How to Identify Collaborative Employees in the Job Interview

October 19, 2022 6 min read

Amelia Willson

Amelia Willson

how to identify collaborative employees in the job interview

What makes a high-performing team?

Working collaboratively, says the research. Companies that value collaboration in the workplace are five times more likely to be high-performing.

More collaborative teams are more motivated and more engaged, which leads to better business results — including increased innovation and productivity. 

Clearly, there’s value in building a collaborative team. And yet, only 14% of leaders feel good about their company’s current ability to collaborate.

If you’re ready to level up your collaboration, read on. We share the skills to look for — and the questions to ask — to identify collaborative employees during a job interview.

What makes a collaborative team?

Teams who work collaboratively set goals together, plan how to reach those goals together and solve problems together. Along the way, they probably make jokes together. 

Instead of contributing as individuals, each team member feels fully connected and unified in working toward a common goal. Together, they dream up bigger and better ideas, building on each other’s input. They respect other members of their team and value them for their complementary skills. 

Impact of collaboration on the employee: higher job satisfaction, 50% lower turnover, more effective day-to-day

Employees who collaborate report higher job satisfaction and are more likely to believe their employer cares about their morale. In addition to having 50% lower turnover rates, collaborative employees are also more effective in their daily work. 

According to a Stanford University study, collaborative employees can focus for 64% longer than employees working alone. They feel more engaged, less fatigued, and are ultimately more successful. 

These results held true even when the team members were physically apart. “[S]imply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges,” the researchers said.

So, how do you find good candidates for collaboration? 

When hiring, look for the following traits to build a team who values collaboration in the workplace, including: 

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Strong communication skills
  • Accountability
  • Respect for others
  • Openness to feedback
To find collaborative employees, screen for these traits: emotional intelligence, strong communication skills, accountability, respect for others, open to feedback.

5 traits to look for when hiring collaborative employees

1. Emotional intelligence

Employees with high EQ, or emotional intelligence, know how to recognize and manage their own emotions. They also know how to recognize emotions in others — and react in a way that will be conducive. 

People with high EQs have a higher capacity to understand the moods of their teammates, which can prevent them from taking things personally. When hiring, they may be more likely to reach out to an employee who is struggling and help them feel safe in opening up. 

High EQ correlates with curiosity, empathy, and good conflict resolution skills — all key to ensuring effective collaboration in the workplace. 

Ask these interview questions:

  • Tell me about a time you forged a good relationship with a colleague in another department. 
  • How do you effectively collaborate with people outside of your own team?
  • Tell me about a time you noticed a teammate was struggling or not doing their fair share. How did you deal with it?
  • What could your current or former workplace do to foster a more close-knit team culture?

2. Strong communication skills

Communication is essential to successful collaboration in the workplace. These employees know how to communicate clearly, whether they’re speaking out loud or sending an email or text. 

But having good communication is not only about getting your point across — although that is certainly important. When working collaboratively, skilled communicators ensure that everyone understands the goals of a team project and that they feel valued and part of the team while working toward it. 

Active communicators also tend to be active listeners. Active listeners pay attention when their colleagues and managers are speaking. They mirror back what they’ve heard, and if they don’t understand something, they ask for clarification. Active listening helps people feel heard, which helps foster that sense of being on a team. It also helps prevent the kind of miscommunication which can derail projects.

Ask these interview questions:

  • How do you prefer to communicate with others?
  • Tell me about a time there was a miscommunication at work. How did you handle it?
  • How do you like to network with others?
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a teammate. How did you come to a resolution?
  • How do you ensure effective team communication?

3. Accountability

Accountable employees have integrity. They know what they are responsible for, and they intend to get it done. 

In a collaborative work environment, accountability is about understanding your responsibilities and those of the rest of the team. Accountable employees stand out because they work to complete their own tasks and, in the interest of meeting the group’s goals, they also work to support their teammates.

Ask these interview questions:

  • Have you ever led a team project? How did you motivate everyone and ensure they stayed on task? 
  • Have you ever worked on a team before? What was your role within the team, and how did it help the group achieve its goals?
  • If you were to lead a group project, how would you organize it?

4. Respect for others

Teams are made of people from different backgrounds, with different ideas, work habits, beliefs, and opinions. Employees who respect and value each others’ differences are less likely to engage in behaviors that make employees feel undervalued, ignored, or worse. 

Collaborative teams understand that group discussions are livelier and more productive when everyone feels welcome and valued. Everyone’s point of view is encouraged, and the team comes up with bolder ideas that overcome any individual biases.

Ask these interview questions:

  • How do you connect with a new team?
  • What approaches do you take when collaborating with others?
  • Have you ever had a tough time working with your manager or other coworkers? How did you navigate the situation?
  • How have you resolved conflicts within your team?

5. Feedback 

Collaborative employees are open to giving and receiving feedback. They see it as a helpful tool that enables them to grow and learn. 

Those who manage people working together should foster a culture where feedback feels safe and well-meaning. This enables employees to feel comfortable receiving and providing their own feedback to each other. 

Feedback also includes positive recognition for collaborative teamwork and individual efforts. Recognizing positive work builds feelings of trust that make people feel safer, eliciting constructive feedback. Managers and teammates can model this behavior by sending celebratory GIFs and emojis in real-time, say when the team meets an important deadline, or by sending a thoughtful email for a job well done.

Ask these interview questions:

  • How do you provide feedback to others? 
  • How do you recognize team achievements?
  • Have you ever been on a team project that failed? What do you think could have been done differently?
  • Tell me about a team project that was a success. What do you think contributed to the success?

Even more collaboration questions to ask in a job interview

Just for good measure, we brainstormed a few more interview questions to suss out collaborative job candidates.

  • How would you onboard a new team member?
  • What work habits promote collaboration?
  • Describe your ideal workplace culture.
  • What are the qualities of an effective team?
  • Do you prefer working on a team or on your own?
  • How do you feel about working in a team environment?
According to McKinsey, using team collaboration software can boost productivity by 25% or more. A workers are 20% more satisfied with their workplace culture when they have access to good collaborative tools.

And sometimes you just need a collaboration tool to bring it all together…

When teams work collaboratively, they produce incredible results — especially when they have the right tools.

According to McKinsey, using team collaboration software can boost productivity by 25% or more. And, workers are 20% more satisfied with their workplace culture when they have access to good collaborative tools. 

Rather than piecemealing functionality from multiple types of collaboration tools, opt for software that offers everything you need in one integrated solution — like NextivaONE. With NextivaONE, you can…

  • Run effective video meetings with screen sharing and annotation
  • Chat and message teammates with emojis, GIFs, and your favorite memes
  • Manage all your communications — internal and external — from the same dashboard
  • Finally keep track of all customer emails, texts, calls, and more

Ready to see what NextivaONE can do for you? Book your demo now.

Amelia Willson


Amelia Willson

Amelia Willson is a marketer-turned-freelance writer, based in sunny southern California. She covers health, technology, and digital marketing. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her at the beach or walking her dog Rockefeller.

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