How to answer the one question you will be asked in every interview

Certain interview questions are easier to prepare for than others, and you can usually bank on certain typical interview questions being asked. One of the harder, yet common interview questions revolves around the topic of being a team player – especially in the design and architecture industry, as the nature of this industry is very collaborative, so being able to illustrate that you are a team player is essential.

“An ability to work well with others” has appeared on every single job description I have ever worked on, from Junior roles to Director level positions, teamwork-related questions are the most common of all of the behavioral interview questions. So, be prepared for it and get motivated to shine and demonstrate your teamwork strengths.

What will your answer be next time you are asked “Are you a team player?”

I suggest you use the S.T.A.R. format to structure a compelling team success story:

  • S/T (Situation/Task) – Take 1 – 2 minutes to give a little background information to set the context for your story. Keep this short and sweet while still giving a sense of the importance and scope of the project.
  • A (Approach) – Here you should elaborate on the key actions that you took. Try make the focus on working happily and productively with others. This is your chance to demonstrate how you collaborated with and/or managed people across a team. Share just enough details to get a sense of what you did and why it was impressive. Illustrate how you were able to work under pressure, communicate diplomatically, and meet a tough deadline.
    Make sure that you are playing up the “team” aspects of the project. Describe who you collaborated with and what steps you took to make the team dynamics work. Be careful not to take all the credit for a team effort – give credit to others, where credit is due. At the same time, look for ways to mention other strengths that you demonstrated.
  • R (Results) – And now, for the happy ending: Wrap up your answer by describing the positive results of your actions. Was the project a success? Did you meet a tight deadline? Solve the problem?

Now, if you haven’t had much success or experience with team work – here are some suggestions on how to work towards becoming more of a team player:

  1. Look for ways to produce better, faster, easier and bigger results. Always ask yourself: “how can this situation be improved?” and “what can I do to make it better?”
  2. Try instilling confidence in your team members that you are actively engaged. Prove to them that they can really count on you.
  3. Learn your company values and take responsibility for the overall experience that your company is trying to create.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure you are clear on the specific results you’re working towards achieving.
  5. Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone to consider new ideas and opportunities
  6. Learn how best to communicate with all the personalities around you – don’t assume everyone communicates the same way you do. Find what works best for you and them.
  7. Enhance your perspective – recognize that others may see a situation differently to you, so it’s best to try understand each person’s point of view.
  8. Be willing to learn – especially from mistakes or constructive criticism – this is your chance to learn from less than ideal outcomes, and get smarter for next time.

Take time to prepare for your interview by thinking about this and other challenging interview questions.


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