Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
Are you a good teacher?
Can you work well with a team member who possesses less skills than you?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Developing self and others. It is one of the key behaviours that are assessed when you apply for a job with the Civil Service. Even if you are looking at other private sector jobs it is worth ensuring you can showcase you ability with this particular behaviour.
This question is not a very popular one admittedly, usually when interviewers ask questions about this behaviour they are more focused on how you seek to develop yourself and your own skill set.
Here though the interviewer is asking how you go about helping others develop. How you embark on the challenge of teaching others (or helping others teach themselves) new skills.
Depending on the role you are applying for the interview is looking to see one of two things:
- That you are a good leader. Are you capable of seeing areas of weakness within your teams and helping your team members overcome these weaknesses through skill training?
- That you value teamwork. It is said that a good team is greater than the sum of its parts. Are you someone who recognises that and is able to see when other team members might need help in a certain area.
As I said depending on what role you are applying for it could be either of the above. More than likely the interviewer is only going to be looking to see your leadership abilities if you are applying for a managerial role.
The best approach to answering this question
This is a “Describe a situation” question. With these questions the best answers will always follow the B-STAR technique.
Let’s see how it can be used for this question:
B – Belief – Discuss your thoughts/beliefs around learning new things within a team. The best answers here will talk about how you feel that learning new things and getting better at things is how organisations grow, and as someone who values teamwork you are always looking for ways to improve your team (as a member or as a leader)
S – Situation – Pick a situation where you were responsible for a team member learning a new skill. Set the scene for the interviewer. Ensure you keep the situation easy to understand, the best answers will be how a team member was struggling as they didn’t understand something. If you work computers then a new piece of software is always a good example to give.
T – Task – What was your role in this situation? If you are the team leader you should mention how during your reviews of the team you noticed gaps in the skillset of a team member. If you are a team member talk about how you always keep in close contact with your team for information sharing purposes and you quickly noticed a team member needed your help.
A – Activities – What did you do? Run through how you helped your colleague learn this new skill.
R – Results – How did the employee fare after your assistance? As this is an interview you should always talk about how the other team member learned the new skill and was grateful for your assistance.
How NOT to answer this question
Do not avoid the question. Try not to veer off course and answer a different question. The interviewer isn’t asking about how you learned a new skill or what skills were your team mates lacking. The interviewer wants to know how you helped a team member learn a new skill
Do not give an example where the team member failed to learn the new skill. Sure you might be able to give a good answer about how you went out of your way to help the team member but unfortunately they couldn’t learn. And you could include the lessons you learned along the way, and it might turn out ok. But if you give an example where the team member learned the new skill then it will definitely turn out ok.
Do not say it’s not your job to train other people. It should be obvious but you would be surprised what you hear from candidates during interviews. When it comes down to answering the question, and this goes for any question you are asked really where the interviewer asks you to describe or tell them about a time something happened: you should always tell them about a time when that thing happened, don’t counter or argue with the premise. Tell them about a time when you did what the question is asking.
Describe a situation when you were responsible for other team members learning a new skill? – Example answer
“I’m a big believer in learning new things. I’m the person on the team who is always first in line whenever new training sessions are available for the team. I just think that the more you know the better you can produce.
There was one occasion where a training seminar was held for a new software that had been introduced within our department. The core functionality of the software was the same as what we used already so we were told that the seminar was voluntary.
I of course went along. And while a lot of the features were the same – as was expected – there was some new advanced functions that I thought could be great for our team.
I spoke to the training lead after the seminar and he sent me across some documentation and guidance on the new functionality. I studied through all the documents and realised that if our team was trained on this new reporting methodology that we could save quite a bit of time each week.
I positioned this to my manager who was delighted with the idea. And the next week I trained all of my team in this new skill. Some were reluctant at first because there was an element of coding involved – we needed to use SQL queries for the reports, but once they got the hang of it they were amazed at how much could be done.
The results were immediate. Our team was getting work done in twice the time. Time spent manually pulling reports was no longer. Some of the team went even further and started to develop more and more complex reports that would never have been possible without knowing this new skill.“
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