What does teamwork mean to you?” is a powerful question that interviewers love to ask. It provides an excellent opportunity for them to see how you might fit in with their company structure and culture.
So naturally, coming up with a strong answer is important.
This guide will teach you how to explain what teamwork means to you in a way that leaves a good impression and improves your chance of getting a job offer.
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Why Interviewers Ask This Question
It doesn’t matter whether you’re interviewing for an entry-level job or a management role; you’re bound to work in a team at some point. Even jobs requiring primarily independent work will require some level of collaborative effort. Teams can boost productivity, help companies meet their goals, and foster innovation.
But if you’ve ever been part of a team, you know it’s not always smooth sailing. Teamwork is integral to modern business operations, but grouping multiple personalities under one unit to work towards a shared goal can lead to some problems.
Interviewers use questions like “What does teamwork mean to you?” to gauge your understanding of what it’s like working as part of a productive team. Companies want to know that you’re willing to put aside your ego, collaborate with others, and work as hard as possible to ensure that the group meets its goals.
Teamwork can mean many different things to different people. Some see it as a nightmare scenario, while others view teamwork as a chance to show off their skills and compare themselves to their colleagues. But interviewers want to hire people who understand the benefits of working with others and those who are eager for the opportunity.
Your individual skills are important to your success, but your ability to work with others can set you apart from the pack and make you a compelling candidate.
How to Answer “What Does Teamwork Mean to You?”
The way you answer “What does teamwork mean to you?” can make or break your chances of getting an offer. Say the wrong thing, and interviewers can lose interest even if you have impressive qualifications. By the same token, delivering a thoughtful and well-crafted answer can put you at the top of the hiring list and leave a positive impression.
Follow these tips to develop an answer that’s memorable and makes a great impression.
1. Do Your Research
The first thing you should do is research the company and the role. Understanding how this organization operates can help you develop an answer that interviewers want to hear. You can assume that most companies employ collaborative strategies to some degree, but knowing how much teamwork is involved with the job you want to get ensures you’re fully prepared to deliver an answer that sticks.
Dive into the company’s official website and LinkedIn page and consider looking up individuals currently working there on LinkedIn to understand the work culture. If the company leans heavily on teamwork, you know that a response underscoring the importance of collaboration is the right way to go.
The same goes for the role itself. Understand how teamwork plays into the position’s success and how much working with others can impact productivity.
2. Connect Your Response to the Job
It’s always smart to link your answer back to the job when answering “What does teamwork mean to you?” Here’s where your research and full understanding of the job description comes in handy.
Connecting the dots can help interviewers envision you working in that role. It’s also a subtle way to cement your interest and remind decision-makers why you deserve the opportunity.
Figure out how teamwork plays into the position’s daily operation and consider playing into the benefits it provides. For example, you can talk about how you plan to work with others and what you think a good outcome would be. Or, you can discuss why you believe teamwork is necessary to achieve success in the role.
While not all job descriptions do a good job explaining how the role operates, you can still use your best guess or better yet, talk with someone who works in the company before you interview to understand how the position interacts with other teams and people.
Anyone can recite the definition of teamwork and use powerful words to express their knowledge of what it means, but going over how it relates to the job can set you apart.
3. Lean Into the Benefits
There are countless ways to talk about what teamwork means to you. However, one of the best approaches is to speak positively about its benefits. Not everyone has years of experience working with others, but even as an independent worker, you can’t deny that collaborative efforts can provide impressive results.
Consider talking about the advantages of teamwork and how you think it makes a difference in the workplace. Teamwork can boost productivity, maintain open lines of communication, act as a natural source of motivation, foster employee development, and more. There are many reasons why companies prefer to have teams rather than a slew of lone employees.
4. Provide Real-World Examples
“What does teamwork mean to you?” is an interview question that’s basically an open invitation to tell a story and provide real-world examples. There’s no better way to show your understanding of positive teamwork than by reflecting on your past experiences.
Think about those moments when you worked with others to achieve something meaningful in the workplace. It could be about times when you brought many creative minds together to develop a fantastic end product. Alternatively, you can discuss situations where you met larger corporate objectives through teamwork.
Go into detail about your role and contributions. Then, end on a high note by reviewing the positive results of the collaboration.
You can even talk about potential missteps (while staying positive) and what you learned from them. Teamwork isn’t perfect, and there are many challenges involved. However, addressing those problems in your response gives you a chance to show that you understand how complex teamwork can be and how you navigate those efforts.
5. Prepare Early
Finally, prepare your answer ahead of time.
This isn’t an interview question you want to deal with on the spot. Give it the ample thought it deserves and develop a knockout answer before going into your interview.
That doesn’t mean you have to recite a scripted response. Doing that may make you sound inauthentic. Instead, understand what points you want to hit.
Practice your answer with others, get feedback, and perfect your response to ensure it has the impact you want.
What You Should Avoid Including in Your Answer
Now that you know how to discuss teamwork and what it means to you, let’s go over some missteps you want to avoid. As mentioned earlier, the way you answer this interview question can have a major impact on the outcome of your interview.
Here are a few things to steer clear of when providing your answer.
Don’t Bad-Mouth Previous Teams
This is an important tip to remember no matter what interview question you’re answering.
Everyone has horror stories of collaboration and teamwork gone wrong. It’s fine to talk about those moments, but you should never cross the line into speaking ill of others. It’s tempting, but avoid saying anything negative about your former employer or colleagues.
It’s not a good look, and bringing any of that into your answer shows that you lack the maturity to work in a successful team. The point of this question is to indicate that you understand teamwork and its many challenges. Bad-mouthing old teams is a red flag that you could be the source of the problem in your next collaborative environment.
Don’t Stop at Simple Definitions
Many job-seekers respond to this question by providing a simple definition and a few power words. While this technically answers their question, you shouldn’t stop there. Interviewers and hiring managers know what teamwork is.
They’re not asking you to recite the textbook definition! They want to hear about your experiences with teamwork, what it means to you, and how you can use it to your advantage.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About the Negatives
There are many potential downsides to teamwork. Egos can get in the way, and some people will not pull their weight. Those are the realities of working with others.
You can bring those things up, but you should always try to spin things more positively. For example, you can discuss how to address those issues or what you would do to overcome them and ensure success.
Talking about the negatives shows that you understand the complexities of teamwork and are realistic about how much work it takes to make those experiences effective.
Don’t Provide Uninspiring Answers
When we say uninspiring answers, we mean something like “Teamwork isn’t something I think about too much.”
That’s a response that some job-seekers with a history of working alone may provide. While you might not have much experience to reflect on, that’s not an excuse to give one-sentence responses with no substance. Interviewers want to hear about what teamwork means to you and how you plan to use it to succeed.
Even if you have no experience, you can talk about moments when you wish you had others to fall back on! There are many ways to frame your response, but simple blank answers are not the best approach.
“What does teamwork mean to you?” is an interview question that offers you the opportunity to develop a creative and thoughtful response. While your answer will vary based on your experiences with teamwork, we have a few examples to use as inspiration.
Our first sample answer leans into work experience. It’s a solid answer because it highlights the importance of teamwork and how the candidate has used it in the past to be an efficient employee.
“To me, teamwork is a coordinated effort to achieve business goals. It’s the division of responsibilities to work under a shared objective. From my experience, teamwork is crucial to growth.
Several years ago, I worked for a small marketing company that focused less on collaboration and more on solitary success. While that worked fine for small-scale projects, we encountered issues with our first big clients. A single person can’t create and manage a massive marketing campaign.
Due to the many responsibilities involved, a team formed naturally. We went from working independently to relying on others to complete our biggest project to date. It ended up being the turning point for that marketing company.
We succeeded in delivering a campaign that met the client’s needs, and it showed us that teamwork was necessary to continue growing as a company.”
In our second answer, the job-seeker touches on what it takes for a team to be successful. They recognize potential pitfalls and provide solutions to encourage groups to stay on the path of success and efficiency.
“Teamwork is indispensable for modern businesses. You can’t run a successful organization alone; it takes a village! That said, I also believe that the health of a team makes all the difference.
A healthy team is one where roles and responsibilities are distributed evenly, and accountability for every person exists. Strong communication, the ethical exchange of work talk, and the presence of relationship-building work banter are the foundations of a successful team. I’ve had experiences where those foundations didn’t exist, and work suffered.
I’ve learned throughout the years that maintaining a healthy team is paramount. It takes substantial effort to build a strong team. But once you get there, it can be a game-changing way to meet objectives, foster growth, and achieve success.”
The last example comes from someone with years of experience working in collaborative environments. While they’ve struggled in the past, they know the importance of teamwork and its benefits. This example answer works because it’s realistic, highlights the advantages teamwork brings, and shows interviewers what they plan to do in the new role.
“The best way I can sum up what teamwork means to me is that I believe every great result is a team effort. I’ve worked in project management for many years and learned that people are an organization’s best asset. There’s no better way to foster innovation than by putting qualified individuals together to work toward a common goal.
Challenges can arise. But in my experience, building an atmosphere that thrives on communication can solve most of them. As a leader, I always strive to create an environment that leans into cooperation instead of competition.
When everyone is on the same page, teamwork can provide beautiful results.”
“What does teamwork mean to you?” is an interview question you want to take seriously. Even though it might seem somewhat simple, it’s a great opportunity for you to make a strong impression and stand out from the rest of the applicants.
Take some time to put together your answer, practice it, and you’ll do great on the day of the interview.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.