How to Answer Interview Questions About Leadership

Woman leading business meeting
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Are you interviewing for a job in which you would have a leadership role? If so, expect the hiring manager to ask about the experience that qualifies you to lead, your leadership style, and your accomplishments.

Even if you are not applying for a leadership role, you might still get questions on leadership. That’s because leadership refers not only to managing others, but also being a strong example for your coworkers.

Hiring managers want candidates who will inspire their teammates to do their best work, even if they’re not technically managing the group.

Preparing for leadership-focused questions in advance of the interview will help you give strong answers in the moment, and feel confident both before and during the interview. Use the sample questions and “Best Answers” listed at the end of this article to help you prepare your own personalized responses.

How to Answer Interview Questions About Leadership

To prepare for interview questions about leadership, consider the leadership skills that are most important for the job you are interviewing for. Look at the job listing for more information on the type of leader they are looking for, and the types of tasks you will need to perform.

You can also look at this list of leadership skills and circle any skills that you think are critical to the job. Also review the management skills employers look for in applicants.

  Once you have a few key skills in mind, think back to all of the positions you have had where you’ve held leadership roles. These might not necessarily be management positions, but they will be jobs in which you were a leader in some way (for example, perhaps you often served as a team leader in a job).

If you are a recent graduate or have limited work experience, you might not have experience directly related to the job. Volunteer work, clubs, and academics can all provide useful examples of your leadership abilities.

For each key leadership skill, think of at least one example from these jobs when you demonstrated that skill. Be prepared to share those examples with the interviewer.

Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

A thoughtful, relevant anecdote is often the best way to answer these kinds of questions, particularly when they are behavioral interview questions. These are questions that ask you to provide examples from past work experiences to prove your qualifications for the job at hand. When answering behavioral interview questions about leadership, use the STAR interview response technique:

    (S) Situation: Explain the background of the situation. What was your job?

    (T) Task. What was the particular task you had to perform? If there was a particular problem you were addressing, explain what it was.

    (A) Action: What action did you take (or what skills did you use) to complete the task, or solve the problem?

    (R) Result: What was the outcome of the situation? Did you complete the task well?

Did you solve the problem?

Here is an example answer to the question, “Give an example of a time you unexpectedly had to take up a leadership role.” This answer uses the STAR technique:

  • At my last job, I was a sales associate for a large company. Our company’s overall sales numbers were down from the previous quarter, and our manager asked all sales associates to suggest possible methods for improving sales. I gave a brief presentation on a solution I created, which involved changes to our sales training method. The manager liked my suggestion, and put me in charge of a task force to implement this solution. I led a team of six, and we developed and implemented a new training method. Ultimately, this solution increased our salespeople’s skills and confidence, and our numbers the next quarter surpassed our previous quarter by 15 percent. I believe that my ability to clearly communicate my plan to both my employer and my staff led to the great success of my project.

    Leadership Interview Questions and Answers

    Another way to prepare to answer interview questions about leadership is to practice answering common questions. See below for a list of common interview questions related to leadership. Read the sample answers (under the “Best Answers” links), and then practice providing your own answers to these questions.

    Note that not all of these questions are directly about leadership; however, you can answer them in a way that shows your skills as a leader, and helps sell your candidacy to the hiring manager. For example, for the question, "What can you do for this company?," your answer can focus on how you desire to be a strong leader for your department.

    • What can you do for this company? - Best Answers
    • What experience do you have that would help you in this role? - Best Answers
    • What were your responsibilities at your current (or last) position? - Best Answers
    • Why should we hire you? - Best Answers
    • What can you contribute to this company? - Best Answers
    • Why are you the best person for the job? - Best Answers
    • What were your biggest accomplishments and failures in this position? - Best Answers
    • What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them? - Best Answers
    • What were your starting and final levels of compensation? - Best Answers
    • Why are you moving on? - Best Answers
    • How do you evaluate success? - Best Answers
    • What is your greatest weakness? - Best Answers
    • What is your greatest strength? - Best Answers
    • How do you handle stress and pressure? - Best Answers
    • What motivates you? - Best Answers
    • What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? - Best Answers
    • What do people most often criticize about you? - Best Answers
    • If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? Best Answers
    • What do you expect from a manager? - Best Answers
    • What was it like working for your manager? - Best Answers
    • Who was your best manager and who was the worst? - Best Answers
    • If you knew a manager is 100 percent wrong about something, how would you handle it? - Best Answers
    • Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? - Best Answers
    • What are your salary expectations? - Best Answers
    • What are you looking for in your next job? What is important to you? - Best Answers
    • What are your goals for the next five years / ten years? - Best Answers
    • How do you plan to achieve those goals? - Best Answers

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