IF YOU'RE A RECENT grad looking for work, you should be aware that employers usually are seeking "a team player" when they call you in for an interview.
According to Bruce Piasecki, author of Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning, "It's not surprising that the generation of Facebook and Twitter cares deeply about self-expression, but ironically, this mindset is the exact opposite of what the global economy demands."
Collaboration and innovation are how work gets done these days, and the complexity of that work necessitates a dizzying array of skill sets. This means it's better to hire a team-oriented, coachable, and loyal "smart enough" individual than to hire a super-talented high performer who prefers to go it alone, he adds.
He also believes the interview should be conducted by a company "team" of four or five people. Following are some of the things that team probably will be looking for in those meetings with you:
• An intrinsic ability to "bond" with interview team members. Even more important than dress, training, or résumé, says Piasecki, is the candidate's ability to "bond" instantly to at least three to five members of the interview team. This doesn't merely mean an affinity for small talk or schmoozing. The bond must translate to action in a "reliable, sustained way" with those people-and it will reveal itself in the specific points the candidate makes.
• A comfort level with the rapid-fire give-and-take of the interview team. Piasecki explains that people who work well in teams do certain things well in interviews. For example:
• They don't get ruffled. They answer pointed questions with calm and with precision, without being terse. Like a captain, they do not have performance anxiety. They demonstrate grace under pressure, know when to exert force, and overall provide your team with a sense of respect and fascination for more.
• They enjoy interviews that involve more than one "boss." The true team player, the true potential project leader, or the true divisional captain is someone who shoots straight but understands the culture. That is, they know precedent, but they demonstrate an ability to work fast and past the impediments of budget, rules, and competition.
• They relate one person's question to another, and they answer to the group by relating the questions as "pieces of an overall composite" of a whole.
"In other words, team players understand that the group asks questions in a sequence for a reason, and that the questions are not arbitrary but often related to a larger issue," the author adds. "They seem to understand that what the interviewers are really asking is Are you trustworthy? Can you work for our benefit? Will you share shoulder strength? Your answers will reflect this deeper understanding."
• They also want you to show respect for the team you want to join. Fierce individualists might focus on their performances in previous jobs, internships, or academic programs, and on why this company should put your ideas into practice. Team-oriented candidates, on the other hand, will never display such arrogance. "Team players understand the legacy of the team, the coaching approach, and the reasons to improve in the current season," says Piasecki. "They live with the past legacy before them and demonstrate respect for it."
• You show you want to work with the company a long time. They always are looking for a longer-term player, someone who may be trained to work there many years.
• Good team players interact in conversation. The interviewers should expect you to engage in a two-way conversation, where you and they can interact with each other's responses, not just a Q & A session. The way you behave in the interview will indicate to them the way you'll behave on the job.
You may not be able to do everything on this list that's right, or answer every question the right way, but keeping these tips in mind should help the impression you make.