If you’re an entry- or mid-level professional and are asked about leadership experiences in an interview, you may draw a blank. Automatically, you’re likely to think about your professional achievements and nothing may come to mind. If that’s the case, you need to think creatively about where you’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership outside of work.
As a senior-level professional or executive, this question may seem like an easy one, but you need to take care when answering it. Instead of stating your title or using blanket descriptions of your duties, think in terms of specific examples. The same is true for mid-level professionals who have managerial types of roles.
Professional examples: If you can, provide leadership examples from your work history. Below are some questions to ask yourself at each career level to figure out if you have sufficient examples.
As an entry-level employee, have you been given an opportunity to lead a project or part of a project? Have you been selected to represent the company at a conference or event? Have you organized an event? Have you mentored other staff or interns? Have you served on committees at your company?
Mid-level employees, have you managed staff? Have you led projects? Have you represented the company at conferences or events? Do you oversee a budget? Do you train other staff? Do you interview and select staff for hire?
If you’re in a senior-level role, ask yourself what you’re most proud of accomplishing as a leader. Do you serve as a company spokesperson? With which executives do you work regularly?
Use the questions above as a guide for finding an appropriate answer to the interviewer’s question. When you answer, provide a brief summary of what you did, what impact it had and why you chose it as an example of your leadership capabilities.
Community examples: If you have done volunteer work or held positions in community organizations, these are great examples of leadership. This is true whether you are just starting out or are more senior. People tend to discount their community affiliations, but many are worth more to an employer than you might think. You don’t have to be on the board of directors of a major organization or company to garner the attention of an employer. Ask yourself the following questions.
Did you start or lead any groups while in school? This could be anything from a sport to a political association. Have you served as a lifeguard, emergency medical technician, teacher or in another position at some point in your life that is often associated with the term “leader?” Factor in whether you hold a title in the organizations with which you’re involved. This could be anything, including board member, treasurer, secretary or volunteer coordinator, among others.
Again, try to provide specific examples. Don’t just tell the interviewer that you are a member of Habitat for Humanity, or that you sit on the school board. What have you achieved in these roles? In other words, turn them into professional examples.
Personal examples: This is more of a stretch. But if you’re struggling to find professional or community-related leadership samples to relay to the interviewer, you can dig into your personal background. Here are some possibilities to consider.
Think about whether you helped someone through a difficult situation. If so, what did you do? Have you trained or mentored another person in something? Are you currently or have you studied on your own to acquire a skill? What do your peers say about you? If you’re considered a leader, it’s not enough to say that others think of you in this way. You must provide specific examples to support your claim.
(Data from 2018 rankings)
Originally published at money.usnews.com