Interview tips for hiring team players

Submitted by Dottie DeHart of DeHart & Company Public Relation

Ballston Spa, NY (April 2013)—Today’s workplace demands high-functioning teams. In the global economy, collaboration and innovation are how work gets done, and the complexity of that work necessitates an array of skill sets. In this kind of environment, it’s not surprising that what Bruce Piasecki calls “fierce individualists” are becoming all but obsolete. That’s why when it comes time to add to your team, he says, it’s critical to make sure you hire good team players and not future MVPs.
“Invest in coachable hires,” advises Piasecki, author of the new book Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning 
As Piasecki’s book explains, the days when a larger-than-life personality is allowed to steamroll over the rest of the company are over. This destroys morale, which destroys results.
Piasecki offers the following hints on the qualities you should look for and the questions you should ask:
Conduct interviews in a team of four or five leaders.This will replicate the dynamics of the team setting the new employee will be working in, explains Piasecki. “Good team players tend to do well in settings of four or five people asking an avalanche of questions,” he observes.
Look for an intrinsic ability to “bond” with interview team members.Even more important than dress, training, or résumé, says Piasecki, is the candidate’s ability to “bond” instantly to at least three to five members in the interview team. This doesn’tmerely mean an affinity for small talk or schmoozing. The bond we’re discussing here must translate to action in a “reliable, sustained way” with those people—and it will reveal itself in the specific points the candidate makes. 
Also, look for a comfort level with the rapid-fire give-and-take of the interview team.Piasecki explains that people who work well in teams do certain things well in interviews. For example: They don’t get ruffled. They answer your pointed questions with calm and with precision, without being terse. Like a captain, they do not have performance anxiety. They demonstrate grace under pressure, know when to exert force, and overall provide your team with a sense of respect and fascination for more. 
They enjoy interviews that involve more than one “boss.” The true team player, the true potential project leader, or the true divisional captain is someone who shoots straight but understands the culture. That is, they know precedent, but they demonstrate an ability to work fast and past the impediments of budget, rules, and competition.
They relate one person’s question to another, and they answer to the group by relating the questions as “pieces of an overall composite” of a whole. “Team players know individual questions are merely a part of the mosaic of the culture that runs a firm,” says Piasecki. “They are ‘looking’ to get a sense of that culture and articulate how they anticipate fitting into that culture and how they wish to perform within its norms.”
“In other words, team players understand that the group asks questions in a sequence for a reason, and that the questions are not arbitrary but often related to a larger issue,” he adds. “They seem to understand that what you’re really asking is Are you trustworthy? Can you work for our benefit? Will you share shoulder strength? Their answers will reflect this deeper understanding.” 
They show respect for the team they are seeking to join.Fierce individualists might focus on how they did it at their previous job, how well it worked, and why you should try it at your company. Team-oriented candidates, on the other hand, will never display such arrogance. “Team players understand the legacy of the team, the coaching approach, and the reasons to improve in the current season,” says Piasecki. “They live with the past legacy before them and demonstrate respect for it.” 
They demonstrate a desire to work with you for a long time. As a player in the global economy, your quest is to generate revenue through respect, relationships, and long service. That kind of well-paid loyalty requires a team player, says Piasecki. You are always looking for a longer term player, someone who is coachable in a matter of seasons, not just individual project events. 
Good team players look for feedback. In fact, they long for it. It’s not that they want the praise, but that they want to get a feel for the path of improvement available to them. They will expect it to be a two-way conversation, whereby you are able to interact with their responses, not just a Q & A session. 
Be sure you have a “captain” making the final hiring decision.Captains, as opposed to plain old “leaders,” are skilled in the art of teambuilding. While an entire book could be written on the subject of captains, says Piasecki, in general they have the ability to recognize key capabilities in employees, to put the right people into the right roles, and to create a certain “magic” that transforms a group of individuals into an interconnected whole.

5 revealing interview questions
By Bruce Piasecki
 1. What was your best team experience? 
2. Can you tell us about some of your biggest wins? Your biggest losses? 
3. In the best of all possible worlds, do you want to work for us for a year, three years, or five years? The selfish candidate feels he can accomplish more than he can in less time than it really takes. The team player understands that it takes time to fit, accelerate, and be of service. 
4. Do you seek one mentor or two in our group? People who want to work with only the CEO or the founder are typically not great team players. 
5. How coachable are you? I find that people who are coachable may not think of themselves as coachable. Likewise, those who think they are coachable are often quite inflexible and pig-headed. This paradox is real. Finding a person who is competitive in a group way, yet also coachable, is difficult. Yet he or she will bring the most certain margin of profit to the group.
About the Author: Dr. Bruce Piasecki is president and founder of AHC Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials, and environmental corporate matters, whose clients range from Suncor Energy, Hess, FMC, the Warren Buffett firm Shaw Industries and Toyota. Piasecki is the author of several seminal books on business strategy, valuation, and corporate change.
About the Book: Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning (Wiley, March 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184849-5-1, $25.00, is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, visit


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