Are we hiring a good team player for our in-house team? 8 interview questions to find out
Although it’s important to find out more about a candidate’s credentials at interview, you need to learn how well they will work with your team. Mila Trezza, former general counsel and founder of Coaching Lawyers, shares her top teamwork questions to ask your interviewees.
Too often, we find out whether our new member’s teamwork skills are compatible with our team only after they have joined us. Indeed, traditional selection processes focus on relevant work experience, industry sector competence, client skills, and drivers to move in-house if the candidate’s background is from private practice.
If great teamwork is what we know we need, how to determine whether our candidate’s teamwork style is a good match for your team?
The following interview questions aim to support you in finding out. They wish to dig deeper than the FAQ “How do you feel about working in a team?” which reveals only little about our candidate’s true teamwork vision and style.
What are we exactly looking for: nailing down our idea of 'successful teamwork'
To effectively explore a candidate’s teamwork skills, let’s revisit our vision of successful teamwork for a moment. This vision will lead us to define the exact teamwork skills we are looking for: different in-house teams, different visions.
For example, in Laura’s legal team, the priority is delivering high-quality and high-volume legal work: the team values team members who are reliable and capable of performing consistently.
Let’s look at another legal team. Simon’s legal team is now in charge of IP matters and was set up only recently; the self-starter approach and initiative are highly praised, and good team players work hard to show how they support the business.
Another setting: Sarah’s legal department has been led under a consistent management style for many years.
The team’s culture is formal; conversations tend to happen one-to-one rather than openly, and communication follows a top-down approach. A good team player in Sarah’s team knows their place.
When we talk about teamwork as part of the interview process, are we specific enough about what exactly we are looking for? Teamwork success is ultimately the result of our very specific definition of how a team should work together.
To deliver successful teamwork, we need to nail down what our in-house legal team and organisation need.
Eight teamwork interview questions
Once we have defined our idea of teamwork, the interview process is a golden opportunity to select the best fit for our team.
In addition to work experience, motivation, and ambitions, we need to understand our candidates' teamwork styles.
Great teamwork is difficult to stress-test when it is not seen in action. However, because it is one of the crucial components of a team’s success and contributes significantly to the quality of relations in the workplace, it deserves consideration.
Therefore, consider adding some or all of the following questions to your interview process:
1. What are the greatest skills a team should have in your view to be successful?
We ask our candidates to present their teamwork vision to determine whether it fits our team vision.
For example, in Laura’s case, a candidate who emphasises a high trust environment supported by clear communication will align with skillsets priorities.
2. How do you give feedback to your team members?
We wish to consider whether our candidates can communicate effectively in team dynamics, including when something does not work.
Their answers will reveal how constructive a candidate’s approach is and whether they will bring a low-ego approach.
We can also expand this question to how they respond when receiving feedback from other team members. Offer a recent example.
3. Who was the most helpful team member you worked with and why?
Role models offer good insights into the proper collaboration mindset of our candidates.
We tend to like styles that have common traits with ours. For example, in the case of Simon, he will want to hear examples that display initiative.
4. What are your greatest teamwork skills?
We want to hear how our candidates ultimately see themselves—and whether their perception matches what we have heard.
We want to understand better whether our candidate will bring a positive contribution to our team.
5. When deliverables are ambitious and time-pressured, what is the most important thing you do?We are testing whether our candidates have good judgement, common sense (which is not always common), and whether they can interact purposely under time pressure—the latter being a recurrent scenario in most legal departments.
6. What do you view as the most significant indicators of a happy team?
A happy team is an indicator of a successful team.
This question explores the candidate’s view of success and what they perceive as the rewards of good teamwork.
For example: in a happy team, there are regular quality-time moments, including social moments like having lunch together, because the team members like sharing what’s going on and supporting each another.
7. What do you think is your consistent contribution to a team’s success?
We are stress testing question No. 1 and double-checking our candidate’s ranking of the greatest skills needed by a team that matches their contribution.
For example: if the candidate indicates their regular contribution is listening to all team members, does this align with their vision of the greatest skills a team needs to be successful?
8. What role do you usually play in a team setting?
This question will help us to better consider whether a particular candidate will fit within our team’s existing dynamics.
Unless we are recruiting to build an entirely new legal team and seeking different contributions, we are interviewing for a specific role within an existing team.
Strong teamwork is a skill we develop as we progress in our careers and understanding of how we contribute to each organisation’s unique dynamics.
However, starting with a good match is a great way to head for success.
Mila Trezza offers executive and leadership coaching for lawyers and legal teams.