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

In today’s fast-changing environment, we need to be able to collaborate at a different level. And everything starts with the team that’s covering the project.

When you can’t get the analyst to work well with the designer and they both want to go around the programmer, things won’t progress and the results will be pitiful, to say the least.

One rotten apple is enough to disturb the balance of the entire team. So how do you know that, when you hire someone new, 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 and created 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 organizations.

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.

Related Article: How Teamwork Increases Productivity

The End of the Interview

Usually, the candidate gets to ask questions before the interview ends. While these are mostly about their interests 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.

So 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

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 their former colleagues, or talk smack about their ex-bosses, you know this person is not a team player.

People who know how to collaborate can take the blame when it’s their fault, and try to find solutions to make a wrong right.

They’re also supportive of their former teams and don’t denigrate a former manager.

Pay attention to their former positions, as some jobs are designed to make individual players out of employees.

For instance, if they used to work on commission (sales agent or associate), they may be trained to look for themselves first, and the company or organization’s well being second.

Team Playerness 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, they 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.

But if someone is shaped to be more focused on their own needs, it 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 leader, and lead by example, the team will adapt.

How Can Leaders Recognize a Good Team Member?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Stewart Dunlop
Stewart is a content manager working with LegalZoom. He is a passionate blogger who likes to play football in his free time.