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What Can You Contribute to the Team?

When hiring managers interview candidates, one of the main things they want to learn is how each candidate would contribute to the team. The skills you bring to the table and the capabilities you possess are what set you apart from other applicants for the same role. 

We’ll explain how to position these skills and capabilities positively and convey the value you’d bring as a team member.

Why do interviewers ask about how you contribute to a team?

Interviewers are looking for a person with the right technical and soft skills, but they’re also looking to identify a strong fit when it comes to factors like company culture and teamwork style. These criteria can be harder to identify than skills on a resume, but they play a major role in a candidate’s chances for success at the company. 

By asking, “What can you contribute to the team,” the interviewer wants to learn what unique value you can offer that makes you different from everyone else they’re talking to for the job. Communicating what role you’d play on the team can help them visualize you in the position and strengthen your chances of being hired. 

What interviewers are looking for in an answer about contributing to a team

Culture fit is a crucial element when looking for the right candidate. It determines how well a new hire will work with the rest of the team and how happy the employee will be, which can impact their longevity in the job. So, a hiring manager wants to understand how you might mesh with your prospective colleagues and whether you’ll be able to adapt easily to your new role’s demands. 

They also want to get a better feel for how your skill set would apply to this specific job. Are you a person who likes to speak up and puts your ideas out there in a group setting, or do you wait to be asked for your opinion? Do you take initiative on your own, or are you better when given a concrete assignment from a manager? 

While there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, there are certain things a hiring manager wants to hear, so preparing a strategic response can help ensure you don’t eliminate yourself from the running. 

How to answer, “What can you contribute to the team?”

Do a little sleuthing 

The job description tells you a lot about the team member a hiring manager is looking for. Scan the listing for phrases like “team player,” “collaborative mindset,” “independent thinker,” or “takes initiative,” which can all be clues to what the interviewer wants to hear. Make a note of these phrases and work them into your answer. 

Share a concrete example

Next, think of specific examples from your past that illustrate the characteristics you identified as being important. For example, if you saw the phrase “team player” several times in the job listing, you might describe a time you stepped in to help a colleague avoid missing an important deadline when they were behind schedule or the time you took on additional responsibilities while your manager was out sick. 

These background experiences are what make you unique and can help you stand out in the hiring manager’s mind. 

Be enthusiastic

In addition to the content of your “What can you contribute to the team?” answer, an interviewer will also be paying attention to your demeanor. They want to feel confident that it’s not going to require additional work on their part to make sure you fit into the fold if they hire you. Respond with enthusiasm to show them you’re excited to join the team and try something new.

How not to answer

Be overly confident 

No one wants to work with a know-it-all (even if you do, in fact, know it all about your specialty!). Be humble and realistic in your answer, keeping the focus on the contributions you’d make to the team rather than promoting yourself. 

Share irrelevant examples

Your answer should help the hiring manager see you on the job, so make sure the example you give demonstrates skills that the position actually requires.

Sample answers to “What can you contribute to the team?”

Example #1

“I’ve worked in retail for more than ten years and know that a team mindset is crucial, especially during those crazy busy times like the holidays. To provide the best customer service, we have to be able to rely on each other. Because of my extensive background, I’m able to keep a cool head during stressful times, provide support to less experienced team members and help keep the team’s morale high.”

Example #2

“I believe one of my most valuable skills as a developer is helping achieve the team’s larger goals rather than just having tunnel vision on my own assignment. Once, I was tasked with building an eCommerce checkout flow. I noticed that some of our competitors had unique features that could improve our checkout experience. Though these weren’t part of the project brief, I brought them to my project manager as suggestions. The client loved the ideas. We ended up winning the contract to redesign their entire website.”

By focusing on your unique skills and how you’d apply them on this specific team, you’ll make it easy for the hiring manager to envision you in the job.