January 18, 2017 Emily Lierle

How To Tell If You’re Truly Hiring A Team Player

How can you tell if you’re really hiring a team player? The interview process alone can’t possibly reveal that — so it requires delving a little bit deeper to find employees who pull their own weight and more.

We asked leaders from all over to answer this question: “How do you know you are truly hiring a team player?” Before your next hire, take a look at some real insight and wisdom from various business leaders.

Hiring A Team Player

Going The Extra Mile

Deniz Sasal, Founder of The Career Mastery, says trust is paramount.

“Just as everything else in life, trust plays an integral role in choosing a candidate,” he says. “This is a critical element that many employers somehow tend to forget.”

Sasal continues:

“A new addition to a team should not only have the desired skills and experiences, but also should be someone of integrity, someone who will proudly represent an organization in his/her social and professional circle, someone who will go extra mile because he/she believes in the organization and fights for its future success. Now, that’s what I call a true team player and that’s why I believe trust and integrity should play a key role in choosing candidates. You can always bring a new hire up to speed with training, yet it’s not easy to instill integrity in someone.”

Another crucial point he noted: “A candidate who tries to deceive the interviewer in a job interview will continue to do so once hired.”

Offering Hands-On Collaboration Opportunities

Jonathan D. Roger, Operations Director & Certified ScrumMaster at AndPlus, suggests adding a hands-on activity to the interview process.

“We’re a software firm. A key part of our interview process is having the candidate come in and build a simple application with a couple of our senior engineers in the space of 30-45 minutes,” he says. “This often makes it easy to tell whether or not a candidate plays well with others. Some candidates grow frustrated when offered suggestions, which often leads to a no-hire decision. Candidates who are receptive to criticism and treat our engineers like resources and teammates rather than annoyances always seem to be our best team players.”

Volunteering, Mentoring & Facing Failure

Founder & CEO of Source Capital Funding, Inc. Sacha Ferrandi offered unique insight on hiring and identifying team players.

“There are many traditional ways to identify team players,” he says. “However, we have found that there are other several more non-traditional traits to look for that indicate a great, team-focused candidate.”

Ferrandi provided three key traits to seek out when hiring a team player:

1. Volunteer Experience.

Look for volunteer experience that goes deeper than donating or one-time community events. The key here is to find candidates that volunteer their time and actually go out and make an impact with the organization they volunteer at. This shows a dedication to their community and indicates that they like to help build and hold together a team.

2. Handling Failure.

One great way to gauge a candidate’s team-oriented traits? Talk about a time of failure. Look for someone that is comfortable taking the blame and not pushing it off on others. Especially as businesses win or lose as a group, having a member who has the mentality of: “Well, I did my part. It was someone else’s fault.” — does nothing to grow a team’s long-term cohesiveness.

Putting blame on others, even if others are responsible, is a warning sign of a bad team player. No one likes working with someone who throws people under the bus. Having someone like this on your team could be detrimental to your group’s success.

3. Mentoring

Does your employee or potential candidate mentor others? This trait is an exceptional quality to have in a team environment because it demonstrates that the person wants to help others succeed. This is especially true for roles that require specific knowledge. Those willing to share their expertise and help grow others’ careers fit extremely well in any organization.

hiring a team player

Watch For Warning Signs & Seek Out Certain Traits

Bret Bonnet of Quality Logo Products points out: You never know for sure what you’re getting beforehand, but in my experience, employees who are true team players:

a.) Are more productive.

b.) Stick around longer.

c.) Cause fewer problems.

“We’re slowly but surely replacing those who don’t want to play ball (and get upset when their favorite type of sugar packets go missing from the snack room) with those who care more about the company’s goals,” Bonnet adds.

He continues: “It all starts with the interview questions. When interviewing candidates we do our best to avoid any off-the-shelf questions that the employee might have had a chance to prepare for. The goal is to make them uncomfortable or catch them off guard. Then, we hear real, honest answers instead of rehearsed answers.”

At his organization, Bonnet says, they pose questions such as:

Saturday is your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s birthday. Saturday is also the night of the big company party. Do you attend the company party or celebrate the birthday? Why?

On the surface, it doesn’t seem anything too complicated. But if they can’t give a good reason for missing the company party, their answer to this question often weighs heavily against their chance of getting hired. People who are unable to celebrate it on a different night/day than a mutually agreed upon day where 100% of your co-workers will be in attendance does not belong at your company.

Finally, check for other telltale signs of employees who are not team players. This includes: Those who ALWAYS keep their office door closed, and those who ALWAYS wear headphones.

Dig Deep

David Waring, Co-Founder of Fit Small Business, says the interview process gives employers the chance to dig deep and figure out if they’re hiring a team player.

“For an experienced candidate, the type of jobs they had prior can give you great insight as to whether or not they are a team player,” he says. “For example, salespeople who work on commission are used to an environment where they need to worry about their own sales and productivity. They are generally out for themselves rather than working as a team. So if you are looking to hire a team player, proceed with caution.”

Waring added that projects, interactions and even extracurricular activities can shed light on your hire.

“For other types of positions, simply asking the candidate what types of projects and interactions they have had with their team can give you good insight. However, you need to consider this on a granular level rather than a high-level view of things.”

Finally, the questions they ask at the end of the interview can give you great insight. If they’re asking about culture and interacting with people, then that is a positive sign. If they ask about compensation and growth in position, while it’s not a bad thing, it doesn’t give any insight into whether they will be a good team player or not.

It May Not Be Completely Innate

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, says her goal is to hire team players.

“We screen for ‘team player-ness’ by asking questions about their work ethic, examples of how they contribute to their prior companies and willingness to go above and beyond,” she says. “Sometimes we can identify people who we believe could be team players with a little nurturing and then we pair them with other already-established team players in our company.”

Sweeney continued: “I don’t think being a team player is innate. It needs to be learned at times. It also often comes from management. A team player mentality can be contagious; when leadership in a company are team players, then the team tends to rise to the occasion. So, if someone has the right attitude, you can further evolve their ‘team player’ status by setting expectations, setting a good example with leadership and rewarding behavior that shows a can-do attitude.”

What other advice do you have for hiring a team player? Let us know — and contact the professionals at Y Scouts when hiring a team player.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.