Look closely at a lot of the job postings these days and you’ll see, ‘team player’ as one of the key requirements. Just because you’ve worked with a group of people under a Supervisor before does not however mean you’re a great team player; nor even a good one.
It’s important to know exactly what being a good team player requires, because once you do, you’ll be far better equipped to respond to an interviewer intelligently when they ask you to provide an example of your experience working on a team.
First and foremost, when you are required to work on a team, everything you do is less about you and more about the team. As a member of that team, you have an important role to play, but it’s more than just doing your piece in isolation and calling yourself a team member. Get used to the concept of inter-dependence; relying on each other to accomplish tasks, pulling your own weight on projects and offering your help when appropriate to those you work with. Inter-dependence works both ways too; you’ll find there are times when you should call on others to help you out too.
Depending on the job you are in and the work to be done, you may find that being a part of a team requires collaborating not only on producing goods and services but in the delivery to your customers and clientsc. Having a unified strategy in this regard ensures that the experience of your end-users is similar no matter who puts the product or service into their hands. So whether it’s service like home health care and childcare or products like electronics or clothes, how your target audience experiences the delivery should be similar no matter whom they deal with on your team. Allowing for differences in personality of course, I refer to information delivery such as following best practices, company policies, information sharing etc.
One of the best things you can do for your teammates in order to be respected starts with showing up for work. When you are part of a team and you’re not present, you’re lack of attendance requires that others cover in your absence the work you would normally do. People can be absent for any number of reasons; personal illness, family commitments, special projects, vacations, committee meetings, training etc. The bottom line is that your absence on the team means others are doing your work, or your work is adjusted so that less is expected of you – and that means your production drops in the short-term. It’s one thing for a team member to be off on vacation – because every member will also enjoy their vacation time – but it’s another to be off frequently for personal reasons. The last thing you want is to create in the minds of your co-workers that you can’t be relied upon.
One key element of working cooperatively and productively as a team player is to give when its least expected. If you know someone needs to dash out for an appointment right at the end of the day, maybe you offer to be on the sales floor and stay the few extra minutes if a customer is shopping just past closing time. That extra 5 minutes you give will please the customer, could result in income for the store, and will garner some appreciation for you as a co-worker with the person you permit to leave on time instead of being held up. While you don’t do it for personal gain, you hope that the goodwill you’ve shown comes back to you in the future sometime when the situation is reversed.
Good teammates look out for each other. When a colleague is slightly under the weather, distracted by a personal matter, just not at their best, teammates pull together; offering whatever support and help they can depending on the workplace.
You’ll find that really good teammates give credit where credit is due too. Whether it’s an idea, a specialized skill, personal attributes etc. each member brings things to the team that make the team stronger and add to the service or products you produce. A good teammate will ensure that individual members get credit when they are responsible for some creativity, innovation, performing extra work or solving a problem that allowed the group to succeed.
Some people have famously said that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but I believe within each successful team there are several individuals without whom the team wouldn’t exist at all. If each team member is to feel proud of their accomplishments as a team, they must feel personal pride in what they’ve contributed as an individual.
You can predict the likelihood of being asked the teamwork question in an interview by researching both the job posting and the nature of the work to be done. If the job posting has teamwork as a key job requirement, expect the question.
It’s important to share an example of your teamwork where you played an important part, yet be sure not to take all the credit in your answer. What had to be done, what challenge arose and what did you do that contributed to the overall success of the team? Share some specific example, not a vague generalization. Highlight the part you played however, as you’re the one applying for the job not your entire team.