Leadership belongs to the most sought for qualities in job seekers. Directors, managers, supervisors, team leaders–if you apply for any of these positions, HR managers will try to understand if you have the ability to lead the others.
But how do they do it in an interview? What questions they use to assess your leadership? And how can you convince them of your qualities?
We will try to find the answer on this website, which specializes only in leadership interview questions. Written by Matthew Chulaw, Independent Interview Coach & Recruitment Consultant.
What questions will they ask you?
Good HR managers and recruiters will ask you a couple of questions that should help them to understand your perspective on leadership, and your readiness to lead other employees, or the entire organization. Let’s have a look at the questions (click a question to see sample answers, and a more in-depth analysis of the question):
Leaders are determined by the number of their followers, and by the level of devotion of their followers. If people listen to someone, we can call that person a leader.
Going by example, having charisma, and knowing how to connect with the others, are just a few good ways of attracting a person (your colleagues, subordinates, business partners).
Show us that you understand how to connect with the others, that you know how to show them the connection of their personal goals with the goals you try to achieve in the company…
How would you motivate the others to work on the goals of the company? And how do you motivate yourself to work on these goals?
Life of a leader is not easy. They have to remain on the top of their game, and they often carry responsibility for the final result of the business. It is easy to experience a burn-out syndrome, especially if we work a lot, and if the results do not arrive.
Leaders should motivate the others, but they should also know how to keep their own motivation in work. Other employees have someone they can seek advice from, and someone they can blame. But leaders have to rely on their own powers.
Try to show us that you always keep your goals in mind, that to achieve something big in your life drives you forward. Try to demonstrate the strong fire of passion that burns in you, and that keeps burning, even if the times are tough.
Describe a situation when you successfully led someone towards a big goal which they wanted to achieve.
Many people can talk about their management and leadership skills for hours. But once it comes to the real job, once they are supposed to lead someone, they fail.
Are you just a talker? Or have you already achieved something? Have you already experienced successes and failures that shaped you, and that helped you to become a better leader?
You should talk about a situation that had a happy ending, when the person you led eventually achieved their goal. Show us how you helped them on their way, and what you learned in the process…
We have talked together for a while now. Can you tell me something about my own skills? What have you identified as a good way to connect with me, on a personal level? What are my weaknesses?
In order to lead people, we have to be able to uncover their strengths and weaknesses. Show us that you have the ability, but try to stay positive in your interview answer. Talk mostly about the strengths of the interviewer, praise them for their abilities.
Once it comes to their weaknesses (second part of your interview answer), try to mention at least one weakness, because you are supposed to do that in your answer. You can elaborate on it though, saying that you’d need more time to properly assess their weaknesses…
Setting goals is a crucial ability for every leader. They should know how to set goals for the company, and derive from them goals for themselves, and for each employee they lead.
In your interview answer, you should speak mostly about the goals of the company (increasing profits, getting new customers, improving reputation, increasing the market share, etc).
Leaders should have big goals. They should know why they wake up to work, and what they try to achieve with their everyday activity. What is more, speaking about long term goals you are sending us a clear signal that we can count on you in a long run…
Leadership carries both pride and responsibility. You are the one to announce good news, but also the one to dismiss a colleague, perhaps a friend of you.
Show us that you will not let your emotions to control your decisions. Show us that you will always do what you consider the best option for the company.
If you had a managerial role before, or if you ran your own business, or faced some tough situation in your personal life, you should recall at least a few tough calls you had to make. Remember that it is your attitude that matters to the hiring committee…
People had more respect for authorities in the past, and it doesn’t matter if we talk about managers, kings, or priests. The title in front of your name means nothing today, and the same applies to your position in the company.
Good leaders can connect with the people, on personal level. They believe in them, they believe in their goals, and they believe in a bright future for the company. Leaders need to get close to people. They need to win their hearts, so the others desire to follow them…
The front runners always win the biggest prizes. Can you predict what will happen in the future? Do you watch the trends in the industry? Will you come up with the right innovation, in the right time?
Show us that you care, that you try to stay on the top of the game. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of companies battling for the market share in every field of business. Can you convince us that you will help our company to lead the pack?
- What leadership styles do you know and apply in work. Why do you prefer that particular style of leadership?
- What can we learn from our failures?
- What is your general opinion about people around you?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other candidates for this leadership role?
Attract, believe, connect
Success or failure in this interview does not depend only on your answers to their questions. Recruiters need to feel your leadership, to see your potential. You should do your best to present yourself as a leader in an interview. What does it mean?
Leaders attract the others. Put on your best clothes, smile, be your best self, attract the others. Let your charisma shine in the room, ensure it is a pleasure to talk to you.
Leaders believe. They believe in their vision, they believe in the people around them, in the perspective and goals they have. Be the one who believes in their own opinions, goals and aspirations. Be the one who is positive about other people, and about the future.
Leaders connect with the others. Connections lead to knowledge, power, and to new business opportunities. Show them that you are connected with the right people. Stand-alone leaders can not achieve anything nowadays. What is more, try to connect with your interviewers. Show them that you know how to connect with people from all levels of the corporate world. Children, students, laborers, supervisors, managers, top officers. You need to know how to win the hearts of them, or at least convince the interviewers of having the ability to win their hearts.
Does one have to be born a leader?
In my opinion, leadership can be compared to playing tennis. One can be born with good predispositions (speed, endurance, good health, nice touch), and become a great tennis player later in their life. But they still have to train hard, and spend years on practice court, until they start winning big titles on the professional tour.
On the other hand, if you look at the ATP rankings, you will find at least ten players without any talent occupying one of the top hundred spots… They were not gifted with talent, but they trained hard and became one of the world’s best athletes.
Leadership is just the same. You can become a great leader. You can learn how to connect with the others, how to attract them and lead them. A leadership seminar (must be a good one!) is a great investments into your career. You can learn a lot also from books, and basically any encounter you have with other person is your chance to improve your leadership skills. It is your chance to attract, believe, and connect…
Last minute preparation for your interview
If your interview is tomorrow (or anytime soon), you probably don’t have time for seminars, or books… In such a case, I suggest you to have a look at I Will Get a Job – Recording for Leaders that will teach you how to win the hearts of your interviewers, how to connect with them, and how to make them believe in your skills in an interview.
I recorded it many years ago, but it still helps job seekers to deliver their best on a big day. Thank you for checking it out here. (*in 2018, I added answers to 30 most common interview questions to the recording, as a free bonus…)
Good luck in your interview!
Your Personal Interview Coach, author of the content