Throughout history, humans have associated leadership with greater status and benefits. However, behind the glamour and increased salary, leaders often have to bear extra responsibilities, demands, and pressure that simply cannot be left to less capable personnel.
That’s why organizations are very selective on who they select to fill their leadership roles.
So if you think you are ready for that team lead job, we prepared a few questions you will likely face in your team lead interview.
Who is the team lead?
A team lead is very different from a team manager. A team lead is a collective part of the team while the team manager is not. A team lead is like the point of an arrowhead whose job is to plot the path ahead while the rest of the team follows their lead. Therefore, a team lead is a positive and inspiring role model who leads by example and not with other methods.
A team lead, sometimes called a team leader, is the individual who gives their team the direction, instruction, mentorship, and leadership they need to achieve the organization’s objectives and their personal goals successfully. The team lead ensures their team achieves these connected objectives before reporting the team’s overall productivity and performance to a manager.
In other words, a team lead is a leadership/management role within each team where the individual needs to grasp all the fine points about their team. On the other hand, senior managers only need to have a much broader and general view of one or more teams.
You can find team lead jobs in most industries that group employees into functional units or teams.
Team lead responsibilities
- Organize team members according to their skills and the tasks.
- Create strategies team members can use to achieve the organization’s objectives.
- Delegate tasks to team members.
- Set timelines and monitor progress on delegated tasks.
- Report progress to upper management.
- Host and organize team initiatives and events.
- Educate, mentor, or coach team members.
Reasons to become a team lead
- An opportunity to have greater impact and reach.
- A keen interest in mentoring and helping others grow.
- A desire to grow as a leader and individual.
- To earn more money.
- More job satisfaction in leading a team to achieve your organization’s objectives.
- To inspire others and act as an accessible role model and mentor.
- To obtain more power and importance.
1. What qualities mark a successful team lead?
A successful team lead is an individual who embodies these qualities:
- They should be a great communicator.
- He or she should be able to clearly and effectively create a shared and common understanding of a project’s tasks and objectives within the team.
- They know the strengths and weaknesses of their team.
- Without ample knowledge about each member’s strengths and weaknesses, a team lead won’t be able to delegate tasks effectively.
- Support your team to work towards achieving your organization’s goals.
- A team lead must know their organization’s long-term and short-term business objectives in order to guide their team to success.
- Lead projects and tasks to completion within the given deadlines.
- Meeting deadlines and business timelines is vital to any organization’s profitability.
- Must be confident and resolute in their decisions.
- A leader can’t show weakness or constantly backtrack their decisions as it undermines their influence. And consequently their ability to lead.
2. Why do some team leads fail in their roles?
There are many reasons why a team lead could fail in their position. Their failure could ultimately be due to their character, lack of skills, or an unsuitable working environment.
Here are some common reasons why team leads fail in their roles:
- Lack of conflict resolution skills.
- An improper leadership style. For example, using a rigid autocratic style in an organization that prioritizes freedom and fluidity of thought.
- Lack of leadership skills and qualities.
- Insufficient communication and interpersonal skills.
- Lack of experience in a similar position.
- Lack of continuous and incremental learning skills
- Insufficient knowledge about their team’s strengths and weaknesses.
3. As a team lead, how would you lead your team through change?
A team lead should be a positive role model for their team. As such, during change, as a team lead, you are supposed to lead by example.
Therefore, during organizational changes, you are supposed to be the first and happiest person to embrace the change as the leader. That is regardless of whether you are happy or not about the change. If you outwardly show your team that you don’t like the change, it will be that much harder for them to adopt it.
Hence, during any change, you are supposed to:
- Embrace the change with conviction and positivity.
- Convince the team that the change is for the best by answering the team’s questions.
- Listen to your team’s concerns and help them transition through the change.
4. As a team lead, how do you manage your time and organize your tasks?
As a team lead, deadlines and schedules are a very important part of your work. Hence, having a strategy to organize and prioritize your tasks demonstrates that you will be able to meet your organization’s goals and targets.
Therefore, your answer might be something like:
- I list out all my tasks
- I break down big tasks into much smaller tasks.
- I make a list of tasks with all their respective deadlines.
- I order the list according to the urgency and importance of each task, with more immediate and important tasks at the top.
- If I get any additional task(s), I add them to the list according to its/their urgency and importance.
5. How would you manage conflicts within your team?
When several people work together, conflict or disagreements are inevitable. As a team lead, your job is to resolve any problems that arise and ensure that they don’t affect the team’s productivity.
To resolve conflicts within a team, transparency, inclusion, impartiality, and excellent listening skills are essential.
Here are four steps to resolving conflicts:
- Impartially listen to all the parties involved.
- Hold an open meeting where the team discusses solutions to the conflict.
- Implement solutions.
- Regularly review progress on the resolution.
6. What kind of criticism do you most get?
This question is important because it shows if you can take criticism as valuable feedback and use it to improve your work. Your answer should not show the interviewer that you do not listen to criticism.
“I’m always open to criticism as it’s a valuable opportunity to improve myself and my work. Therefore, when I receive criticism, I evaluate it, and work on improving what has been pointed out in the criticism. Consequently, I have never received criticism on the same aspect repeatedly because I’m always learning from my criticisms and improving.”
7. How do you motivate your team?
To motivate your team effectively, you need to grasp three things:
- Effective and transparent communication skills.
- Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Know what motivates and drives each team member. As you cannot motivate someone if you don’t know what their driving forces are.
Suppose you can communicate what you expect from your team, and support them with encouragement and praises when appropriate. In that case, you can maintain a good motivation level within your team. To summarize, motivation is centered around communication, encouragement, and clarity.
Also Read: What is Scrum? Everything you need to know!
8. What type of leader are you?
Organizations want leaders who can adapt to change and at the same time guide their team through said changes. Therefore, a supportive, democratic leadership style that is firm but fair will often get you the job.
As a team lead, you must also be able to show empathy when it’s necessary for the best results. You must also encourage participation in decisions and serve as a highly-focused positive role model that your team can emulate.
To summarize, you should tailor your answer to the organization you are trying to join. Furthermore, you should also demonstrate that you can adapt to other leadership styles according to the situation.
9. What do you do when your team does not agree with your ideas?
No human is right all the time. And as a team lead, you have to face this fact. Eventually, your team or a team member may not agree with your idea. How you handle such a situation demonstrates if you are suitable for the leadership position.
Organizations are looking for leaders who:
- Can handle rejection.
- Are open to criticism.
- Choose the best decisions for the organization without any personal bias or ego.
No organization is looking for a team lead who wants his word to always be the final one, except maybe the military. Instead, most organizations want leaders who can tap into and exploit the vast mental resources their employees provide.
So your answer should demonstrate your strategic and unbiased approach to using criticism to improve your team’s productivity and quality of work. Your answer should also illustrate that you understand that teamwork is the most important aspect of leading a team.
Therefore, when team members disagree with your idea:
- Ask them to point out the problems with your idea.
- Come up with alternative suggestions to resolve the issues.
- If the team agrees with the new solution, execute it.
- If not, continue brainstorming until you come up with the best solution.
10. What do you consider when hiring or firing team members?
Before hiring a team member, you should consider three things:
- Whether the applicant is qualified and skilled?
- Whether the applicant is suitable and is able to merge and add value to the team?
- Whether the applicant has relevant experience?
Before firing a team member, you should consider four things:
- Whether the team member had been previously issued a warning?
- Whether the team member is aware that they are about to be fired?
- Whether the team member knows why they are being fired?
- Whether there’s another alternative besides firing the team member?
11. How do you assign tasks amongst team members?
The key to effectively delegating or distributing tasks amongst your team is to understand each team member’s capabilities deeply. For instance, knowing the areas where they excel, their preferences, and their weaknesses. If you grasp this, you will find it much easier to assign tasks to team members.
Here are the best practices for assigning tasks to your team:
- Define a clear set of objectives for each task (acceptance criteria).
- Create a project timeline and deadlines for each task.
- Set clear expectations on the quality of execution of the task.
- Distribute tasks to each team member according to their skills and strengths.
- Discuss with each team member about their assigned workload.
- Empower your team and team members to make decisions on how best to execute their tasks.
- Be open to new or innovative ideas.
- Keep track of your team members’ progress but avoid micromanaging.
- Evaluate performances and give team members feedback.
- Show appreciation for the work done right and highlight the correct points.
- Train future leaders and not robotic followers as they make your job easier.
George S. Patton, a celebrated US Army General, said: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with results.”
12. Is competition within a team healthy?
Competition within a team is a double-edged sword that can be used for either good or harm. The key lies in what is motivating the competition. Therefore, if you can properly channel a healthy spirit of competition, you can level up your team’s productivity and quality of work.
However, the reverse also holds true. Competition within a team fueled by hostile forces like jealousy can poison your team’s overall productivity and cohesion. Therefore, as a team lead, it’s your job to monitor and ensure that all competition in your team is positive.
13. How do you set standards for your team?
Most team leads often make the mistake of setting low standards in the beginning. This approach is often problematic because you’ll face greater resistance when you attempt to raise the standards in the future. Therefore, as a leader, it’s better to set very high standards in the beginning, then adjust them as you go.
14. What’s the most challenging aspect of leadership?
Strictly speaking, there is no wrong answer to this question as everyone faces different challenges. The question is a subjective one. Therefore, you have to answer the question reasonably and explain why you think your chosen aspect is the most challenging.
However, most leaders agree that the most challenging thing about being a leader is solving problems and leading the way confidently, even if you are unsure. Consequently, as a leader, even though you are part of the team, you are in some ways alone. It’s your responsibility to look forward and see your organization’s end goal and guide your team towards it even if the rest of the team does not see it.
Therefore, other team members may often lose sight of the end goal, but you can’t. You always have to be highly focused and consistent.
NB: Although the question is subjective, don’t give answers that disqualify you for the job
15. Why do you think you are suitable for this role?
This question, in a way, is asking you what makes you unique from all the other candidates. Unfortunately, most candidates make the mistake of listing out their boring qualifications that do not help them to stand out at all. Instead, it would be best to answer this question by highlighting your unique assets, experience, and successes in similar positions in the past.
If you don’t know where to begin, include some of the following topics in your response:
- Best team leadership skills and interpersonal skills.
- Best successes or experience in a similar position.
- Your strengths and exceptional qualifications, certifications, or education.
- Job description requirements and how you can fulfill them.
16. How often do you think you should meet with your team?
Regular scheduled meetings with your team are key for effective communication and collaboration within your team. Regular meetings provide your team the opportunity to bond and discuss the challenges they are facing.
Furthermore, regular team meetings also provide you, the team leader, with a strategic opportunity to regularly stoke your team’s motivation by celebrating milestones, awarding an exemplary team member, praising the team or a team member openly in front of others,
17. As a leader, what do you think is your biggest weakness?
This question seems easy enough to answer. Right? Well, if you tell the interviewer something like, “my biggest weakness as a leader is that I’m afraid of confrontations and public speaking gigs.” Then congratulations! You have conned yourself out of a job.
Instead, tell the interviewer something like:
“My biggest weakness is that I often delegate tasks to other people when I know I can do them much better. However, I am forced to compromise because if I don’t delegate tasks, then I will not be able to handle all the work.. I am/have taking/taken management courses that equip me with the tools and knowledge I need to overcome this weakness.”
Or even say something like,
“My biggest weakness is that I tend to work beyond regular hours and often don’t leave myself enough time for social activities outside of work. I have taken courses and coaching sessions in effective time management, and now I can better manage my work and personal life.”
Notice anything? All my answers at first glance seem like weaknesses. But from the employer’s perspective, my weaknesses almost seem like strengths.
So how do you tackle this question?
- Firstly, answer with a realistic but non-critical weakness that doesn’t disqualify you for the job.
- Secondly, spin your weakness into a strength.
- Lastly, mention measures you have taken to overcome this particular weakness.