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6 team player traits to look for in your next hire


While not every job requires collaboration, there is an increasing focus on efficiency through teamwork. Agility is the new buzzword.

For example, ten years ago most software engineers focused on their individual duties and had limited interaction with others. Today, they’re more likely to participate in daily morning huddles to discuss current projects, share ideas and offer help with challenges.

Sound familiar? It may be time to update your interviewing and selection techniques for those collaborative positions.

Here’s how to find the team player traits that will help you succeed.

The traits to seek

If you already have great team players on board, you might feel inclined to hire clones.

Not only is this a near impossible task probably better reserved for a sci-fi movie plot, but your business will likely benefit more from diverse teams. You need different ideas and viewpoints that will complement your current employees – not mimic them.

As you begin evaluating candidates, you’ll notice hard skills are easy to identify on resumes – things like level of experience, education, accomplishments.

Soft skills, like the ability to work well on a team, are harder to spot in print. That’s why thorough interviews will be crucial in your efforts.

Below is a diverse list of soft skills to seek, questions to ask and responses to look for as you build your team with good team player traits.

Keep in mind that no candidate will likely be all things wrapped up into one. Evaluate your team and consider hiring according to traits that are currently missing from your roster.

1. The rock

No, unfortunately, this isn’t a reference to the professional wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson.

Here, “the rock” references someone who you and your team can always count on – the individuals who can meet deadlines and won’t make excuses.

To vet for this attribute, you could ask, “How do your colleagues rely on you? What do they reach out to you for?”

By using behavioral based interview questions – that identify a specific situation, task, action and results (also known as STAR questions) – you can get a better understanding of how your candidate works in a team environment.

Look for responses that indicate they’ve been a go-to person for their team. This is a great sign that they take responsibility seriously and are well-regarded by their peers for their reliability.

It’s common for candidates to give broad responses to behavioral-based questions. Your aim should be to get examples about specific situations candidates have encountered. If their answers are too broad, it’s up to you to rein them in.

2. The chameleon

Whether it’s a reorganization of your department, a manager leaving, or simply lean times, there are ebbs and flows in the workplace. That’s just business.

Chameleons are a special species of employee who has the ability to quickly adjust according to their surroundings. And frankly, that’s everything when it comes to sought out team player traits in an ever changing environment.

So how can you find the chameleons?

Ask candidates to share specific details on how they dealt with change in the past. For example, “Describe a major change that occurred in a job that you held. How did you adapt?”

Some people don’t deal well with change. Team environments where high collaboration is necessary might not be the best fit for them.

3. The generous genius

What’s better than an A-player? How about one who shares what they know with the rest of the team?

For instance, this individual might help a teammate learn new software or share a great professional book they’ve been reading.

When interviewing your candidates, find out how much they’re willing to share: “Can you tell me about a time you helped a teammate solve a problem?”

Those who are willing to share their knowledge or experience are characteristics of a good team player. And, as others follow suit, it helps to create a culture of sharing that can help keep your company competitive.

4. The go-getter

You want to find individuals who are always looking for a new challenge and willing to contribute to the greater good of the team.

Screen for this team player trait by asking questions like “Can you give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond in order to get a job done?” Or, “Can you describe a project or task that you started on your own?”

Their responses should prove that they don’t shy away from tackling challenges. For example, they might mention that they stayed after hours or volunteered to work a weekend to get the job done.

5. The innovator

Often times, the people who create a process aren’t the ones who use it on a daily basis. Having someone who’s in the trenches and willing to help improve processes – or even overhaul them completely – can help make things easier for the whole team.

Ask your candidates to describe a time where they came up with a creative idea or solved a problem in their past work. Find out how they identified a problem and solved it. What did they do to turn that situation around?

The more solution-oriented candidates are in their answers, the better the odds are that they can bring the same innovation to your team.

6. The cheerleader

This isn’t something people normally think of, but it’s important to have a motivating personality on the team who helps to keep morale up. This is the person who always remembers to celebrate achievements or plan a get-together.

Why does this matter? With better rapport, it’s easier for team members to have honest, candid conversations with each other.

While these cheerleaders won’t have pompoms in tow, they’re usually easy to spot – they’re probably naturally more upbeat and outgoing.

For good measure, you might ask, “How have you helped to motivate other members of your team in the past?”

More team oriented interview questions

For high collaboration positions, you’ll also want to include a few behavioral based questions built directly around team player traits. These will help you assess your candidates’ history of collaboration and determine how well they work with others.

Here are five questions to consider:

  1. Describe the types of teams you’ve been a part of. What was your role in each?
  2. What role have you played as a member of a team? How did you interact with members of the team?
  3. Have you ever been in a position where you had to lead a group of peers? How did you handle it?
  4. When was the last time you had a disagreement with a peer? How did you resolve the situation?
  5. Give me an example of a time when you stepped up to take the lead on a project. Can you walk me through how you contributed?

If your candidates don’t answer these questions with specific examples, it could be a sign that they don’t have experience in this arena. That might be okay, especially if it’s still early in their career.

In this case, ask for alternative responses, such as experiences related to sports or school projects they’ve participated in. Candidates who collaborate well outside of work might be able to tap into these skills inside the workplace as well, so don’t discount their potential.

Want more recruiting tips to guide your hiring efforts? Download our complimentary e-book now: Talent acquisition: 13 secrets to recruiting and retaining top talent.