Monday, July 21, 2008

What do you value most in a team mate?

When we think of a team, we think of different players on the field, all with different strengths or roles to play in the service of the team. If you have ever played on a team, there are also some team members who urge us to play harder, to try again--and not to spit in our hands when we go to shake the hands of the opposing team members at the end of the game.

Think about how your co-workers or project partners have made you better: did they realize what your strengths were and try to give you projects that accommodated those strengths? Did they try to push you to try something new or help you over an obstacle? Did they give you something personal--like suggest you be kinder, more forgiving, or efficient. Think about it.

Do you have a person in mind who may have improved one of your hard skills and one softer skill? You can treat this question as a BDI question and give an example of your best team mates and what you learned from them. Try not to use names.

Now, one of the ways people falter with this question is that they confess how their team mates keep their bad habits in check. You stay stuff like, he always made sure my work was handed in on time and helped me with my punctuality problem. Uh-oh, you look like a wayward calf that he had to rope--so you're the weak link. You're someone the excellent team mate, who didn't apply, had to coddle.

Candidates also drop the ball on this question when they need something that the organization can't--or is unwilling--to provide. For example, if you talk about how your team mates mentored you as the newest librarian on staff and the interviewer does not think that mentorship is necessary, strike one. This is why a long list of team qualities is bad: you could unknowingly hit some of their pressure points.

Try not to confess to personal weaknesses as part of the team--especially if you're sometimes a poor sportsman. Don't give a litany of great qualities and no examples. Limit your response to one or two examples, explain and shut up.

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