How to recognise a good team member

As a hiring manager, you know and understand the importance of appointing someone who is qualified for the position you are offering. However, as a team leader, you also grasp the importance of hiring someone who is skilled and hard-working, as well as a team player

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article on About Leaders

One rotten apple is enough to disturb the balance of the entire team so how do you know, when you hire someone new, that you’re not just paving the way to a disaster?

Sadly, you can’t know for sure, but there are some indicators and pointers that could give away a person’s inclination towards collaboration during the interview phase. We spoke with several experienced recruiters and hiring managers to create a quick guide to help you find the best team player candidate.

Volunteer experience

People who volunteer are usually accustomed to working in a team or, even better, leading a team. However, you should look for people who are actively involved in the projects of their organisations.

For instance, if they just donate money and attend meetings from time-to-time, this is not a good sign. A team player gets involved and actively seeks to make an impact on the project by finding ways to communicate their thoughts and opinions to other team members.

The end of the interview

Usually, the candidate gets to ask questions before the interview ends. While these are mostly about their interest in the company, it’s also a chance for the hiring manager to learn more about the person they are interviewing.

For instance, if the last questions are about benefits and salary, the person may have more of a ‘every man for himself’ attitude; it’s not a dead giveaway, but it’s a red flag. However, if the interviewee asks about the team they’ll join, and the company’s culture when it comes to interacting with people, this is a good sign.

Let them know what you’re expecting

Miscommunication happens even at the highest levels, which is why a good team leader should have a well-defined list of traits they expect from a new team member. In fact, you can even include this list in your employment agreement and ask the future employee to study it carefully. This way, you make sure you communicate what’s expected from them in a way that’s both clear and binding.

Previous job experience

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If the candidate has had other jobs, it helps to ask them about former teams and how they handled failure. If they find creative ways to put the blame for various failures on other people, gossip about their former colleagues, or talk badly about their ex-bosses, you know this person is not a team player.

Pay attention to their former positions because some jobs are designed to make individual players out of employees. For instance, if they used to work on commission, they might have been trained to look out for themselves first, and the organisation’s wellbeing second.

Being a team player is a process

Before you expect everything from your employees, keep in mind that we’re not born team players – in fact, as babies, we are quite selfish, and it takes a while to learn about sharing and collaboration.

The same happens in the workplace. People don’t just come with team player attitude in their blood; they learn the process and adapt to the company’s culture. Furthermore, employees learn from management so, if things are not fair play at the top, you can’t expect the team to work as a cohesive unit.

However, if someone is shaped to be more focused on their own needs, this doesn’t mean they can’t change and adapt – so don’t dismiss a highly-skilled candidate just because they used to be a sales agent; look for other subtle cues, and try to find common ground when it comes to collaboration.

If you set the right expectations, communicate your needs as a company and a leader, and lead by example, the team will adapt.

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