During an interview, the employer wants to know about your leadership skills. That is because almost always everyone will have an opportunity to lead. This may be as part of a team, project, or even by example. Leadership ability is one of the soft skills that managers look for when making hiring decisions.
Leadership skills are employed when you work with a team towards a common goal. Employers want to know if you can motivate a team to work together. Additionally, you can also demonstrate strong leadership skills by example. If you’re working on a tough project with a tight deadline, how do you handle it? If you’re effective and efficient, you are leading by example. (By the way, even if you’re not doing so hot, your still “leading” by example, just in a negative way.)
Strong leadership skills include patience, empathy, communication, active listening, reliability, positively, team building, flexibility, and the ability to teach or mentor. These traits can be difficult to show in an interview. However, here are some tips on how to demonstrate leadership examples in a job interview.
- Define leadership.
I recommend beginning with a short definition of what leadership means to you. By defining leadership, you’re showing your potential employer what it means to you. There are no wrong answers here, but you should spend some time thinking about what leadership means to you. You want your response to be authentic. Weave into your response the skills and qualities you believe make for a great leader and how you have or are working towards achieving those.
- Never reply: “I have leadership skills.”
This phrase is a cliché. Avoid using it at all costs. Give examples of where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills both at work and in your personal life. At work, this could mean leading your team through a project, for example, I was charged with leading my team through XYZ project which we were able to complete ahead of schedule. Be specific about what you actually did to get the project off the ground. At home, this could be coaching little league to organizing a book club or school bake sale.
- Use numbers.
If you organized a bake sale and you were the only baker, great. But if you organized a team of twenty-two mothers of kids in three different classrooms that’s so much better. If the results of your leadership included increased profit margins or reduced PTO, say so. “Under my leadership, I was able to institute a flexible work schedule that led to a 15% improvement in productivity and a decrease of requested PTO by 35%.” Quantifying the results you achieved backs up your strengths as a leader.
- Be confident.
Leaders by their nature are confident. Even if you’ve rehearsed your responses and have effectively led teams, that will not come across if you are not confident. Own your part in successfully driving teams, meeting sales goals, or claiming victory. Practice delivering responses to leadership questions in front of a mirror. Watch yourself with a particular attention to body language. More than 90% of all communication is nonverbal – it’s reflected in your body language and tone of voice.
Remember, you have leadership experience. It might be as simple as leading your boy scout troop on a hike. Pull from all of your experiences. Ask yourself where you were either selected or volunteered to lead. Go back to those experiences and pull out the nuggets: how did it feel, what did you learn, what were the results of your leadership. The more time you spend with this, the more examples you will have. Make a mental note – or better yet – write those experiences down.
If you’re prepared, you will have no problem providing leadership examples during your job interview.
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