Interview Questions for Leadership Roles
How to answer leadership interview questions
If you’ve been called in to interview for a more senior position, you can normally expect hiring managers to ask you questions about your leadership experience. As with any interview, success is all about preparation and anticipating the kinds of questions that recruiters are likely to ask. Here, they’re going to be looking for evidence of your leadership skills, as well as the personal qualities required to successfully manage and inspire others.
In most cases, you’ll have quite a few years’ experience as a manager to draw on and a stock of stories you can use as evidence of your capabilities. The key here is to choose the most relevant examples. Read the job specification again and try and work out what kind of leader your prospective employer is looking for. Do they want someone who can turn around a failing team? Give examples of how you’ve done that. Are they going through a period of change or growth? Show how you’ve helped your previous employers do this.
If this is the first leadership role you’re applying for, you’ll already have a few examples of management experience – perhaps running a project in your current job, or through voluntary roles, sports or even your studies. It would also be valuable to think about the personal qualities which make you confident you’d thrive when it comes to leading others.
We’ve compiled some of the most common types of interview questions you might face as a team leader candidate, along with some example responses to help you prepare.
Types of leadership interview questions
Leaders need to be able to manage others and get the best out of teams. At the same time, they have to set a strong example that inspires employees and encourages them to follow. When you’re interviewing for leadership roles, employers will be looking for evidence of these abilities, and will ask different types of questions to get a feel for whether you really do have that leadership spark.
Let’s look at some specific examples of leadership interview questions and answers to see how you could respond.
Direct leadership experience questions
Example question: “How does your leadership experience match up to the requirements of this role?”
What the interviewer is really asking: They want to see whether you really understand the role you’re interviewing for and for proof that you can do what you claim.
Example response: “I really appreciate the challenge your company has as you try to integrate the marketing activities of your worldwide divisions. During my time as marketing manager at Xample Ltd., I oversaw the successful integration of our marketing departments in France and the UK, which gave me plenty of experience of merging processes and business cultures.”
Leadership challenge questions
Example: “What major problems did you have to deal with in your last management role?”
What the interviewer is really asking: They want to see how you led your teams through a difficult period and demonstrated your leadership qualities.
Example response: “As we attempted to integrate the French and UK marketing departments, there were some big cultural differences in terms of marketing. The French team in particular were much less comfortable with ‘inbound’ marketing methods, whereas the global group were trying to expand in this area. I instigated a series of training sessions which involved bringing key employees in the French team over to our London office to learn more about our approach. This convinced them of the benefits and we were able to transition smoothly to the new approach.”
Management style questions
Example: “What do you expect from your teams?”
What the interviewer is really asking: They want to learn about your personality, how you build relationships and whether you’d be a good fit for the company.
Example response: “More than anything I expect enthusiasm from my teams. If they are genuinely motivated, I feel confident that I can channel their enthusiasm in the right direction to help them grow and also ensure they contribute well to the business. If an employee doesn’t really care, they could be the most talented marketer, but it’s very hard to get the best work out of them.”
Dealing with conflict
Example: “An employee is actively resisting your new marketing strategy, saying the company should stick with the old approach. What do you do?”
What the interviewer is really asking: They are trying to find out how you deal with conflict.
Example response: “I believe it’s always healthy to air different perspectives and hear people out. I would sit down with the employee to try and understand what’s bothering them and try to take their points on board. If I feel their argument isn’t correct, I would try and convince them of the benefits of my approach, but would also see if I could incorporate any of their points into the new strategy.”
Questions about salary expectations
Example: “What salary do you expect?”
What the interviewer is really asking: Besides the obvious question, they also want to work out what you think you’re worth.
Example response: Ideally, you’d want to get them to provide the first number, so you might want to ask about the salary bands for management roles. It’s also sensible to do research up in advance into what the company’s salary bands are, using company review websites, as well as by reviewing what similar job titles are paid online in order to gauge roughly what you can expect. Read more about how to negotiate a better salary.
Questions about your personal qualities
Example: “What is your greatest strength?”
What the interviewer is really asking: They want to find out about your ability to reflect on yourself and to see how you can bring value to their business
Example response: “I am a real optimist and I believe that given the right support, you can really get the best out of people.”