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Team Players

 
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What are the top five characteristics of a team player? That's top five from the management handbook. The top five in reality is welcome too.
I like the reality ones, but when asked in an interview "Are you a team player?" I can't answer I suck up, I polish apples, I bend over, I can spew bs with the best of them, or No I play chess.
 
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Rufus, I think everything you mentioned will identify a manager's doggie, and not a team player. You have to be on a team WITH OTHER PROGRAMMERS not with managers. I guess you could say how well you deal with people (and that includes a-holes)....such qualities as helping others, sticking up on Saturday, making coffee - for christ sake , buying lunch for everyone (ok, I was trying to slip this one by ), all this might be considered as a "team player" qualities.
In fact, sports teams are rarely real "teams". The ones that are, usually win titles.
Shura
 
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I don't think there is a set answer to this question. By that, I don't mean it's open ended, I mean that there's no good answer. This is total BS.
There are not set characteristic which make you a good team player. There are clearly some which hurt, e.g. being anti-social, being arrogant, etc. But that's like asking what makes you a good friend? You can list off things like "listening" and "being friendly" or "being nice," but what the hell does that mean? Is a nice, friendly person who listens well going to be everyone's friend? Of course not. Why two people are friends, or why two people get married, or why two people make good teammates is something that cannot be easily quantified or even described. It's something etherial.
HR people ask this for one of two reasons. One, they're stupid and think your answer actually tells them whether or not you'll be a good team player--and believe me, plenty of those I've met are this way. Or two, it's a generic BS question to just get a handle on your personality. In either case, I'd give the above answer.
--Mark
 
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It's not a BS question.
I think the answer is communication. The ability to communicate you ideas to the team, any problems you are having (coding, deployment etc), ability to help people in the team (mentoring).
And of course the ability to go to the pub and buy people drinks.
 
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Mark is right. There's no way they can tell if you are going to be a team player or not until you actually start. I will usually answer those questions by providing some examples of past teams I have worked with, e.g. "I did the network interface, Joe did the database, Ted did the middleware, etc. and we met frequently to be sure we weren't stepping on each others toes, blah, blah"
 
SJ Adnams
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I would agree that people can assume various personalities in an interview situation, that is after all why the question was originally asked.
I generally try to assume an agnostic approach to things like technology. For example, when asked what is better c# or java, I would try and give a balanced/unbiased answer. Yet in reality I am very anti c#....
The HR interviewer (if they are any good) is likely to try and dig further with follow up questions...
HR) Can you work in a team?
geek) yep.
HR) What qualities do you have that make this so?
geek) I am a good communicator, am happy to help when other folks have problems, am not afraid to ask for help when I get stuck, am happy putting in extra hours when the team has deadlines and don't let people down.
HR) Can you give me an example of when you had a tight deadline?
geek) sure, we had to go into production on sunday and the legal stuff was wrong in the site so we had to go through and change a lot of stuff.
HR) how did you approach this?
geek) well we had a conference call where we divided the work up.., then got on and did it.
HR) ok, so give me an example of how you have mentored someone....
..etc..etc...
If the HR person is any good, they will figure out pretty soon if you are a team player, or just spouting BS.
 
Shura Balaganov
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What they would like to know is whether you are going to launch into an offensive, or lie, or do anything out of the ordinary. They are trying to make sure your manager will be able to control you, that's all. So most of the times, THE QUESTIONS YOU THINK ARE BS ARE INDIRECTLY PERFORMING OTHER TASKS.
In chess terms, can you think two moves ahead?
Shura
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Simon Lee:
It's not a BS question.
I think the answer is communication. The ability to communicate you ideas to the team, any problems you are having (coding, deployment etc), ability to help people in the team (mentoring).
And of course the ability to go to the pub and buy people drinks.


Let's suppose you are working on a project by yourself. Do you still need communication? Of course. You'll still need to communicate with your boss for status reports. you'll need to communicate in the documentation your write which goes along with the project. you'll need to communicate to the sales people so they understand what their selling... All this communication for a team of one!
I submit that communication is important for all programmers. In fact, I think it is the most important skill for any programmer, perhaps even more important then analytical thinking (I'm not quite sure it surpasses this, I'm of two minds about it). Is communication important for teamwork? Sure. So is just about every other general skill necessary for programming. Of course, HR rarely understands that these softer skills are important for programming--outside o0f teamwork anyway.
--Mark
 
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I would say Mark is half right. I think that there are certain qualities that "team players" should have. I would identify communication skills and patience as a couple of those. Being a "team player" does not mean that you can go to any team and fit in. There are other personality qualities that enter into how people get along that determines the success of a team.
[ May 17, 2002: Message edited by: Matthew Phillips ]
 
Matthew Phillips
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I had some further thoughts on this. The question is a good one if it comes from someone on the team. It can give a person insight into what you value from your teammates. If those values are the same as other members of the team then you might be a good fit.
 
Mark Herschberg
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OK Matt, I'll buy that. I definately think it's important for team member to get to know final candidates and see if they fit in--if possible givne othjer constraints. To that end, this question (or probably slight variations on it) would make sense from other team members.
Good point.
--Mark
 
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Originally posted by Shura Balaganov:
THE QUESTIONS YOU THINK ARE BS ARE INDIRECTLY PERFORMING OTHER TASKS.


Oh, yeah
Being prepared good for these questions are very important. About 2 years ago, I had some very successful interviews with all the techies, then the would-be-manager came in and asked me a few questions, I probably busted one of them, then I was politely and surely been showed the door.
Who cares on that boom time, since I got more offers than I could accept then. However, it could cost me an excellent opportunity if I were on the market now.
Roseanne
[ May 19, 2002: Message edited by: Roseanne Zhang ]
 
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