How To Highlight Your Leadership Skills And Potential During a Job Interview
In the quest to stand out as a leader during job interviews, we’ve gathered insights from seasoned presidents and COOs, among other experts. From understanding your unique leadership design to describing leadership during challenging times, explore the top seventeen strategies these professionals recommend for showcasing your leadership skills and potential.
- Understand Your Unique Leadership Design
- Show Confidence and Relevant Experience
- Demonstrate Adaptability in Leadership Styles
- Share Specific Leadership Examples
- Present Authentic Challenges and Learnings
- Illustrate Emotional Intelligence and Collaboration
- Discuss Conflict Resolution Skills
- Promote Your Leadership Philosophy
- Use the STAR Method for Leadership Examples
- Prepare and Show Proactive Problem-Solving
- Focus on Fact-Based Leadership Stories
- Initiate Solutions to Workplace Problems
- Emphasize Responsibility Over Team Livelihoods
- Quantify Impact with Measurable Results
- Align Company Culture to Leadership Traits
- Reflect on Diverse Leadership Experiences
- Describe Leadership During Challenging Times
Understand Your Unique Leadership Design
Before you can highlight your leadership skills and potential, I think you need to understand and unearth what your unique skills and talents are.
Understanding your human design serves as a powerful tool in this process. It’s a user manual to your authentic self, helping you uncover how you operate, how you interact with the world, and what your unique gifts and talents are. This self-awareness forms the bedrock upon which you can build and demonstrate your leadership skills during a job interview.
Ultimately, understanding your Human Design empowers you to showcase your leadership potential with confidence and clarity, setting you apart as a candidate who brings a deeper level of self-awareness and authenticity to the role.
Show Confidence and Relevant Experience
Confidence is essential to any job interview situation. The last person I interviewed—I knew within a few minutes of talking to them that they were clearly competent, a subject-matter expert, and a perfect fit for the job. They were honest with me, extremely direct, and they answered my questions thoroughly but without rambling for too long.
Instead of prepping for specific questions, prepare what specific elements of your experience you want to highlight and practice those. For example, if you have experience leading a team through a project, prepare a short, concise version of that story that highlights your role in it.
Then, when you’re in the interview, and a question comes up that makes sense, you can share that story. Do this for three or four specific examples that demonstrate your skills, and it will set you apart from 95% of the other candidates.
Demonstrate Adaptability in Leadership Styles
What you want to do during a job interview, in order to best highlight your leadership skills, is to show a real-life instance where you needed to try out different types of leadership techniques. Pick two leadership styles that are your forte. You have a variety to choose from, be it transformational leadership, situational, servant, delegative, charismatic—to name a few.
Describe those two types of leadership in a real-life work “case study” where you’ve had to adapt a specific style to the situation. What drove you to choose these particular styles? Discussing how you’ve successfully employed chosen leadership types, depending on the needs of the team and the organization, will show the interviewer you have the rare skill of adaptability. Bonus points if you throw in a challenge while employing a leadership style and how you overcame it.
Share Specific Leadership Examples
Highlighting leadership skills requires sharing both tactical examples from prior experience, as well as commenting on your fundamental approach to leadership. Being as specific and thorough with your responses is key! For example, when you share that you led a team of eight teammates, don’t stop there. Share how that team was formed, what some of the strengths of the team were, and why you loved leading them. Commenting on your current or prior team will help bring color to the type of leader you are. This approach paints a clear picture!
If you haven’t led a team before and are hoping to in the future, the approach is quite similar. You can talk about how you’ve mentored, trained, or guided colleagues in the past. Explain why leadership is important to you in your career, and how that’s driven you on your current career path. These experiences are valuable to an interviewer, as they help shed some light on your approach and desire to lead.
Present Authentic Challenges and Learnings
Lead with vulnerability. It’s common for interviewers to encounter candidates who present overly polished personas or inflated self-portrayals. To truly stand out, I focus on being authentic and vulnerable. I’ve found that the most profound leadership skills are often forged in challenging situations. So, I share a story that illustrates a significant challenge I’ve faced, delving into how I navigated it.
For instance, I might recount a time when I led a project that hit unexpected roadblocks. I’d describe how I managed the situation, emphasizing the difficult decisions I had to make, the pressure of the circumstances, and how I guided my team through adversity. This narrative would include not just the struggles, but also the strategies I employed to overcome them—be it through creative problem-solving, effective communication, or fostering teamwork under pressure.
I also make it a point to highlight what this experience taught me. Leadership is a continuous learning process, and sharing what I learned from such experiences demonstrates my ability to grow and adapt. This approach doesn’t just show my capability to lead; it also reflects my resilience, adaptability, and commitment to self-improvement—qualities that are invaluable in any leadership role.
Illustrate Emotional Intelligence and Collaboration
I’ve learned that effectively highlighting leadership skills in a job interview is about demonstrating your ability to inspire, guide, and bring out the best in others. It’s not enough to say that you have leadership skills; you need to showcase them through your experiences and approach.
One effective strategy is to share specific stories or examples from your past roles where you led a team or project to success. That’s something I especially appreciate about people I hire. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. This not only illustrates your leadership style but also provides tangible evidence of your ability to lead.
Another key aspect is to demonstrate your emotional intelligence. Leaders need to be adept at understanding and managing their own emotions, as well as recognizing and influencing the emotions of others. Discussing situations where you successfully navigated complex team dynamics or motivated a diverse group of individuals can be powerful.
Lastly, don’t forget to highlight your ability to listen and collaborate. Soft skills matter more than you may think. Effective leaders are not just commanders but rather collaborators who value and incorporate the input of their team. Mentioning instances where you’ve successfully collaborated or adapted your approach based on team feedback can underscore your leadership potential.
Discuss Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution is a major theme for leadership skills. If you know how to resolve an issue, whether it pertains to customers, your team, or anything business-related, then you have the ability to show you are a leader.
I think it’s helpful to share examples of how you successfully resolved conflicts within your team or facilitated resolution between team members while maintaining a positive and productive work environment. It also helps to highlight any other conflict resolution skills you might have that can help with things like simple IT issues, deadlines, etc. Anything that can help to highlight how you tackle something head-on makes it easier for an interviewer to see you in a leadership role.
Promote Your Leadership Philosophy
During an interview, it’s important to promote your leadership philosophy. You want to do this to showcase the type of leader you are. You also want to bring up examples to highlight your abilities in a leadership capacity. To get extra points, be sure to intertwine how your leadership philosophy matches the company’s mission.
In an interview, you have a limited amount of time to display the type of employee and leader you will be, so you need to make this time count. Great leadership is not in abundance within organizations, so you need to really emphasize your beliefs on the subject.
Use the STAR Method for Leadership Examples
It is important to highlight specific examples of how you demonstrated leadership skills during an interview by utilizing the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). You can highlight how you mentor and guide others, the ability to effectively communicate, make decisions, motivate others, and have a flexible and adaptable attitude.
It is also important to showcase your willingness to continue to learn and grow by sharing certifications and classes you have taken. Before your interview, research the position and company to understand the company’s culture, mission, and values. Finding ways to highlight and communicate that you’re excited about the opportunity to work with a company whose values match up with yours is a key indicator of your leadership capabilities.
Prepare and Show Proactive Problem-Solving
Go the extra mile. For me, this means studying the company you are going to interview for, starting with a careful and thorough reading of the website.
Write down everything that strikes you and that engages or appeals to you, so that you can bring it up during the interview. In addition, I suggest imagining yourself already in the role and approaching the job interview in a proactive manner, showing a possible solution to a challenge or problem that you identified in the study/preparation phase. This will help you to be perceived as reliable, attentive, and with strong leadership and problem-solving skills.
Focus on Fact-Based Leadership Stories
Avoid the theoretical, the hypothetical, and anything that screams personal opinion. If you want to convey your leadership skills to a hiring manager, speak of what you did rather than what you would, could, or might do.
Leaders act and inspire action. So, share real-world examples of how you and your team achieved results. Those fact-based stories will showcase both your current skills and your potential to do more.
Initiate Solutions to Workplace Problems
You can effectively highlight your leadership skills and potential by talking about an instance where you spotted a problem at work and took the initiative to find a solution. This demonstrates your proactive approach and ability to go above and beyond your basic job requirements.
Let’s say you noticed a decline in team morale and collaboration within your department. Recognizing the importance of a positive work environment, you took the initiative to address this issue and improve team dynamics. You found a local escape room and arranged a session for the team where they could have fun and strategically work together.
As a result, there was improved teamwork and increased camaraderie. The escape room served as a catalyst for building stronger relationships and a collaborative mindset within your team.
Emphasize Responsibility Over Team Livelihoods
As a leader, you hold a certain power over the livelihoods of your team members, but not everyone likes to address or talk about it.
Instead, I feel it’s important for a candidate to talk about how they grasp the gravity of this responsibility and the steps they take to use it wisely. When you emphasize your awareness of the influence you have over others’ jobs, it shows a level of maturity and responsibility.
For example, you can share instances when you’ve made decisions with your team’s well-being in mind. Maybe you implemented changes to improve their work environment or provided support during challenging times. Such stories convey that you’re not just a boss but a leader who values and respects the people you lead.
Quantify Impact with Measurable Results
Share a specific real-life story with measurable effects, using numbers if possible. Numbers, statistics, or percentages work in your favor; they are the ones that tell the compelling story of your leadership skills and impact.
Start by describing the situation when you took advantage of your abilities, explain your actions, and discuss the strategies you employed and your decisions. Then, move to the most critical part—the tangible results. Highlight how it influenced the team and what measurable results or positive outcomes you achieved. Numbers allow interviewers to visualize your value. They take you far from being generic and vague in your story.
That’s how you can effectively and, most importantly, tangibly prove your leadership skills during a job interview.
Align Company Culture to Leadership Traits
Highlighting your leadership skills and potential in a job interview requires a combination of strategic storytelling, evidence-backed examples, and an understanding of the specific leadership qualities the employer values. Start by researching the company’s culture and the specific role to identify which leadership traits are most relevant. For instance, if the company emphasizes innovation, prepare examples showcasing your ability to lead teams through creative problem-solving processes.
When sharing examples, use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses. This helps in painting a clear picture of your leadership experiences. For example, discuss a situation where your leadership made a significant impact, outline the task at hand, describe the specific actions you took, and highlight the results achieved. Quantifying these results, such as increasing team productivity by a certain percentage or successfully completing a project under budget, adds credibility to your claims.
It’s also effective to demonstrate your emotional intelligence and adaptability, key components of modern leadership. Share instances where you successfully navigated team conflicts, motivated diverse team members, or adapted your leadership style to different situations. This showcases your ability to lead effectively under various circumstances.
Additionally, express your potential for growth. Leaders are not just born; they are made through continuous learning and experience. Discuss your commitment to professional development, willingness to take on challenging projects, and how you seek feedback to improve your leadership skills.
Finally, remember that non-verbal cues are also part of your communication. Display confidence through your posture and eye contact, but balance this with a sense of approachability and empathy, as these are also important traits of a leader. By combining these strategies, you’ll be able to effectively convey both your existing leadership skills and your potential to grow within the company.
Reflect on Diverse Leadership Experiences
Take a moment to review your leadership background before going into the interview. Reflect on various experiences, both within and outside the workplace. Don’t hesitate to emphasize instances from volunteer work, sports, group activities, or academic projects.
During the interview, discuss these experiences naturally, showcasing your capacity to lead and inspire others. This approach helps demonstrate your leadership abilities effectively.
Describe Leadership During Challenging Times
As a startup founder, I’ve personally interviewed numerous candidates for leadership skills within my company. Typically, I find that the strongest way to highlight leadership skills is when candidates describe instances where they led a team to overcome a challenging scenario—or stepped up to the leadership position.
True character is revealed in times of difficulty, and describing how you are able to lead under pressure and stress reveals a lot about your skills and potential.