Job Interview Question

Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you handle it?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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Asking about any difficulties with team projects in the past is a great behavioral interview question, and interviewers love to ask it. At some point, everybody’s been on a team where someone didn’t pull their own weight. Remember group projects in school? And at some point in this job you’re applying for, you’ll almost certainly be asked to participate in another one. So it’s a fair question for them to ask.

You have to be very careful about what you say in responding to this question or you’ll sound whiny. It never worked to whine to your teacher, and it’s not going to work to whine to your interviewer, either.

When you face this situation at work (or in school), your best bet is to focus on what YOU are supposed to be working on, not what someone else isn’t working on. Try to do your job as best you can and support the supervisor in getting the whole job done. Maybe once you get your job done you could help the slacker, but that’s a case-by-case decision.

Hopefully, you can truthfully say that you did just that: “I concentrated on getting my own work done and then went to ask my supervisor what I could do to help him finish the task.”

You never want to say, “I reported that person to my supervisor” or “I told that person they better step up and get with the rest of the team.” Neither is a great response.

It might be OK to say, “I got my task done and saw that person struggling, and I knew that the team success depended on all of us cooperating and succeeding, so I offered my assistance. John was grateful to get some help, and we’ve had a great relationship ever since, working together on several projects.

Of course, that’s a very general response.  It might be more appropriate to be more specific, or it might not.

The bigger thing I want you to see is that you never ever badmouth your former supervisor or your former co-worker. That always makes you look unprofessional. And it gives them the (generally accurate) idea that if you’ll say things like that about those people, you’ll say things about them, too when you leave. None of those things are going to earn you points with the interviewer.

Try to always keep your responses positive and focused on how you got the job done.  That’s great job interview strategy.


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