Ready to make the move to people manager? The interview for these jobs will be tough if you haven't officially managed people before. The key to standing out in your next job interview to level up is in the preparation. Here are the insights from our recruiting team to make sure that you have the best answers to questions about leadership when you haven't officially managed people before.

Expect Different Job Interview Questions

To prepare for an interview for a leadership job, it is important to first understand that these questions will be different than your past job interview experiences.  And, the person interviewing you will be looking for different information in your answers.

Making the move from individual contributor to people leader means that you will need to focus your message on leadership. The times that you delivered the results were important to show that you know how to do something. But, the interview for this next level will also be about coaching others to achieve their best. Keep this in mind as you prepare for the upcoming interview for a leadership job.

Highlight Past Leadership Experiences

The interviewer will want to know how you would handle different situations as a people manager. They may ask about your experience with motivating and coaching employees, or whether you have ever had to deal with difficult conversations. Be prepared to talk about the leadership style that you would use in these scenarios.

Focus on the leadership experience that you do have in these answers. This could be about leading a team project, a volunteer board, or other examples where you have led without direct authority. Talk about who you lead, how you lead them, and the ability to engage people in the process.  

Use Specific Examples

The key to making an answer stand-out in any management job interview is to incorporate examples of your results whenever possible. Using a specific example as part of your answer to the leadership questions in your interview will make your experience more relevant and tangible to the person interviewing you.

To prepare for your interview, make sure that you have a list of examples where you have led people. These examples can come from a variety of experiences - paid or unpaid. Briefly describe the situation, what you did as a leader, and the outcome. This will help to paint a picture for the interviewer of how you would handle similar situations.

Be Honest

The most important thing is to stay confident and be honest. Do not overstate your experience when providing answers. Instead, recognize your weaknesses and talk about how your skills will enable you to succeed if given the chance.

The best answers to questions in your first management job interview are those that are honest and reflective of your skills. For example, if you say that you are a humble leader, then you need to show that humble nature in your answers. Provide the examples and demonstrate those skills in how you answer the questions in your leadership job interview.

Incorporate Leadership Details Whenever Possible

There will also be questions where you will not be able to provide clear examples as a prior leader of a similar situation because you haven't held the title yet. In that case, you can use examples of your leadership as part of a team. You don't have to be "the leader" to be a leader.  For example, you may have been a member of the leadership team in your previous company or led projects as part of your job.

In these cases, it is important to focus on the leadership skills that you displayed in those roles and how they would translate into a people management role. This could be about being able to delegate tasks, setting clear expectations, or providing support to your team.

Incorporate Relevant Soft Skills

A good leader is one that uses more than substantive knowledge to achieve results. So, make sure to include specific soft skills and examples of how you have applied those soft skills to advance the initiatives as a leader.  The leadership skills that are most important to a leadership job interview include:

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Communication (both written and verbal)
  • Problem solving, creativity, critical thinking
  • Inclusive
  • Interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence

These soft skill examples will make your leadership experience stand out in the interviewer's mind. While you may have relevant substantive knowledge for the job, it is the leadership skills that will be most important to selection.

For example, you could talk about how you have utilized leadership soft skills like collaboration and communication as part of a leadership role on a team project or volunteer board. Focus on what your leadership goals were for the task and how these leadership skills helped you achieve them in those situations.

The interviewer wants to know that you have what it takes to lead people and manage a team, even if you don't have the title just yet. Use these tips to answer leadership questions in your job interview so that you can show the interviewer that you are capable of leading people and managing a team. If you stay confident and honest in your answers, you will give the interviewer the reassurance they need to move forward with you.


Want to stand out in your next leadership job interview? Work with one of our interview prep coaches to make sure that you do your best. Get Help Now.

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