Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you describe a time when you helped a coworker complete a difficult task?
- How do you determine when a colleague needs help versus when they need space to learn independently?
- Can you tell me about a time when you mentored or trained a coworker?
- Have you ever had to step in and help a team member who was falling behind in their work?
- How do you balance offering assistance to a colleague with managing your own workload?
- Can you provide an example of when you had to help a coworker handle a difficult client or situation?
- What strategies do you employ when a team member is struggling with a task you’re proficient at?
- Can you share a time when you learned something new while helping a colleague?
- Have you ever given assistance to a colleague?
- What do you do when you see your colleague struggling with a task?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
This question is all about teamwork. Do you consider yourself a member of a team when you are in work or are you best described as an independent worker?
A lot of jobs work collaboratively, meaning your task or function interacts with other people’s tasks or functions on a constant basis.
When an interviewer asks this question they are directly telling you that this role will have you working as part of a team. Teams like this are often judged based on how they perform as a whole by senior management.
That’s why the interviewer wants to know how you behave in a team setting. If you see someone struggling with a piece of work do you leave them to it and focus on your own work. Or do you prioritise what is best for the team as a whole and offer a helping hand.
The best approach to answering this question
B – Belief – As noted before the interviewer wants to see that you are a team player. It is important therefore to start your answer talking about how you believe collaboration is the optimal way of working and that you always seek out ways for the team as a whole to improve.
S – Situation – The best responses will detail a situation where a new process or software was deployed within the team. Talk about how you quickly upskilled on the system but some colleagues were a bit slower on the uptake.
T – Task – You want to explain how you noticed the problem and how it was your idea to help the colleague. If you talk about how your manager made you help the colleague then it doesn’t show you are a team player, it just shows that you do what you are told
A – Activity – Briefly discuss how you helped your colleague. You don’t need to spend much time on this section for this particular question as the ‘How’ you helped your colleague is less important than you noticing the problem and taking steps to fix it in the first place. Just the fact that you were helping is your selling point in the interview.
R – Results – Everyone lived happily ever after. But seriously. Best answers will talk about the colleague eventually excelling in their new found skill and with you to thank.
Extra Tip – Have your example be a skill, process or software that you will be expected to know in the new role. For example if the job description says that experience in JIRA is required a really good answer would be to talk about a time you helped a colleague learn JIRA.
How NOT to answer this question
“I am used to working in a targeted environment, the more productive I am the more I get paid. I don’t have time to help out other colleagues as it will eat in to my own work”
There are plenty of jobs where the above is true. Off the top of my head, the cut throat world of sales is like this. Everyone is out for themselves and this is driven by the management. Often bonuses will be given to the top sales person of the week/month/quarter. As a result everyone is fighting amongst themselves to get the top spot. Sure in this environment there is absolutely no time to be helping other colleagues, not only are you wasting time you could be spent selling but you are also creating more competition for those bonus pay slots.
That being said in this example the interviewer has purposely asked this question because the role you are going into will require working within a team. Answering that you are only interested in looking out for yourself will get you nowhere in this type of interview.
If you truly have no past work experience that you can use in your answer, choose a time in your personal or academic life. Have you ever played in a sports team? How did your group assignments go in school / university? Use these examples and lean heavily on the B (from B-STAR) in your answer.
“Tell Me About A Time You Helped A Co-Worker Learn A New Skill”
Example answer 1
“I love working in a team. I truly believe that when a team is functioning correctly that it is greater than the sum of its parts. More work just seems to get done than would be if we were working independently. That’s why whenever I see a team member struggling I always reach out and try to help for the good of the team. I also adore the feeling when someone learns something as a result of my help. In a different walk of life I might have been a teacher!
There was one occasion when our company was adopting a more Agile approach to our projects. Moving away from waterfall and into a sprint based delivery approach.
I noticed rather early on that one of my colleagues, Jayne, was not grasping the fundamental idea behind the change and was still trying to operate in a waterfall approach.
I approached my manager to ask if we could support some additional training for the team on Agile so that we could all understand the philosophies. He agreed and we all began taking LinkedIn courses in the afternoons.
I reached out to Jayne during these sessions so that we could share notes and discuss what we had learned. I even offered that we should work together on a project so that we could bounce the ideas we had learned off each other.
That was all it took really. After we delivered a couple sprints in our project Jayne was a full Agile convert. She has actually moved out of the team now and has taken a SCRUM master position in a different department.”
Example answer 2
In my previous role as a software engineer at XYZ Tech, I had the opportunity to assist a colleague who was new to the team. We were in the midst of a critical project that required proficiency in a specific coding language, Python, which she was not familiar with at the time.
From the outset, I saw that she was very eager to learn but was struggling with some of the more complex concepts and applications. I offered to help her get up to speed during our lunch breaks and after work. We started with the basics, and then I guided her through some practical exercises I had created, which were relevant to our current project. These hands-on exercises helped her understand not just the theory, but also the practical application of the language.
Gradually, I saw her confidence grow. We had open discussions where she felt comfortable asking questions, which I believe facilitated her learning. Throughout the process, I made sure to give her constructive feedback on her code, explaining how it could be improved for efficiency, readability, and performance. By the end of the project, she was proficient enough to contribute substantial, high-quality work to our project, and our collaboration helped us meet the project deadlines.
What made this experience rewarding for me was not only the successful completion of the project, but also the appreciation from my colleague who expressed that my guidance had made her transition into the team smoother. Since then, I’ve been more proactive in offering help to colleagues, as I realized the impact it can have on team performance and morale.
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 100 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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