Have you ever been on a team where someone is not pulling their own weight? If so, this interview question should be easy for you.

If you haven’t, (or maybe you were the person not pulling the weight), just put yourself in the shoes of someone who has experienced this.

Everyone has a story when this happened.

Whether it was at work, a school project or a sports team, the most important part is that you frame your answer in a positive light.

Reasons Behind the Question

The interviewer will ask this question for a couple of important reasons. 

Keep these underlying questions in mind as you construct your response:

  1. Can you effectively work with others in team projects?
  2. Does your working style have a proper balance?
    • (neither too passive nor too argumentative)
  3. What conflict-resolution skills do you have?
  4. What’s your background in resolving teamwork issues? 

Answers to Emphasize

Here are the angles to cover as you construct your answer to, “Have you ever been on a team where someone is not pulling their own weight?”

1. Be a solution seeker

Show your interviewer the steps that you took to find a solution.

  • Did you have a one-on-one conversation with this team member?
  • Were you able to explain how you felt?
  • Did you work together to find a way to solve the problem?

That’s a good start, so be sure to convey this in your answer!

2. Be understanding

You never know what the reason is someone may not be pulling their weight.

Show the interviewer that you took the time to understand your coworker’s reasoning and perspective.

  • This will show that you are a reasonable person.
  • It will also convey that you have important leadership qualities.

Sometimes you will have examples in which there was not a valid reason at all for the lack of effort.

If so, then focus on the other steps you took.

There are many ways to solve the problem of someone not pulling their weight.

3. Be strategic 

When answering this question, make sure that you focus on your strengths.

What positive attributes allowed you to handle or address the situation?

  • Was it your patience?
  • Your mediation skills?
  • Your ability to demonstrate leadership and influence?

Whatever it is, make it apparent to your interviewer that these traits you possess resulted in a positive outcome!

4. Be positive

It doesn’t really matter what example you give, or what the actual solution was.

The story should center on the positive result!

Don’t ever tell the interviewer that, after all your efforts, the person continued to slack off.

If your story doesn’t have a happy ending, then it is not worth telling.

(Read Tell Me About A Time You Faced A Difficult Situation With A Colleague.)

Answers to Avoid

1. Don’t focus on the person not pulling their weight

It is already apparent that someone was not pulling their weight.

The purpose of this question is not to criticize this team member.

This might make you come across as critical or petty.

2. Don’t be a tattletale

Nobody wants to hear that you went and told on this teammate when he/she was not pulling their weight.

This would only indicate that you can’t handle situations on your own.

And that you have no regard for the manager’s time by asking them to mitigate this problem.

Instead, you want to show how you had the motivation and presence of mind to take positive action.

3. Don’t be a pushover

Telling your interviewer that you took the slack and picked up the extra work for your coworker is not recommended!

Of course, it’s not the worst thing you could say.

It is better than you ignoring the matter altogether.

But, as mentioned above, the hiring manager wants to know about your conflict-resolution skills.

Picking up the slack means that you did not proactively handle the problem.

4. Avoid saying nothing

You are obviously being asked this question because the interviewer assumes you have some experience working in teams.

The hiring manager probably expects you to have skills in this area.

Not giving an answer or saying, “This has never happened,” shows a lack of experience in working in teams.

If you must make up an example, do it.

(Pretty much anyone who has been assigned a group project in college can come up with an example along these lines!)

Sample Answer

Hiring manager: “Have you ever been on a team where someone is not pulling their own weight?”

Applicant: “Absolutely. Having worked in teams quite frequently in my previous position, it was inevitable that this situation would arise.

Last year, I was assigned to work with the marketing team to create a marketing plan for a large account. Each member of this team was assigned a specific task that was to be completed by our set deadline.

One of the members was way behind and said that he probably could not finish his section of the project in time. I sat down with him to understand why he was unable to finish his portion of the project. After all, this was what we committed to and we all had equal parts.

He explained to me that he had been having internet trouble, and was unable to complete his research at home. For the next couple minutes, we brainstormed different places he could go to use the internet. After addressing this situation, he had agreed to work in Starbucks, in order to complete his portion by the deadline.

Taking the time to understand his situation, and figure out a solution was critical to our project completion. At the end, we were all able to finish our work on time, and the project was completed successfully.”

Closing Thoughts

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