A “Team Player” is someone who works effectively within a group dynamic, placing the team’s goals above personal interests and contributing positively to the team dynamics.
It’s very common that you’ll see job postings that highlight ‘team player’ as a desirable soft skill that they’re seeking in their new employee. This article will explain what it means, and how to demonstrate that you are, indeed, a team player.
Team players bring essential skills to any professional environment, including problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and the ability to give and receive feedback effectively.
They also understand that a collective effort produces superior results, which at the end of the day is what the interviewer is looking for – someone who can produce results!
Definition of Team Player
A “team player” is an individual who demonstrates the ability to collaborate, coordinate, and effectively work within a group to achieve shared objectives.
According to Wilson (1996), the term was originally a sporting term, but is now regularly used in just about any situation:
“Team player, meaning “one who cooperates well with teammates,” began as sports jargon but is now Standard in almost all contexts.”
Key features of a team player include effective communication skills, a willingness to collaborate, a propensity for sharing and receiving feedback, and a commitment to group success over individual accolades.
Team players are adaptable, capable of embracing various roles, and possess a positive attitude that fosters harmony within the group. They are empathetic, patient, and understand that diversity in a team can strengthen results.
Team Player Examples
- You’re an Active Listener: An active listener consistently pays attention to team discussions, showing respect for colleagues’ opinions and demonstrating a desire to understand differing perspectives. Active listening is a specific skill, which involves paying using eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to demonstrate your engagement; while also asking follow-up or prompting questions designed to get the most out of someone who is speaking to you.
- You’re a Dependable Colleague: A Dependable Colleague can always be trusted to meet deadlines, fulfill commitments, and complete their part of a project efficiently. Their consistent performance, timeliness, and diligence build trust within the team and reassures everyone that you won’t let the team down.
- You’re Collaborative: A collaborative team member will be willing to contribute ideas during brainstorming sessions and work with others to find effective solutions. They understand that sharing is of mutual benefit to everyone, so they want to put their ideas into the group’s ‘hive mind’ to try to improve the output at the end of the team sessions.
- You’re a Positive Influence: This is team member who is constantly trying to raise the bar, lift others up, and maintain a can-do attitude. This sort of attitude can be contagious and help uplift the entire team during challenging times. This sort of team player recognizes the power of morale in enhancing productivity and resilience within the working environment.
- You give Constructive Feedback: Constructive feedback is an art – it involves giving feedback that isn’t just critical, but supportive. Two key features are: specific and actionable. Specific feedback refers to feedback that doesn’t just give a general statement of good or bad, but actually says the exact thing that was no good, and exactly why. Secondly, your feedback needs to be actionable. In other words, offers helpful and practical suggestions to for improving someone’s work, so the person can achieve self-improvement.
- You’re Adaptable: An adaptable team member is flexible in their role within the team, adjusting to changes and stepping up when necessary to support the team’s needs. They understand that the team’s success may require them to move out of their comfort zone, and they’re willing to take on this challenge.
- Team Goals Come First: Team players care more about the team’s goal than personal ambition. They acknowledge that their job is to contribute to a team’s project and, at the same time, acknowledge that the team’s success is the path to individual success.
- You Build Consensus: A consensus builder seeks out areas where people have shared interests, beliefs, values, or viewpoints in order to build a shared vision. They will aim for decisions that reflect the group’s collective wisdom, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment within the team.
- You’re Loyal: A team player will remain loyal to the team, even when things aren’t going well. In fact, during these down times, a team player will step up and demonstrate their greatest strengths: sticking by each other, coming together, and helping each other out to get back on track.
- You’re Supportive: A team player’s actions create a more supportive, positive, and caring team environment. Each member – no matter their rank – should feel included and should feel like their voice is heard and valued. This makes all the team members feel a sense of belonging and brings out the best in all.
Additional Characteristics of Team Players
How to Show You’re a Team Player in a Job Interview
Job posting regularly ask for someone with the ability to be a “team player”. Generally, this is sending you a signal that the workplace highly values people who will be committed to the shared goal of the organization rather than being self-centered.
Like most soft skills, ‘team player’ is a skill that transcends job titles and sectors. Just about every job and every sector requires people who are able to work in a team, work collaboratively, and support the organization.
So, in the interview, you might want to demonstrate your commitment to this ethos. With that in mind, here are five tips to help you showcase your team player qualities during a job interview:
- Share Specific Examples: Prepare ahead by thinking about specific instances where you demonstrated a commitment to the team. This could be a time when you helped solve a team conflict, demonstrated flexibility in order to ensure the team’s project went off without a hitch, or took the initiative to assist a struggling team member.
- Highlight Team Achievements: Rather than focusing solely on your individual accomplishments, make sure to highlight the achievements that were the result of a team effort. This shows your willingness to share success with others and emphasizes your commitment to team goals.
- Use “We” Instead of “I”: During your interview, using “we” instead of “I” when discussing projects can subtly show that you are a team-oriented person. It signifies your recognition of the collective efforts involved in successful endeavors.
- Showcase Your Communication Skills: Clear and effective communication is crucial to team success. During the interview, demonstrate your communication skills by actively listening to the interviewer, asking thoughtful questions, and providing clear, concise responses.
- Demonstrate Adaptability: Be ready to discuss instances where you’ve had to adapt in a team setting. Whether it was shifting roles to meet a project’s needs or managing changes due to unexpected circumstances, demonstrating adaptability shows that you are committed to the team’s success above all.
Showing that you’re a team player can happen in a variety of ways. The key here is to focus on ways you can show that you have a commitment to shared goals and a shared ethos in a workplace. Generally, the employer is actually saying: “no selfish people welcome here!” With that in mind, you need to go out of your way to show that you’re joining the organization to contribute to it and build it up, rather than just to build yourself up.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]