How to answer "Tell me about a time you worked on a team"

Ashley Robinson |
Categories: Interview

Updated July, 2019

Job interviews are both exciting and overwhelming. Interviews are your chance to make a good impression during your job search.

But if you're new to the world of job hunting, it can be stressful knowing what you should or shouldn't say in an interview.

Employers love asking questions that start with, "Tell me about a time you ____." Questions like this are open-ended enough to fit any interviewee's experience.

The question "Tell me about a time you worked on a team" evaluates both your communication skills and how you work as a member of a team. But unless you prepare ahead of time for questions like this, it's hard to come up with an effective answer on the spot.

Learn how to answer the common question "Tell me about a time you worked on a team" using a tried and true interviewing formula that shows you’re a team player.

What interviewers are looking for

Remember, interviewers want you to succeed. They aren't asking tricky interview questions to trip you up.

They like questions like "Tell me about a time you worked on a team" because it gives them insight into how you handle common situations on the job. It demonstrates that you know how to be part of a team and have the soft skills to succeed.

For this question, employers want to see:

  • You can formulate a professional, clear response

  • How you speak about your teammates and leaders

  • How easily you work with others

  • You can get results working in a group

You generally want to avoid any answers that paint your team members, boss or yourself in a negative light. It's important to avoid extra details, too.

Nerves are a natural part of interviewing, but if you go off on a tangent about your childhood dog, you probably won't hear back about the job.

Employers want to see you focus on the question at hand. They ask "Tell me about a time you worked on a team" to make sure you aren't selfish or hard to get along with. A good answer shows you can work with others towards a common goal, which is an essential skill no matter where you work.

Answering teamwork interview questions

The key to successful interviewing is to stay on topic and touch on all the key points your interviewer is looking for.

Prepare your answer before the interview using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Use this four-part process to answer "Tell me about a time you worked on a team" in a way that demonstrates your teamwork skills.

Step 1: Situation

Start by quickly describing the situation. It's best to focus on a specific moment, like an event or a team project.

"At my last position, I was a wedding planner's assistant. One weekend, I worked with the road crew to install an arch for a wedding."

Step 2: Task

Tell the interviewer the goal or task you were working towards. This could be the point in your story where you face a challenge, deadline or obstacle.

"But we realized that there had been an error and the courier delivered the wrong arch. There was no time to order the correct one, so the team had to think on our feet."

Step 3: Action

Next, detail how you worked with the team to tackle the challenge. Be very specific, listing the steps you took to solve the problem.

"I realized we could use foliage from the area to make a DIY wedding arch. The team agreed, and we worked through the night building the arch."

Step 4: Result

What happened after your team stepped in to save the day? What was the outcome? Try to use examples with very specific outcomes; use numbers if you can. The result should show how you’re a good team player.

"The bride was thrilled with the result, and the arch even made the rounds on Pinterest after the wedding. We got several calls and new business as a result."

Putting together your answer

Use the STAR method to write your own answer. Remember, prepare this ahead of time so you won't feel caught off-guard.

Here's a great example that pulls all of the components together for a professional answer:

“In my previous retail position, we were split into teams by department to work Black Friday. Each department would compete to achieve the highest sales. My team and I made an action plan to have each person cover a specific area so that no customer would be an oversight and go without assistance. We ended up with a 10% increase in sales from the previous year and the highest number of sales among all the departments.”

Focus on positivity and action when hiring managers ask, "Tell me about a time you worked on a team." Prepare a few different situations just in case the interviewer wants more examples.

Curious about other interview questions? Ask below!