Answering "What Are Your Leadership Examples?" In A Job Interview

"Tell us something about your leadership experience." or "What are some of your leadership experiences?" is a tough question to answer in a job interview. Questions like these, concerning leadership, are typical for you to face in an interview, irrespective of whether you are just out of college or have prior work experience. Such questions hold higher value when you are applying for positions that exclusively demand this personality aspect to be in use for the concerned duties.

Becasue of this, knowing how to answer such questions about leadership could be the difference between getting hired or getting rejected. You have to answer the question in a way that benefits your case, making the interviewer interested in making the job offer to you.

Questions about leadership experience are a medium of providing testament of your character to work and lead groups within an organization in the most useful and efficient way. Thus, prepare accordingly to be able to respond to questions about leadership without being anxious or impulsive in interviews.

So, how do you approach questions that talk about leadership experience?

Three Rs – the key elements

When probing about your leadership qualities, an interviewer wants to evaluate how capable you are at handling situations that demand control and cooperation with other team members and employees within the organization. Your job is to assure the interviewer in this regard, that you are highly capable and possess the required leadership skills to handle tasks and tackle issues in the role.

For responding to leadership-concerned questions, remember the three Rs – relevancy, recency, and result.

That is, your response:
• Should be relevant to the job context
• Should describe a recent event
• Should talk about the result of your leadership actions

Relevant

Suppose you are applying for a manager's position in an organization. But when asked about your leadership qualities, you describe your time as a soccer team leader. Though technically you did provide a suiting answer to the question; contextually you were not right.

Speaking of leadership instances when inquired is good; however, they have to be relevant to the context of the discussion, i.e., in this case, the job position. Yes, leadership plays a crucial role in both instances (being a manager in a company and being a soccer team leader), but the circumstances are different because of which some of the duties will vary in both cases.

And because of this, you have to speak of your leadership qualities in a way that correlates to the interviewer's potential areas of concern.

For the previous example, an appropriate response would be to cite an instance where you were successfully able to lead a group working on a project in your last company. Alternatively, you could talk about how your control and guidance led to your college project group to compete and rank first in a competition.

The aim is to highlight your leadership experience in the right context. Saying the right things with relevance to the scenario is going to put you in contention for the job offer.

Recent

Speak of things as recent as possible concerning your leadership experience. Everyone knows time changes everything. You aren't the same person you were ten years ago. Your leadership experience in a particular role ten years ago would be very much different as compared to the exposure that you gain today in the same position.

Citing a recent experience helps to relate you as close as possible to the present time frame. It will be a testament to your relevancy to the current scenario.

Because of all these reasons, talk about leadership-concerned things that are as recent as possible; about 2 – 3-year-old experiences will do. That said, you don’t have to worry if your experience dates back a little longer than 2 – 3 years. In that case, focus on relevancy than recency.

Result

Talking about leadership experiences should not only be about relevancy and recency, but you also need to incorporate results, i.e., what was the outcome of your leadership. Talking about consequences lets the interviewer assess your leadership qualities, how the organization can benefit from this aspect of your personality.

Last year, I was able to lead the sales team in my previous company effectively.

Or

Last year, I was able to lead the sales team in my previous company effectively which resulted in an increase of 20% in revenue for the company.

Which statement, do you think, would make a more significant impression, first or second?

The first statement only tells about what you did while the second statement tells about your actions and the result (a 20% increase in company revenue). Therefore, the second statement is more likely to strengthen your case.

The primary purpose of the result is to influence the citation of your leadership experience positively. Providing evidence not only guarantees your leadership experience but also lets the interviewer know if you were successful at the task in hand while leading. No company wants an employee who can control and guide but the actions are not reflected in the output, or worse, cause damage to the organization.

When you speak about the outcome of your leadership, you are giving the interviewer a concrete proof that you were capable of accomplishing the task with regards to your leadership skills.

Incorporating the above three Rs, i.e., relevancy, recency, and the result should make for a compelling talk about your experience as a leader, and also help the interviewer judge you on this personality aspect.

Responding to the question or questions

Now that you have some idea about which elements to incorporate in your response, the theory is over. Next comes the practical or application aspect – the right way to respond to the questions.

The best response consists of all the three elements, relevancy, recency and result. Also, you have to maintain an order of elements in your response.

The best structure in this regard is:

Recency – Relevancy – Result

That would be:
• You first state the recency of the experience
• Then, show its relevance to the context of the discussion
• And finally, cite the result.

Here’s an example (for an available senior designer’s position at a company).

“In 2016, I had joined XYZ Designs Corp as the Lead Designer. In the position, I was responsible for brainstorming ideas and supervising the work of three more designers. This aspect of brainstorming and also supervising their work was new to me, but I took to the task and had considerable success. Under my supervision, there was a massive improvement in the quality of designs which also resulted in one of the designers getting promoted. With the new responsibility of supervision, I got to discover and refine the managerial and leadership characteristics of mine which helped both, the company and me."

The above example does the two things, incorporating the three Rs and follow the order of the elements, correctly.

• There’s ‘recency’ in “In 2016, I had joined XYZ Designs Corp as…” (Talking about an instance three years ago)
• Then, there’s ‘relevancy’ in “…I had joined XYZ Designs Corp as the Lead Designer. In the position, I was responsible for brainstorming ideas and supervising the work of three more designers…” (Working as a designer, similar to the job in question)
• Lastly, there's the result in “…Under my supervision, there was a massive improvement in the quality of designs which also resulted in one of the designers getting promoted…” (Speaking of the positive changes that occurred)

Sometimes, you can omit the ‘recency' aspect and only talk about ‘relevancy' and ‘result,' thus, making the task even simpler for you. If you don't want to talk about the recency of your experience, that's fine. In that case, make sure you do a good job of incorporating the ‘relevancy' and ‘result' side of things in your leadership experience.

Other aspects

Aiming for the perfect example.

What we discussed in the article till now are ideal cases. But life isn't ideal. It is not a problem if your experience varies in some aspects. For example, maybe you are fresh out of college without any work experience, or perhaps it means an alteration in your career (from graphic designer to UX designer, from marketing manager to operations manager). Do not aim for perfection in your example of experience. Though talking about leadership experience is about letting the interviewer know and prove your leadership capabilities, it is also about other aspects like presentation, confidence, and integrity. Thus, be fair while speaking about your experience; talk about what you did, what you learned, and the outcome of your guidance.

Preparing for future job interviews

Interviews can be daunting, but with the right preparation, they are easy to tackle. Being prepared in all possible aspects is vital to succeeding in an interview. To help you in that regard, here are some tips:

Prepare yourself to know about the company.

Knowing about the available position in an organization isn't the only thing you should be aware and concerned about. You need to have proper relevant information about the company, be it about its objectives, sales number, upcoming projects or other things. Not only will it help you with conversing with the people you come across during the interview process, but also reflect your interest to work with the company.

No organization wants an individual who's unwilling to work for them. So, actively show your interest in the company. Besides, it will help you settle in the new environment quicker if you are acquainted with some aspects of the work environment before joining the company. Thus, search the Internet for any information relevant to the company in question; discuss them with your friends and relatives. Learn about the company, know who they are, what they stand for, what are their achievements and so on.

Prepare for the meeting

As much as being informed and prepared is essential to interviews, so is the presentation – presentation of self, and ideas and opinions.

Presenting engaging facts and information

Once you are acquired sufficient information about the company, now is the time to practice presenting this information for the interview. You might know all about the company, but if you fail to show it accordingly, the chances of being hired tend to diminish.

Body language, presentation and speech

Besides the information about the company, you also need to be careful about how you present yourself. You need to introduce yourself with proper body posture and etiquettes, else risk being out of contention for the job.

So prepare and practice multiple times until you feel comfortable presenting yourself and the acquired information. When you speak, it should feel natural and flowing, not like something that has been memorized for the occasion.

Presenting yourself

Also, dress appropriately for the occasion. Concerned people will judge you for how you dress. If your clothes aren't clean, or properly pressed or feel inappropriate, you will create a negative impression. Your clothes and dressing sense are the first things an interviewer will notice about you. If you fail in this regard, there's no point elaborating about your skills and experience as they are not likely interested in your case because of your dressing sense.

Pack according to the occasion

The final thing about preparing for the interview meeting, packing the necessary stuff. It isn't a family trip, so only put the things that are indispensable for the meeting, removing any clutter.

Make a checklist of essentials that you might need like:
• Resume (original with multiple copies)
• Certificates
• A pen
• A writing pad (for referring to your prepared notes or recording relevant information)
• Reference list (with name, designation, company, contact information and a brief description of your relationship)

That was a small insight about preparing for interviews.

Final words

Some questions define or break your chances of getting a job; questions about leadership experiences are one among them. An organization is a single body but has a vast number of employees working in unison with varying roles and duties. Thus, employee characteristics like teamwork and leadership are demanded by companies to avoid limiting their overall performance due to lacking employees. Because of this, talk about your leadership skills, you have to convince the concerned organization about how good you are in that regard. Remember the three Rs – relevancy, recency, and result along with the apt order of information defines how much your response does justice to your case with regards to leadership skills and experience. If you are preparing for a leadership interview, this guide has the best overall to help you prepare.

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