Sound Like a Leader

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Interviewing

For those seeking a position leading others, there is more to securing this type of role than just having previous experience. Hiring Managers will also expect you to say the “right things,” in other words, you will need to sound like a leader. For those trying to break into a supervisor role for the first time, you may even find that by communicating like a leader helps you in landing the position over more experienced candidates.

Let’s examine what you, as a Job Seeker can say to a Recruiter or Hiring Manager that will convince them that you are the type of leader that they need. The focus on this list will be the “soft skills” of leadership rather than the “hard skills,” such as technical or functional expertise. It is important, however, that both your resume and your answers to any of the technical questions reflect that you know the work. For example, I am assuming that someone applying for an Accounting Manager position knows how to maintain a General Ledger.

  • Communicates to Staff: You will want to stress that you communicate effectively to staff and how it is critical to maintaining the employee engagement you feel is necessary to be successful. If given the time, explain how you are visible to staff during walk-through time, you hold team meetings, and meet regularly with individual employees to provide feedback, amongst other reasons.
  • Set Goals and Hit or Exceed Them: You will want to communicate how you set clearly defined “stretch” goals for staff and then motivate them to meet or exceed these objectives. The goals can be both business and individual employee development related, but (of course) should be success stories.
  • Stress How You Listen to Staff: The best ideas regarding continuous improvement often comes from the floor employees who do the job. Stress how you are very approachable to staff and you encourage them to provide you with their feedback and ideas. Describe a situation where you learned something or formulated an actionable idea given to you by a direct report employee.
  • Show Both of “Your Sides”: Communicate how important you believe it is to counsel weak performing employees in an attempt to correct behaviors. On the flip side, stress how you have been available to mentor staff in a compassionate manner, especially in a situation where the employee was struggling with an issue.
  • Reference Your Understanding of Generational Differences: One of the hardest parts of leading people in 2019 is the generational mix found in most companies. Talk to your Interviewer about how you respect the differences and how you have managed to connect with each group. If you are comfortable with the subject matter of “situational leadership,” you can go down the route of discussing how you customize your approach based on the person.
  • State Willingness to Adjust and Learn: Continuous learning is a key to modern leaders, so tress your desire to be mentored or learn via webinars, books, etc. If you have been a leader for a while, talk about how you have adjusted your style over the years, based on the needs of your staff.
  • Don’t Forget Managing Up: We have focused currently on your leadership towards your staff. Don’t forget how important managing your boss can be. Managing up consists of making your boss knows (in advance any items that may escalate, volunteering to take on any of his/her open assignments, and being ready with any updates regarding key projects you are working on.
  • Back Up Your Words: It is one thing to just orally communicate what type of leader you are (or will be), but even better if you can deliver details regarding your positive results. Talk about how you engaged employees in order to improve productivity, reduce turnover, and lowered absenteeism (sprinkle in statistics wherever possible).

As a reinforcement to what you have communicated, you can further cement your point by having a couple of your previous direct reports listed as a reference. Coach these people to communicate how you were a strong, respected leader who was instrumental in their career development.

For many Job Seekers, the goal is to obtain a leadership position due to either past experience or your natural career progression. In an interview, a Hiring Manager seeks to go beyond just what is written in your resume in order to find out more about what kind of leader you will be. This is especially important for most companies since the goal is often to find a leader that will mesh well with the current company leadership culture. Communicating like a leader won’t guarantee you will be successful with your staff, but it will help you land the position that will give you the opportunity to do your best.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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