10 Qualities Of An Effective Team Player (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella - Aug. 2, 2021
Skills Based Articles

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Building a high-performing team that works cohesively together is crucial to employers. Even the biggest businesses are only as strong as their weakest team. When going through the hiring process, interviewers are looking for candidates who seem like they’ll work well alongside others.

Applicants who are team players display qualities that are attractive to a hiring manager, which is why interviewers are likely to ask targeted questions to identify these characteristics.

10 Qualities of an Effective Team Player

There are a variety of teamwork questions that an interviewer could ask to evaluate your skills. Understanding what qualities make an effective team player is useful for answering these questions strategically.

  1. They possess excellent active listening skills. Developing communication with members of your professional team relies on active listening skills. Being fully engaged when your coworker is speaking demonstrates that you value their input and aim to work towards a mutual understanding. Developing active listening skills enhances your ability to work on a team effectively.

  2. They understand their role. The only way to be regarded as a productive member of a team is to accomplish your role’s responsibilities. Understanding what specific small and large tasks your job entails are crucial to performing well, individually and on a team.

  3. They takeresponsibility for mistakes. Everybody falls short of expectation at some point in their career. It doesn’t diminish your strengths as a team player to make a mistake, but it does if you don’t claim responsibility for it.

    Co-workers who refuse to accept or acknowledge when they make a mistake will frustrate their team and create workplace tension.

  4. They’re passionate about being a team member. Being passionate about a pursuit can drive a person to great things. Demonstrating a passion for one’s position on a team speaks to their commitment to success.

  5. They have strong communication skills. Communication is key to working effectively in a team. Most team positions require some level of experience with written and vocal communication. The most successful team members achieve goals by communicating and coordinating well with their team.

  6. They work towards solving problems. No matter how prepared your team is, issues arise. Strong team players handle these unforeseen problems with grace and a solution-based mentality.

  7. They exhibit professionalism. Even in a casual workplace, professionalism is encouraged. Professionalism means behaving in a way at work that makes the rest of your team feel comfortable. Your attire, conversation choices, and behavior with co-workers are all examples of things that impact your professionalism.

  8. They’re flexible. Team players are aware that helping other people is part of their day and build their schedules accordingly. It’s important that you’re ready to help in a pinch. Don’t take this too far though, or you’ll run out of time for your own responsibilities.

  9. They speak up and contributes. An effective team is distinguished by having a clear purpose for each member. Being a team player is about contributing ideas continually to further the success of your organization.

  10. They maintain a positive attitude. Negativity brings down an impressive team quickly. Maintaining a positive attitude, even when times get tough, exhibits a strong team player. When mistakes happen or problems pop up, a great team player doesn’t dwell on it — they’re optimistic and focused on makeing improvements for the future.

  11. They’re willing to learn from others. One of the best qualities that a team member can have is a willingness to learn from others. Despite how experienced an employee is in their field, they always have the potential to learn more. A productive team player embraces new information and uses it to grow.

How to Be a Better Team Player

Even if you think you’ve got this whole collaboration thing down-pat, it never hurts to take active steps towards improvement. Here are some ways to be a better team player:

  • Believe in your team. Being a positive force who respects and believes in the team’s processes and goals will go a long way toward boosting morale. Micromanagers make people feel like they’re not trusted, so hold off on the constant check-ins.

  • Be respectful. Respect begins with empathy and understanding that everyone else has work responsibilities as well. When you ask for something, appreciate that you won’t always get instant results. And remember that respect isn’t something that needs to be earned — show just as much respect for the new intern as the CEO.

  • Cheer on your teammates. Everyone likes to be recognized for their accomplishments. When one of your coworkers goes above and beyond on a project or goes out of their way to help you, be sure to shine a light on their success. Whether it’s a job-well-done email or a face-to-face chat, these positive affirmations create a whole work atmosphere that everyone enjoys.

  • Communicate effectively. So many mistakes in the workplace come down to misunderstandings or a lack of communication. No two teams or individuals are alike, so part of communicating effectively is taking note of how your colleagues like to receive and impart news. Getting on the same page and maintaining consistent communication throughout a project ensure that everyone has a sense of direction.

  • Help when needed. Great team players take on extra work to lighten the loads of their colleagues. However, there are two big tips to look out for. One is offering unsolicited advice too often, which can be seen as micromanaging or an insincere attempt at ingratiation. The other is taking on too many responsibilities from other people, leaving yourself with no time to complete your own job.

    Offer help when you’ve got the time and it’s clear that the other person could use a hand (or they ask you outright). Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Why an Interviewer Asks About Teamwork Skills

The major reason for an interview is to gain insight into how an applicant would behave if they were taken on as an employee. Hiring managers look for a mixed bag of skills that differ depending on the type of position you’re applying for.

One soft skill that is handy regardless of occupation or title is teamwork and the ability to work well with others.

An established and effective team that receives an unreliable or difficult new member disrupts the workplace productivity. Interviewers ask questions involving a candidate’s teamwork skills to avoid hiring an individual who does not have the abilities to fulfill the role.

Interview Questions About Being a Team Player and How to Answer Them

Being successful in an interview begins before you walk in the door by preparing accordingly. Familiarizing yourself with possible teamwork interview questions gets you more comfortable with your answers and eliminates the chance of getting stumped.

Below are a few potential questions that hiring managers ask candidates to assess their teamwork skills and how to answer them:

  1. What makes you a strong team player?. This is a fairly direct question about your skills as a team player. They’re looking for specific soft skills that you’ve demonstrated in your professional or academic career and a realistic description of who you are.

    How to answer: It’s best to answer this question by pulling an example from your professional past to support the qualities you’re assigning to yourself. This gives your response more credibility and allows you to talk about an accomplishment you made on a prior team.

    Example

    “What makes me a strong team player is my willingness to pitch ideas and collaborate. Many people feel uncomfortable coordinating unfinished ideas with their team. However, I believe it makes my concepts stronger.

    For example, in my last position as a marketing manager, I had an initial idea for a campaign involving social media influencer support. After hashing it out with my marketing team, we came up with a much more concrete concept that was eventually successful.”

  2. Tell me about your worst experience working on a team. An interviewer wants to hear about the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to your professional history. They ask questions about former negative experiences to understand how you handled team conflict in the past.

    How to answer: A hiring manager has heightened awareness for exaggeration or avoidance when talking about the subject of former employment, so be honest when answering this question. Give a detailed description of the circumstance that arose and how you arrived at a solution.

    Example

    “The worst experience I had working on a team was during my first job working at a restaurant as a waiter. I was very young, but I was a hard worker and quickly excelled in my role. I started to notice that my co-worker was taking my tips at the end of the night.

    When I called them on the behavior, they said I hadn’t worked hard enough that night. It was frustrating to be told this without any reasoning or examples, and I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told my manager what was happening, and they addressed it appropriately. While the situation was stressful, it taught me important communication skills.”

  3. What are the characteristics of people you like to work with? A hiring manager poses this question to a candidate to see if they’re the right fit for their team. Their answer illustrates qualities that the applicant values in their professional team.

    How to answer: Answering this question requires not only a statement of the characteristics that you enjoy in your co-workers but also an explanation for why. Choose qualities and reasons that make for a better team.

    Example

    “Two characteristics of people that I consistently enjoy working with are ambition and curiosity. I think that working on a team with people who display these qualities make for a creative work environment where getting the best work done on time is a priority for everyone.”

What Not To Say When Asked “Are You A Team Player?”

While there’s a wide variety of answers you could give after being asked, “are you a team player?” there are some things you should not say:

  1. “I don’t like working with people.” When interviewing for a position that involves spending most of your time working on a team, telling the hiring manager that you don’t enjoy working with people won’t make the best impression.

    While you don’t want to lie during an interview, it can be okay to omit simple opinions like this that hurt your interview performance.

  2. “I don’t want to collaborate.” Having an eclectic group of people working on a team towards a common goal is all about collaboration. Stating that you’re unwilling to collaborate with future co-workers deters the interviewer. It comes off as a difficult personality to work with.

  3. An exaggeration of your skills. While exaggerating your experience on a professional team in an interview may seem harmless, it can create a difficult situation for all parties involved if you’re hired. Stick to an accurate representation of your skills and former experience.

Possible Follow-Up Questions in an Interview

An interviewer will have a long list of questions up their sleeve to assess your potential as an employee. In addition to asking about teamwork skills, the hiring manager will follow-up with questions to target other areas of your work performance and history.

Below are some possible follow-up questions to expect in an interview:

Teamwork Skills on a Resume and Cover Letter

While teamwork skills are extremely valuable in any field or industry, we don’t recommend simply writing “team player” in your resume’s skills section. Anyone can write that they’re a team player, making it one of the biggest resume cliches out there.

Instead, we recommend showing your teamwork skills in action. For starters, you can include a big, successful team project in your resume summary statement. Of course, that section is usually reserved for one big personal accomplishment and a brief description of what you do, so the “team player” aspect of it might not come through.

Your work experience section is actually the best place to sell your collaborative abilities. Under each job entry, instead of listing your job duties, focus on major achievements that you and your former team(s) made. Be sure to sell the teamwork angle by using keywords like “collaborated,” “coordinated,” “contributed,” etc.

Here’s an example of what a team player looks like in a resume:

Professional Experience

JLC Inc. | New York, NY
Office Manager | 2015-Present

  • Coordinated with heads of Sales, Marketing, and Product teams to create a process for new product development, reducing project times by 11% and spending by 14%

  • Developed shared Google spreadsheets with warehouse personnel across branches, creating a standardized system for inventory management and distribution that fully eliminated delayed orders after one quarter

  • Mentored and trained new staff on company policy, job duties, hardware, software, and internal systems and processses, leading to an average score of 4.8/5 from new hires reviewing the onboarding experience

Selling yourself as a team player on your cover letter follows much the same logic. The key difference is that you want to give a lot more detail regarding one or two major accomplishments, rather than the short bullet points of your resume. Plus, you can incorporate a bit more personality and indicate your collaborative style through the way you describe your experiences.

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Author

Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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