Liv McConnell
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Pie > cake.

If you’re someone who takes their career momentum seriously, you likely realize that when interviewing, it’s never simply about the job opportunity at hand. It’s about where the present opportunity could take you next. 

Working for a company that cares about cultivating and developing its talent is important. You want to know that you’ll have room to grow in this new role, and that your desire for growth will be encouraged. That’s why, even if the job you’re interviewing for isn’t technically a leadership role (yet), showcasing yourself as someone with true leadership potential is never a bad idea. It shows that you’re dedicated, that you take initiative and that you have the markings all around of a superstar employee, something hiring managers are always on the lookout for.

So the next time you’re interviewing, be sure to slip in at least one or two of these key phrases that’ll help set you apart as a natural leader. (Hint: It’s even better if you can find a way to work them in organically!)

1. “I read that X, Y and Z are the company’s values. Can you give me an example of what these values look like in action?”

A candidate with excellent leadership potential understands the importance of zooming out past the specific role they’re interviewing for and demonstrating their knowledge of the company as a whole. Most organizations with clear values and mission statements will have these posted on the company website; referring to them shows not only that you did your research, but that you care about the company’s culture overall.

2. “What are the biggest challenges the team is facing currently, and what are the most significant growth opportunities?”

Again, this is about showing your sincere desire to understand not just your prospective role, but the workings of the team and company as a whole. Asking not just about the team’s goals but more specifically its challenges and growth opportunities takes things a step further, too.

3. “Here’s an example of a difficult decision I had to make at work, and what the payoff was.”

One of the key ingredients of effective leadership is not shying away from difficult decisions. You want to show that you’re not someone who immediately opts to take a backseat when the going gets tough. 

4. “What are the metrics my performance will be evaluated against?”

Covering the role’s responsibilities is one thing. Showing an investment from the beginning in understanding the performance metrics is another, as well as a slightly more sophisticated way of asking “what does success look like in this role?” 

5. “I value innovation — here’s an example of a time I improved upon an existing system at my company and the impact it led to.”  

Leaders don’t simply accept the status quo, but are constantly seeking ways of improving upon existing processes. 

6. “When a conflict appears, here’s my system for resolving it” OR “here’s an example of a time I resolved a conflict productively.”

Conflict-based behavioral interview questions are popular amongst interviewers, so chances are high that you won’t have to be the one to initiate this subject yourself — and that’s maybe a good thing. You don’t want to sound like conflicts are something you’re very regularly a part of, after all, while still making it clear you have the skills to successfully resolve them. Just be strategic with the type of conflict you choose to reference here (i.e. save the water-cooler gripes).

7. “This is what I’m looking for in my next role.”

Leaders have clear visions for where their career is headed. Ideally, you’ve done enough research about the role and the company in advance so that there’s some pointed (but natural) overlap between the role and the direction you see your career headed in.

8. “Is there anything about my background or resume that make you question where I’m a good fit for this role?”

Leaders don’t beat around the bush. Asking this question shows that you’re not afraid of challenging feedback, and it also gives you the opportunity to address any concerns your interviewer may be silently nursing.