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To be or not to be a team player

To be or not to be a team playerImage Credit: Supplied

It is easy for anyone to claim to be a team player. Whether on a resume or at a personal interview, stating the right attributes is simple. But it doesn't take employers even before they hire you to know if the claims are true or not.

These are several interview questions that are geared to sense one's ability to function within a team. For example, you might be asked about projects that involved collaboration with different teams and mention an achievement within a broader context of contributors.

There are always more direct questions about how you feel about autonomy and individuality versus working under supervision and in a team environment. Although your answers should be balanced in a way that doesn't exclude you from the interviewing process, they also should be realistic as to what you are willing to accept.

For many jobs and employers, knowing your strength in terms of working independently or being comfortable in a team is just a matter of placing you and your duties appropriately. With that in mind, there are many jobs that require one or the other.

If applying for a job that is team-based, you may not get it by declaring a dread for joint decision making. The job is simply not the right fit for you … it is in your benefit to be honest about your comfort level.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when answering questions about the ability to work within a team:

• What you want

Other than getting a particular job opportunity, be sincere about what you want to accomplish and how you value success. Many people have a hard time taking credit for work done by a group. While you probably need to look at improving flexibility if feeling fulfilled, you may need to consider a job that allows more space and independence.

On the other hand, if you are someone who thrives on bouncing ideas with team members, celebrating small wins together and the solidarity that comes from striving jointly toward a goal, you probably need to make sure that the next job provides such opportunities. You likely will feel more fulfilled and accomplished.

• Job requirements

You also need to be realistic about the job requirements. There may be a desire to be your own boss or work independently, but do jobs in your field — that are at your level of employment — offer this sort of independence? For many years in almost any industry, you will have to work within teams and under supervision to learn and gain experience.

Even when this doesn't agree with your personality, it is an integral part of professional development that you must not underestimate.

In some case, it is a particular job or even projects that require collaboration. If you seek a clear understanding of the requirements, it will be easier for you to decide whether it is the right fit for you or not. But in many cases, matching realistic expectations with the requirements is the best way.

• Past experiences

Are you trying to avoid working with others based on a negative experience with a boss or coworkers? Think again.

Different companies have different corporate cultures. One or two unpleasant experiences should not be the sole basis for how you view your willingness to work within a team or independently. If you have serious concerns, bring them up during an interview or do your homework by talking to people in the industry to get more information about a particular employer's culture.

If your decision is to accept a job that requires either more collaboration or more independence than you initially thought, make sure you start anew. Don't bring past employers' problems and setbacks to the table when dealing with the new co-workers and supervisors.

Fresh eyes and perspective will help you explore your actual ability to work in a different set-up efficiently.

Team player or autonomy seeker?

- Know what makes you feel fulfilled.

- Have realistic expectations based on your career level.

- Be truthful, but balanced.

- Experience something new with fresh eyes.

Find out what makes you employable?

Source: Rania Oteify, Special to

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor