Has fear of getting stumped by an interview question go you breaking into a cold sweat before you even put your new suit on? Our monthly Q&A with HR professionals will help you identify and understand the kind of questions interviewers ask, so you can ace the interview and get on with your new job. Here's some advice from Amal Kandar, senior manager of campus recruitment programs at CIBC.
They ask: Tell me about the most successful team you’ve been a part of. Why you would define that team as being so successful? What was your role in the team?
Kandar says: This is one of my favorite interview questions; teamwork is one of our core values along with trust and accountability. These are key attributes we look for in people joining our organization. It’s very important in most organizations that people are able to work effectively with others. The answer will also let the interviewer know how adaptable the candidate is in different situations and how the individual values other people’s contributions to the overall team goals.
When an interviewer asks this type of question, they are trying to find out how effective a person is in helping to create an environment of support, assistance and information sharing. They are also looking to see what type of role the individual tends to take in these teams and how adaptable they are to different team dynamics.
If the candidate says they’ve never worked in a team, this is definitely a red flag. It’s okay to take the time to think of an answer, but not having one tells the recruiter that, for the interviewee, teamwork does not play an important role in achieving success.
A common answer from students is how they define a team’s success based on receiving a good mark. A good mark is not a suitable criterion for a recruiter to use in judging teamwork. A good mark does not reveal whether the team was effective and functional, or obtained the mark from the work of mostly one person. Another pitfall to be aware of when answering this type of question is to focus solely on yourself, as we all know there’s no “I” in teamwork.
The answer to this question and any other behaviour-based interview questions should follow this format: describe the situation; describe your role and the actions you took in that situation; and describe the end result.
A good answer will be organized according to the three steps listed above. An ideal example would be a school project where you had to work with a team where the members were randomly picked by the professor and the team members didn’t know each other beforehand. Including examples of the obstacles the team faced and how the team overcame them and what role you played in the team’s success would be great. And of course it is always great if the result was a good mark!