During an interview, if someone says they're a team player ask them to share a time the team really came together, when everyone (including themselves) put in extra time to accomplish something beyond the job. 

When you look at sports, there are teams that come in first place and teams that come in last. They're both teams, and are both groups of people who love being on teams, but some teams come together and do more. Some teams practice in the off-season. Some teams speak up and stop bad attitudes. Some teams lift people up and bring people together in creative ways to accomplish great things...and it's the same in the office.  

Take a traditional corporation. There's the accounting team, sales team and marketing team. Then you have teams that are collaborative across-units. Where certain people from each group work together on a client engagement that requires marketing, accounting and sales. You get this mini team of players who don't normally work together to do something extra beyond their "j-o-b" to help the company be better.  

Then if you break it down even further, in sports you have players on the team who rarely play...or don't play at all. But they rally with the team, they're there for every practice, every meeting, and have great attitudes. In business, that would be someone who may not be putting in 60 hours a week or are the team leads, but they're doing the maintenance on the project to ensure it gets done. That's just as important, and those people still need to be motivated and feel included.    

Don't get me wrong, there are those who ride the coattails and contribute barely anything but end up getting the credit. However, when you get a team of individuals who are truly team players, the copouts are ousted almost immediately. Being a true team player means much more than showing up to play. It's about the bonus stuff that sets them and the team apart.   

So, the next time someone says they're a team player, ask them to elaborate, and explain what it means to you and your organization. Without asking the follow up question, you could end up hiring the person who didn't show up to any meetings for a school group project verses the key student who did all the work.  

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