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How to Filter and Hire Great Team Players

Collaboration among employees is essential to achieving big things. That’s why filtering for and hiring great team players is so important.


The Challenge

During one of the classes I teach, “Hiring for Results”, I ask participants: “Have you ever worked with a person that you wished was not hired?” Sadly, most participants raise their hand.

“Well”, I say, “If you already hired them, it’s too late. You are most likely stuck with an employee that is difficult to work with”. It is important to filter for the team-player trait during the interview, before we make the hiring decision.


The Solution

Two approaches can be used to interview for the team-player trait: the direct-approach and the indirect-approach.

The direct-approach: Share with the candidate in the beginning of the interview that you will be taking notes and checking references. Ask the candidate the direct question: “Are you a good team-player?”

When the response is “Yes”, ask for specific examples, and continue to drill down with additional questions until you get all the information you need. Past performance predicts future success. If the candidate was indeed a great team-player in the past, chances are, the candidate will continue to perform this way after joining your team.

The indirect-approach: Ask a question about the candidate’s experience that can predict if the person is collaborative and is interested in the success of the team.

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of employees in high-tech, I stumbled upon a question that became my go-to filter for the team-player trait: “Can you tell me about a mistake you made in your career?”

The amazing thing about this innocent question is that candidates always fall into four buckets:

Group 1: “I never made a mistake in my career” – this is a small group, and it is always astonishing to hear this response. “Well, you just made the first one” I think to myself, and move on to the next candidate.

Group 2: “Here is the mistake I made …” a good start but soon after the candidate turns around and starts blaming his teammates, manager, etc. for the mistake. Will you hire from group 2?!

Group 3: “Here is the mistake I made … this is what I learned from it … and this is how I fixed it …” this is a positive territory for hiring: the candidate is honest, able to learn and takes responsibility to fix the issue.

Group 4: “Here is the mistake I made … this is what I learned from it … this is how I fixed it … and this is how I used this experience to help my teammates benefit from my experience”. A small group of candidates responds this way, and when I hired candidates from group 4 – they were indeed always amazing team players.


The Conclusion

When a trait of the candidate, like being a great team-player, is critical for the success of the business, we want to filter for it during the interview process so we can make excellent hiring decisions.

The sky is the limit when we hire capable and collaborative employees.

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