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I am a leader; I pinky swear! 10 tips to demonstrate you are an effective leader at the interview!

After interviewing hundreds of people over the years for leadership roles; I have found that people often struggle communicating their leadership skills in an actual job interview. No worries, I am here to help you kick off your 2020 with 10 tips to help your leadership skills shine in a job interview (also known as speed dating!). Your interview is likely not controlled by you; and it is a high chance by the time your interview time comes up, the decision has already been made. So how do you set yourself apart from the other candidates that may have looked amazing on paper, but were mediocre in the actual interview? How do you be outstanding so if they thought they already landed on a candidate, you make them reconsider?

Below are tips that I believe will help you if you plan to make a power move for a new job in 2020!

1. Practice your communication skills. – You must be comfortable conveying critical information, preferably in the form of a relatable or relevant example to the job you are interviewing for, which will demonstrate an actual leadership skill. It is not enough to say I am a great leader. Employers want to know concrete ways that your leadership skills are demonstrated. Being able to communicate this comes natural for some, but for the majority it does require preparation and practice because your window is short in an interview. Practice discussing your leadership attributes and get comfortable doing so. Practice with a personal friend/spouse/partner/ the mirror, etc. Just practice so it feels we comfortable.

2. Be composed. – A great leader understands that you will be challenged with adversity on any given day (or hour). Employers are looking for individuals that are able to maintain composure as to not make a conflict or moment of adversity escalate beyond repair. Leaders are often in autonomous positions and employers want to know that you can be trusted to deal with whatever may come your way with grace, class and dignity. This is composure! You can of course provide a pertinent example, but in short you can do so by simply presenting this throughout the interview process. Interviewers often ask tough questions designed to see how you "process information" or respond to the unusual in the moment. Be composed and prepared for these questions! Take your time to answer so you can be thoughtful and composed.

3. Be Authentic – This is not the time to send your “representative’ forward. Be your authentic self. Some of the best leaders I know, have a natural ability to connect with people and people are just drawn to them. When you are your authentic self, your characteristics should naturally flow from you. Good leaders have this attribute, so let your true self shine through. The person interviewing you wants to connect with you. After all, they will have to work with you and they want to feel connected to you. There are no interview questions that measure this well, therefore, it is up to you to make authentic connections during the interview. Remember people’s names, making eye contact, turning the interview into more of a two-sided conversation.

4. Be Prepared – I have interviewed hundreds of people over my career. Literally. What is a constant, especially now, is that people look amazing on paper. They clearly have all of the skills needed to perform the job. However, when they get to the interview, they seem to not be prepared to interview for the actual job! So, when they answer questions or provide examples, they are not connecting their experiences to the actual job. Researching the job, the organization, and doing as much as possible to be prepared to translate how your skills and attributes will make you a good fit for the job you are interviewing for is critical. People don’t do this well. They believe it is enough to have the experience. Leaders know that is only a slice of the pie. Demonstrating that you are indeed prepared for the job, is an attribute of a good leader.

5. Be Coachable: This of course is not the time to be COY, you should be confident in your skills and attributes. However, in addition to that you must be able to demonstrate that you are coachable. Great leaders know that learning is a lifelong process. Be sure to communicate what you know and how you are a good fit, but also balance it with being open to being coached as a part of your journey. This is not the same as asking how will I be trained, what type of supervision will I have, what will be my performance measures. Nope. Completely different, it is about demonstrating that you are constantly evolving and can receive constructive criticism and indeed welcome it because that’s how leaders grow.

6. Courage – It takes courage to be a leader, period. You must find an opportunity in the interview to demonstrate that you are courageous. That you are willing to critically think and act outside ordinary lines (not haphazardly) in order to reach solutions or achieve a goal. Additionally, demonstrating that you have experienced healthy anxiety about a decision, but had the courage to take action and how it turned out matters. Come with a specific example ready! Remember that most interviews are rapid fire speed dating. Be present and focused so you can “naturally” pivot to specific examples you have learned over time.

7. You are able to find the Lesson in Failures – Many leaders make the mistake of going into interviews naturally wanting to highlight their accomplishments. That is completely fine and what you should do! However, great leaders go into interviews prepared to talk about failures and what they learned from it. Demonstrating that you are comfortable talking about success and failures shows your maturity level as a leader. You see your set backs as a set up for a comeback. Also shows that you know how to persevere through adversity. Be ready with a tangible example. If the question is not asked, it is your job to find an opportunity in the interview process to bring it up! I hate when I ask a candidate to explain how they handled a project or assignment that failed and they say, "that's never happened to me". WRONG. It is a part of life and no matter if it were big or small, you should talk about it because it says a lot about your character.

8. Accountability – Everyone wants to be the boss or leader until they have to be held accountable for a decision or action that did not go the way they hoped. It’s all fun and games with a “boss” title until you have to make decisions that have far reaching consequences. Owning your wins and losses and being accountable for your actions is an absolute attribute needed for a great leader, but some shy away from this in an interview setting. They like to be in charge until the shit hits the fan therefore it doesn’t come naturally for many people, hence they never consider raising it in the interview process. They are still stuck in the failure of the outcome vs the lesson of the experience of failure. Employers that are truly looking for leaders want to know you are not just comfortable being in charge on the sunny days, but that you will use due diligence for the more challenging days because you want to be accountable and understand that comes with the territory.

9. You can manage and resolve conflicts- One of the most commonly asked questions in an interview is about how you handle workplace conflict. People usually provide generic answers that will say: “yes, I am great at handling conflict.” But they usually fail to provide specific examples of what that looks like in practice. You should be prepared to talk about an actual professional conflict you have been in at some point in your career, none of us are immune to this, so keep it real. The difference between a leader’s answer to this is they can describe the conflict (situation) and clearly articulate the role they played in the conflict and what they learned as a person from the experience. Non-leaders will tend to discuss the conflict and highlight what the opposing party did. When they talk about their own role, they will usually present themselves as the one that was above reproach or the victim. Most people are usually unable able to own any parts they played in the conflict and describe it as an event that was happening to them as opposed to an event, they were a participant IN.

10. You practice self-care Leaders understand that you must practice self-care. The more you advance in your career the more complex your life becomes. Especially true for women. We are still trying to balance, in some cases, parenting, marriage/relationships/dating, care taking of a family member, managing a household, participating in community or civic events, the list goes on and on. When we are in high paced leadership roles, we have a tendency to keep going, and going and going because we actually are pretty bad ass and are built to manage multiple things without blinking an eye.....until our body reminds us, we are human. Demonstrating in the interview that you have awareness of the need for dynamic leaders to practice self-care shows you will likely not burn out as fast as others, have healthy boundaries and the insight to know you are at your best when you take care of your number one commodity first, you.

Happy Job Hunting and Remember:

"Always Be Fabulous!" - Don't go into that interview looking like you just rolled out of bed. (this actually happens!!) When you look good you feel good and you have a natural confidence booster. It comes across in the interview and I don't care what people may think....it absolutely plays a role. Buy the shoes, the clothes, and wear your lucky charm bracelet as this is always HALF the confidence battle. I promise....

#MJ

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Monica Johnson

Monica Johnson is a professional speaker dedicated to promoting mental health wellness & empowering and building women leaders.

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