So you’re in the interview, nervous, palms sweating, butterflies in your stomach, and then you’re asked a question about ‘leadership’. You think about your actual work experience and start to panic because you’ve never been a team leader or a manager. How can you possibly answer this question?
Take a step back. Fortunately, this isn’t the interview. Instead, it’s the night before and you’re safely at home in a comfortable chair and it’s the perfect time to take stock and consider what you have accomplished with regard to leadership. Even if you don’t have a managerial background, what about your experience in clubs and societies, or your volunteer work – or even that time you helped someone during your part-time job to perform a task more effectively? All these things demonstrate leadership experience.
Not convinced? Try answering these four questions:
Have you had an opportunity to influence someone? If so, how did you influence them and what was the outcome?
Have you ever had to organize an event? What role did you take?
Have you ever helped someone perform a task more effectively? How did you help them improve?
Have you ever stepped up to a role and taken charge because no one else would?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you took on a leadership role. And by taking stock of what you’ve accomplished and looking at the leadership skills you’ve gained (which are highly transferable) you can see there’s no reason to panic if you get this question. In fact, you can now practice answering it using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) which will help you order your thoughts and present your answers in a very logical way. Here’s how it works:
You get asked a question that relates to leadership: ‘Tell me about a time when you’ve had to help someone improve their performance. What did you do? And what was the result?’
Situation: Set the scene by describing the situation – be very specific. What was going on and why was it a problem? Who was involved? What was your role?
Task: Explain how you identified the issue and determined that you would have to take action to correct the situation.
Action: You had a plan and implemented it. What did you do specifically? How did you communicate your plan? How did the other person react?
Result: So, what was the end result? What did you learn? Would you do anything differently if confronted with the same situation today? Did the person’s performance improve?
By really reflecting on all of your previous leadership experiences, and practicing the STAR method beforehand, you’ll be able to demonstrate your leadership experience in any interview situation.