This week I posted the final video in my 2015 series. I’m sad that it’s coming to an end because I worked with an amazing team of students this spring.
Appropriately, this week’s question is about teamwork. Common interview questions include:
Tell me about a time you worked in a team. or
Do you work better independently or in a team?
I asked this candidate to come unprepared to the mock interview so that his “before” answer would illustrate what happens when you don’t practice and prepare for a job interview.
Sure enough, in the “before” answer, we hear a lot of “ums” and “uhs.” He offers no specific examples–and no proof that he understands what the question is getting at. The interviewer wants to know that you, the candidate, understand what it means to work collaboratively in a team. This does not mean the typical “chop and chunk” approach that students too-often deploy when asked to collaborate on academic projects. You know what this looks like: “you do A, I’ll do B, that guy will do C, then we’ll paste it all together right before we turn it in.” That is not team work.
After a few minutes workshopping the answer so that he had a specific example and knew to explicitly talk about what it means to work in a team, Marcos hit a home run with his new and improved answer. Watch this before and after video clip to see the difference.
In the “after” clip, his speech is smooth and confident. He illustrates through a clear, specific example that he understands teamwork to be a collaborative process with checks & balances that maximize each team member’s strengths and minimize each team member’s weaknesses in order to have the best result possible. Then he explicitly says that they “all worked collaboratively and cooperatively.” His conclusion is a pretty nice touch, too: “I learned that I work well both individually and in a team.” In a real interview, you’d want to specifically say how you’d apply that to the position for which you are interviewing.
This example illustrates how one basic answer can be tweaked to fit various commonly-asked job interview questions; in this case, anything about teamwork.
The same is true of questions about weakness, difficult situations, failure–the same basic answer gets at what employers want to know: how you have dealt with problems in the past, what you have learned from them and how those experiences shaped the behavior you’ll bring to their organization.
Thanks for reading and watching the YouTube series on “before” and “after” answers to commonly-asked job interview questions!
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org The mock interviews were conducted with University of Illinois Urbana Champaign students from Ann Abbott’s “Spanish and Entrepreneurship” course who worked with me on my social media presence as part of their course project in spring 2015.