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4 ways to show your leadership skills in a job interview

These techniques will help you impress the hiring manager.

4 ways to show your leadership skills in a job interview
[Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Gety Images]

Congratulations, you’ve got a job interview—and it’s even with a company you’re keen to work for. But after the initial euphoria wears off, fears may set in. Now you’ve got to prep and make sure you perform well.

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Starting from fear is never a good approach. If your concern is about how someone will be judging you, you’re transferring all the power to the recruiter or hiring manager.

Take back that power. The interview is an opportunity to impress and heighten the other person’s respect for you. To do that, you need to see yourself as a leader. Here are four ways to shine as a leader during an interview:

1. HAVE A LEADER’S MINDSET

This is an opportunity to think beyond hierarchies. See the job interview as an opportunity to motivate and inspire. Can a junior person inspire a senior person? Absolutely. It’s that leadership that will make you stand out as a candidate—and help you land the job.

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Move from an “informational” to an “inspirational” approach. You’re not there to inform but to inspire. Do that by studying everything you can about the interviewer, the company, and the job. Then come to the interview prepared to show how excited you are about the position and your fit for it.

In the discussion, be proactive. Don’t be afraid to move the discussion into new areas and introduce visionary thinking. Think of the interview as a dialogue, rather than an exchange in which you are simply passively reacting to questions. Do your best to shape the conversation. Take the interviewer to the “high ground.” If appropriate, you might even consider doing a demo that shows your talents.

2. SCRIPT YOURSELF AS A LEADER

Of course you will come to the interview with a set of answers to expected questions, but you also should have a set of questions you’ll ask.

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Additionally, you’ll want to prepare a clear and compelling set of messages that I call “The Leader’s Script.” It has four components:

  • An opening: Think about the first words you’ll say. You might open with: “I’ve heard so much about you from my previous interviews, so it’s great to meet you in person.” Having an opening in mind will give you self-assurance.
  • A single-sentence message about yourself that you can use throughout the interview: This is the idea you want the interviewer to hear clearly and remember. For example: “I am a seasoned marketing leader with strong market intelligence and a proven track record.” Write it out and learn it in advance. That one sentence should inspire.
  • Proof points that support your message: These will be two or three reasons why you believe you are well-suited for the role. Make them compelling. They might be the strengths you bring, or the job experiences you have.
  • A strong closing statement: Rather than finishing with something generic, like “thank you for your time,” end with a call to action that moves you closer to the goal of getting hired. It might be: “I look forward to next steps and the possibility of being a member of your team.” This closing demonstrates confidence.

The Leader’s Script is a narrative you weave throughout the interview. It allows you to tell your story.

3. USE THE LANGUAGE OF LEADERSHIP

 Your language will also determine whether you sound leader-like.

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Use high-octane words that show your deep conviction about the job and your readiness for it. Phrases like, “I am passionate about the role,” or “I absolutely believe I have the experience to be successful,” and “I love the idea of being a member of your team,” show you as a person with a positive and confident outlook—someone who can inspire those around you.

Don’t boast or sound vain. Rather, show you take a collaborative approach to leadership. That’s a quality highly valued today. So, avoid the overuse of I, me, my, mine, or myself. Shift the focus from yourself to the group, by using words like we, us, our, ours, ourselves, team.

Leaders are good listeners.  Show that this is one of your strengths by using language like, “What’s your view on this?” or “I hear you,” or “Tell me more,” or “That’s so interesting, thanks for sharing.” 

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4. HAVE A LEADER’S PRESENCE

Physical presence is another key aspect of leadership. Remember that whatever words you use, your body is also conveying important messages. Leadership begins with your voice: Be vocally animated. Put energy into your speaking. Make your enthusiasm clear.

Have a warm smile, and look your interviewer directly in the eye. Your posture should be strong, your arms unfolded and open, so you can show with your gestures that you are fully committed.

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