Leaders are meant to inspire, motivate, and lead teams to achieve their goals, but if you are preparing for an interview for a management position, don’t focus on these qualities alone. As noted in Forbes, “Recognition is the number one thing” that employees need from their leaders, if they are to produce great work. What makes a leader truly great is being in tune to his or her team’s ideas, hopes, and needs, so don’t forget to show this and other key qualities if you wish to stand out against other qualified applicants when applying for a top management position.

Being Prepared for Competency Based Questions

Leader or management-level positions always require key skills or competencies, including problem solving, risk taking and innovation, setting a strategy, managing workflow, communicating well, and giving due value to diversity and integration. A competency-based interview will hone in on these and other essential leadership qualities, with recruiters asking you to point to specific instances in your past experience, in which you demonstrated these qualities. Often, questions will focus on setbacks. For instance, you might be asked what strategy you have taken when, at a key stage of a project, a vital member of your team has quit. You might be asked about a time in which your team did not meet a deadline. Impress your recruiters by being honest, and by showing them how despite these setbacks, you focused on the solution, and motivated your team to do the same. To get a good idea of what competencies you will probably be asked about, look closely at the skills mentioned in the job post and practice how you will demonstrate each of these skills.

Inspire Yourself on Great Leaders

Some competencies can be more difficult to demonstrate. Take the quality of inspiration. Think of how leaders you admire demonstrated this quality. Sayings by renowned leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Colin Powell, or John Quincy Adams can give you good ideas on defining the way you yourself inspire others. Quincy Adams once said that being a leader means inspiring others “to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” Think of ways that you did just that for your team and bring these somewhat esoteric words to reality. Did you invest in further training for your team? Did you encourage hardworking team members to apply for a promotion, even if that meant losing them to another team in your company? Did you sit next to someone who was struggling to meet a sales goal and help them call potential clients and seal a deal, even if this meant working overtime? Specific instances of how you brought out the best in your team will give recruiters a good idea of your ability to ‘move mountains’.

Creating the Right Impression

In addition to what you say, how you say it matters. Leaders are natural born ‘people persons’. They utilise open body language, a firm handshake, and a friendly smile to connect with others. Show your enthusiasm and charisma, but back it up with professional body language and dress. For most interviews, a good tailored suit in black or navy blue will do the trick. Depending on the industry, you can be a little more or less creative with colour, shoe style etc. To get your look just right, check out the company’s website and social media and try to figure out the corporate culture. If you are applying for a job in the fashion industry, for instance, make sure to get the cut of your suit right, and don’t be afraid to show a little flair – be it through a pair of designer shoes, a fashionable tie, or a stylish belt.

The key elements of leadership – including innovation, empathy, and vision – can and should be proven during a job interview. This can be achieved by pointing to specific instances in which these qualities led a team to achieve its goals. A good leader isn’t someone who has never suffered setbacks, but rather, a person who has taken every obstacle as an opportunity to grow, learn, and enable others to do the same.



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