How to Answer ‘Are You a Team Player?’

Two young men fist bump

Your qualifications and work experience are not enough to land you a job. In fact, hiring managers generally place a lot of importance on a candidate’s performance in the job interview when making a hiring decision.

This, of course, is enough to make interviews all the more nail-bitingly terrifying, but by preparing well in advance for tough interview questions, you can remove a lot of the pressure.

One such question is ‘Are you a team player?’

Read on to find out why interviewers ask this question and how to provide an answer that will blow their socks off and get you the job.

The purpose

Hiring managers and recruiters don’t take 30 minutes or so out of their pack-full schedules to ask you random questions for no apparent reason – every question you’re asked in an interview has a carefully calculated purpose.

Being asked whether you’re a team player – and the response it elicits – helps employers determine whether you’re easy to get along with and able to collaborate and communicate with others effectively. This, basically, indicates your suitability to the role.

After all, teamwork is essential in most work environments. Few jobs are performed in isolation, and even when they are, they still require some form of collaboration. Whether you’re applying for an entry-level position or a managerial role, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate your ability to generate ideas, execute projects, communicate issues and overcome problems with others.

Similar questions which provide opportunities to demonstrate your team player skills include:

  • Do you prefer teamwork or working independently?
  • Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
  • Do you like working in a team?
  • What strategies do you use to motivate your team?
  • How would you describe your ability to work as part of a team?

How to answer the question

Like with all other questions you’re likely to be asked in an interview, putting an answer together that will effectively demonstrate your teamwork skills can be a bit of a challenge – even for the veteran interviewee. But by following the tips below, you’ll be able to hit this tough interview question right out of the park.

1. Read the job description

You’ll have, hopefully, already done this when you were putting your CV and cover letter together, but need to go over it once more to freshen your memory and to try to identify just what exactly ‘teamwork’ means to the company you’re applying to. Is it simply the ability to get along in a professional environment or does it involve pitching in and playing many different roles? Once you’ve figured this out, you’ll be able to craft your answer around what the company is looking for in candidates. (You might also want to look at the company’s About and Careers web pages to gain a better understanding of their culture, as well as check out company reviews on sites like Glassdoor.)

2. Use recent examples

It’s important to stick to the recent past when looking for a story to relate your answer to. Having said that, however, it is alright to go further back if a story is particularly impressive. Meanwhile, if you’re new to the world of work, you can use examples from school projects, work experience placements, volunteer work or extracurricular activities.

3. Make it relevant

Make sure you give examples that are relevant to the company and the particular job you’re applying for. After all, you want to show employers how you can put your teamwork skills to good use and how the company will benefit from them.

4. Don’t memorise a script

Rather than just narrating a scripted answer you learned off by heart, highlight your story in a bulleted list and use the main points to craft a more conversational response. A robotic and rehearsed answer will simply fail to impress.

5. Be honest

Don’t exaggerate or flat-out lie about your teamwork skills or lack thereof – you will get caught and, when you do, it definitely won’t make you look good. Even if you are a bit of a lone wolf, it’s best to say something like: ‘Although I generally prefer working alone, I understand the importance of teamwork and I am able to successfully work with others when necessary’.

6. Avoid clichés

Teamwork is generally synonymous with sports, so your first instinct may be to offer a sports analogy for your answer. The best advice here would be: don’t. It’s corny and extremely commonplace, and as a result, you’ll instantly lose credibility.

7. Relax

Although easier said than done, you should try to remain calm throughout your interview. Excessive stress, after all, can negatively impact your performance and ruin your chances of landing the job.

8. Use the STAR technique

Open with a brief description of the Situation and context of the story; explain the Task you had to complete describing any specific challenges; mention the specific Actions you took to complete the task, and conclude with the Result of your efforts.

Sample Answers

Below is a selection of some of the best answers to this question which you can use for inspiration when crafting your own response:

Yes, I am. An example of this is at my previous job where I was working as a cashier at a local supermarket. While I had no customers to assist, my colleague was swamped with a particularly large purchase and needed help completing the job as quickly and efficiently as possible. In this particular situation, I assisted her with bagging the items. As a result, the customer left satisfied due to the speedy and efficient service, and my colleague appreciated the help I had given her.

When I worked at Company ABC123, there were issues with a few of my colleagues not getting along. This friction was hindering the success of the project we were working on. As the team leader, I intervened in the conflict and assisted my colleagues to find a way to put their differences aside and work together. This resulted in the team being able to move forward and complete the project on time.

Yes, I am. In my current role as content writer for Company ABC123, my colleagues and I were advised that we needed to increase the number of articles we produced to cover the days the office would be closed over the Christmas holidays. Together, we devised a plan to produce 30 articles within 5 As a result of working together, we were able to produce 40 articles by the deadline and our publishing schedule was planned weeks in advance.

Have you ever been asked about your teamwork skills in a job interview? How did you respond and were the interviewers impressed with your answer? Join the conversation down below and share your experiences and advice with us – you never know, you might just help someone land a job!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out our interview preparation guide as well as our collection of the most common questions (and how to answer them).


This article was originally published in July 2015.