How HR can tell if a candidate is really a team player

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For many roles, the ability to work well in a team is essential – however, testing that skill in an interview setting isn’t easy, so how can HR be sure?

Dan Stones is a team dynamics specialist and chief cohesion officer at Shifting Peers – he says there are some subtle signs which offer genuine insight into a candidate’s true mindset.

“The easiest way find out if a candidate is a team player is to really pay attention to the words they use in the recruitment process and the interview,” he tells HRD.

“Language patterns are one of the most authentic things employers are exposed to in an interview and the words people use most constantly are very revealing and they tend not to change – unlike the message they might be trying to convey.”

Stones, who also hosts a podcast about teamwork, says employers should look very closely at the actual words people use, particularly the use of pronouns.

“Once you start looking for those pronouns, you see them everywhere so you’ll notice when people consistently use ‘I, my and mine’ versus ‘we, us and ours.’”

While Stones acknowledges that the use of pronouns isn’t foolproof, he says it gives a solid indication of how the candidate views their world – was it a team success and a team effort or was it their individual success and their own accomplishment?

When employers start to listen for those specific words, Stones says it forces them to focus on the team-orientated responses which will ultimately change their perception of the interview.

“The question you start asking yourself as an interviewer is not so much ‘Can the person do the job?’ but rather ‘Is this person a team player?’” he says.

Related stories:
Are fake teams infiltrating your organisation?
Three ways to fix a fractured team

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