IT Staffing and Recruiting Blog

8 interview questions that will help you hire strong team players

By in Recruiting Tips

Every time you interview a job candidate you’re looking for way more than a checklist of skills. You’re looking for strong team players who will fit right in with your best people and strengthen your company culture.

In this post I’ll give you eight job interview questions that will help you identify a job candidate’s approach team work. I’ll suggest how to interpret the answers to predict how the person will handle challenging situations. Plus I’ll give you some red flags to look for to avoid hiring people that may disrupt your team.

So you can continue building an awesome team like the one in this Culture Map by Dave Gray:

Culture Map by Dave Gray -

Visual thinking guru Dave Gray created this Culture Map –

Interview questions to identify strong team players

We all want to hire great team players. These interview questions will help you identify the best candidates and avoid hiring the wrong person:

1) Tell me about a team project you worked on. What was the biggest problem faced by the team? What was your role in this? What stressed you most? How did you grow as a person by being part of this team?

Strong team players:

  • See challenges as opportunities
  • Love their work and inspire others
  • Learn continuously and can explain what they learn
  • Do whatever it takes to get the project finished on time
  • Support others with friendly feedback and help when needed
  • Communicate openly and honestly with others when issues come up

Red flags:

  • Blames others for problems
  • Flashes of irritation or anger
  • General responses – cannot give specific examples
  • Mention problems without talking about how they worked with the people to resolve the issue

2) How do you keep your skills up to date?

You’re looking for people who talk about:

  • Courses, online training, books and blogs
  • Mentors, leaders and experts that inspire them
  • Involvement in online communities and special interest groups (like Github, Stack Overflow, online training, meetups)

Red Flags:

  • Cannot come up with specific examples
  • Flashes of irritation or impatience with the question

3) Who inspires you? Who do you admire least? Why?

Strong team players:

  • Talk about an author or innovator in their field and give examples of how the person inspires them
  • Explain how this person helps them to improve their work and solve problems that benefit the company or the team
  • Talk about bringing value to a team, a community or a cause

Red flags:

  • Pop culture example or no example
  • Focused on personal benefits

4) Tell me about your biggest accomplishment. What did you learn?

Strong team players:

  • Give a professional example
  • Are excited about the way people worked together to create the success
  • Deflect some credit to others

Red flags:

  • Can’t think of an accomplishment or trivialize it

5) What was your most challenging job? Why?

Strong team players:

  • Communicate to resolve problems
  • See a challenging job as an opportunity to learn
  • Talk about collaborating to find solutions – online or with co-workers

Red flags:

  • Speaks negatively about co-workers
  • Can’t explain what they learned
  • Gossips

6) Tell me about a time that you failed? Why did you fail? What did you learn?

Strong team players:

  • Bounce back fast
  • Persist in spite of challenges
  • Take responsibility for their role in a failure and learn from it

Red flag:

  • Seems irritated by the question

7) Ask how they would approach a future challenge that your company may face (real or hypothetical).

Strong team players:

  • Light up when asked for help and are excited to find a solution

Red flag:

  • Generalizes and skims the surface of the problem

8) Describe the last major change you made. Why did you do it? How did it work out? What did you learn?

A strong candidate:

  • Refers to a setback in their professional life
    Is happy to explain what they learned

Red flags:

  • Too personal
    Feeling victimized or self-pity

Hope this helps you hire more of those employees that you want to clone :-)

How do you identify the best team players who will be a good fit for your team? What are the red flags for you?

Please share your strategies in the comments section below.

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  1. Excellent questions !..- these questions especially well-suited to those on Project teams.. IT , or otherwise these roles that are typically hard to staff, and when hired wrongly can really compromise the progress of a project.

    paul barron

    July 22, 2014

  2. Thanks for the comment Paul. The process of screening candidates should be more of a science than it is. Companies spend millions on their R&D but very little in screening candidates. Some consistent processes can result in more retention and lower higher costs.

    Tim Collins

    July 22, 2014

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