may actually hurt your business in the long run!

It can be difficult to find the real team players in an interview, but these tips can make it a little easier.

Ask Them About a Time the Team Failed

It’s easy to talk about our successes. But failure can often be the true test of how collaborative someone really is.

Ask what they learned from a failed project. Ask how they took accountability, or how they and their team could have done better.

When something goes wrong, does the candidate point fingers? Or do they ask themselves how they and their team can improve to avoid the same mistake?

Great team players take a little MORE than their share of the blame, and a little LESS than their share of the credit.

Listen closely for how much they are emphasizing their own achievements and shortcomings versus their team.

Ask How Collaboration Plays Into Their Process

Often, the way in which a candidate works and their mindset is just as important as the result they achieve.

Ask questions like how they deliver feedback to colleagues or how they handle difficult conversations. Alternatively, ask what skills and attitudes they want to see in colleagues or how they handle frustrating situations at work.

Your goal here is to get insight into the candidate’s mindset and attitude. Good team players tend to want to support others, empathize with different viewpoints, and work together to get through tough situations.

If they’re positive and eager to share praise, that’s a good sign. If they are negative, share dramatic stories or assign blame, that’s a bit of a red flag.

Ask Them to Think Big About the Future

A clever way to assess someone’s ability to collaborate is to ask them about the future. Ask what inspires a candidate, or what changes they’d like to see in the world aside from work.

Team players tend to care more about other people and want to see positive changes – even positive changes that don’t affect them.

Great team players tend to talk more about the positive changes they want to see for others – their team, their community, their company – than the raises and promotions they want to see for themselves.

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