This article features advice about how to work with recruiters from an insider’s perspective and…
The most effective leaders are self-aware leaders. If you are currently in a leadership role (or if you plan to be in one!), it’s critical to be mindful of how you present yourself to others—especially during an interview.
To support you in this effort, I’ve designed a series of questions and related tips that are targeted to help current and future leaders. The self-awareness you gain as you reflect on these interview preparation questions for leaders will allow you to clearly articulate your value, vision, and strengths to potential employers. In addition, these insights may also help you determine if you need to make any adjustments prior to your next career move.
Research the Organization and Role
Before you go into any interview, make sure you fully research the organization and role. This will require less effort if you’re applying for a position internal to your current organization. For an organization that is not your current employer, learn as much as you can about its size, structure, and culture, as well as any challenges and opportunities that might lie ahead. Take notes.
As you do your research, ask yourself the following questions—and make sure you’ve thought through your answers.
- Why am I interested in this job?
- Why am I interested in this specific organization? (It’s not enough to say, “Because there is an opening.”)
- Why might working here fit my long-term goals?
By gaining clarity on your interest in a role or organization, you will be able to handle related questions when asked during an interview.
Leaders need to have a vision; the organization will want to know that the person steering the ship has not only a plan but also the navigational tools to get there.
Articulate Your Vision and Style
Leaders need to have a vision; the organization will want to know that the person steering the ship has not only a plan but also the navigational tools to get there. You’ll want to think deeply about your vision within the context of the role you’re interviewing for—and then work on articulating that vision clearly and concisely.
- What is my vision for the organization?
- How will I lead the organization (or department or team) to realize that vision?
- What obstacles might present themselves, and how will I overcome them?
All leaders have a style—whether they know it or not. To spark their thinking, I typically ask my clients about their approach to leadership. Some people can respond without skipping a beat. Others will tell me they have never thought about the topic before. From there, I ask additional questions so we can discuss and identify their leadership style.
- What is my leadership style?
- Who do I want to be known as? What do I want my legacy to be?
- What steps have I taken to develop as a leader?
The above questions will prompt reflection and help you determine what you want to accomplish and who you want to be. Do you want to be a transactional leader who doles out rewards and punishments to motivate staff? A transformational leader who coaches your staff? A servant leader who first and foremost empowers others so they can succeed?
Determine Your Key Attributes
Questions about strengths, weaknesses, and times you’ve solved problems might feel tired and overused, but they are almost ubiquitous to the interview process. These questions might not be asked in a universal way, but the essence of the questions will almost certainly be asked—and understandably so. They demonstrate self-awareness around key attributes and qualifications and help highlight where a person might be a particularly strong (or weak) fit for a role.
- What is my greatest strength?
- What is my greatest weakness? How can I shore up this weakness?
- What is my greatest professional achievement to this point? Why did I pick this example?
Be Mindful of Your Demeanor
I’ve worked with several men who have told me that people find them hard to read. Not too long ago, another client told me she felt like her reserved demeanor held her back. Other clients assure me they build rapport almost instantly with anyone they meet. The point here is to be cognizant of how people might perceive you.
- What does my body language reveal to people about me?
- How do I project my voice when talking in both small and large groups? What does this suggest about me?
- How do people perceive my attitude? Am I widely known as a pessimist who is quick to complain? Or an optimist who might downplay the significance of obstacles?
You’ll notice that there are very few “good” or “bad” answers to these questions. Rather, they are meant to deepen self-awareness.
Asking questions that promote self-awareness will help you be prepared for your interview and encourage reflection on your larger professional goals. Moreover, thoughtfully considering questions about your leadership style and demeanor might prompt you to make valuable adjustments while you are in your current role—before you even interview for your next one.