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3 Ways to Talk about Your Leadership Qualities During an Interview

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Even if you aren’t applying for a position at the management level, most financial and accounting positions involve a level of personal initiative, social savvy, and horizontal negotiation and persuasion skills, all of which can be placed under the general umbrella of “leadership.” In order to assess a candidate’s strengths in these areas, hiring managers will usually choose any one of three options:

  • They’ll just ask. For example: “Tell me about your leadership skills.”
  • They’ll propose hypothetical scenarios and ask the candidate how she might respond.
  • They’ll ask open-ended questions about the candidate’s background, for example: “Tell me about a time when you faced a serious leadership challenge. What were the circumstances and how did you respond?”

Financial and accounting candidates are wise to prepare for any of these three possibilities. And when the day of your interview arrives, here are three tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

1. Know that you’ll be judged on more than just your words.

For example, if an interviewer asks you to speak off the cuff about your leadership abilities, as in option #1, don’t hem and haw and demand clearer instructions. Try not to respond with something like: “Well…okay…what do you want to know? I mean, that’s a broad topic. Where should I start? Can you be more specific?” Answering this way can actually tell your interviewer everything she needs to know (hint: it’s not great). Instead, step up and recognize when it’s time to take the floor and control the conversation.

2. Speak from the heart.

Instead of trying to second guess the interviewer and determine what she wants to hear, think for a few seconds and just answer honestly. In scenario #2, you may be asked how you would resolve a conflict between a direct report and a client. Would you stand up for the employee and potentially lose the client? Or would you put the client first and throw the employee under the bus? There isn’t necessarily any right or wrong answer to this question. So just relax and describe the process you would use to make your decision.

3. Stay positive.

In scenario #3, you may be asked to describe a past failure, or a time in which you struggled to overcome a leadership challenge and things didn’t go your way in the end. That’s okay. In fact, it takes courage to tell a story that ends with you crashing and burning…as long as you learned something from the experience and you know how to articulate what you learned and apply that lesson to the position at hand.

For more on how to prepare for the tough questions during your financial interview, reach out to the DC staffing experts at Cordia. If you are looking for executive recruiters in DC, contact us today.