Leadership is a major buzzword these days among employers. When applying for entry-level and manager-level positions with top companies and organizations, one of the most important things you can do as a candidate is show the interviewer that you can lead a group of people to success.
Here are the five most important things to keep in mind to show your interviewer you are a leader.
- Discuss Past Leadership Accomplishments
The best way to convince your interviewer that you have the capacity to lead others is to tell him directly about a time that you did just that. It sounds obvious, but people often neglect to do this. When talking about your accomplishments, make sure to highlight times when you actually led people in some way. Maybe you were a mediator between two people who were having trouble communicating. Maybe you took the active lead on a project with classmates or coworkers. While the fact that you took on the leadership role might not seem so important to you, the interviewer’s ears will perk up when he hears this. If you can talk about why and how your leadership led to a positive outcome, all the better.
- State Everything Quantitatively
I find that most people are very good at using numbers and details to explain accomplishments on their resumes, but fail to do so in the interview itself. When preparing for an interview, make sure you know the numbers behind your achievements. Let’s say that, as an intern at a company, you led a team project that was ultimately presented to a Partner at the firm. Instead of discussing what the project was about, tell the interviewer how many people you led and how much money was at stake. If you can tell him that you led a team of 8 other interns to complete a 25-page analysis of a potential $2 million acquisition by your company, you’ve impressed him. He could care less about the details of the company to be acquired.
- Act Decisively
It is common for an interviewer to ask you to talk about a challenge you faced and how you overcame that challenge. In addition to talking about the goal itself and explaining it quantitatively, as mentioned above, you need to explain how you took initiative and acted decisively. The best leaders are able to evaluate situations effectively and act quickly. If you were part of a team at a job and a coworker got fired, did you step up and present to your manager a short-term solution to her absence? How quickly were you able to put that into place and what was the result? The best leaders have boatloads of these kinds of stories. Make sure you have one for your interview.
- Speak Calmly and Confidently
It’s one thing to tell your interviewer that you are a leader, it’s quite another to display leadership through your interaction with her. Part of your goal is to get the interviewer to want to hire you. She doesn’t have to like you, per se, but she has to believe in you so much that she knows you would be an asset if you were put on her team at the company. Staying calm and confident throughout the conversation will help convince her to get behind your candidacy. Practicing anticipated interview questions and conducting research on the company and industry allow you to communicate most effectively. The more you practice, the calmer you will be and the more you will smile. The more research you do about the company and the industry, the more confident you will be and the more knowledgeable you will appear.
- Show Passion
“Why do you want to work for this company?” This is one of the toughest questions to answer, especially if you’ve been on the job hunt for months and have applied to dozens of companies already. Know exactly why that company would be a good fit for you, even if you have to BS it just a bit to sound believable. Why is this important? Because you’ll have to do it when you have the job. The best leaders are able to bring people onto their side because those people want to be there, not because the leader tells them to be there. Showing passion for the company and the position will make the interviewer attracted to you as a candidate, and may make him put his neck out there for you when final hiring decisions are being made. He believes in his company, and wants to hire people who can portray the company in a positive light.
Jake Whitman is the author of Destination: Teach For America, a book designed to help candidates navigate the notoriously difficult application and interview process. Over the past several years, he has helped dozens of applicants get accepted to Teach For America. Check site for more information.