Leadership is one of the most sought-after qualities in potential employees in today’s job market. It’s an intangible concept, and because of its nature, it’s extremely difficult to display these characteristics when seeking employment. On interviews it’s hard to come off as a leader without sounding egotistical.
Conveying your skills as a leader isn’t the easiest of tasks. Generally, leadership is like a hit record. You can’t exactly go in a studio and create it, but when you hear it you know it’s a hit. Similarly, leadership has evolved to principles and styles, e.g. the authoritative leader, the charismatic leader, etc. Even then, saying that you’re an “authoritative leader” means very little to someone sitting across the table from you. It’s abstract.
Because leadership is hard to quantify, the advice you’re about to receive will appear to run counter to that pronouncement. But fear not, because human beings have been quantifying the unquantifiable since the dawn of time. So why not do that to leadership?!
The following techniques will help you demonstrate your leadership skills on a resume and in a job interview. As with all skills, continually practice and sharpen them.
- Use active verbs on resumes: Stating that you are a “team leader” doesn’t speak to your qualifications as much as “supervised a team of X amount.” It’s important that you say exactly how you were a leader. In the case of a supervisor, it’s easy to say the word “supervised.” Never use the word “participated.” That makes you seem passive. Instead the word “assisted” is a much better fit. To assist means that you’re taking responsibility, understanding your role and from time to time taking leadership on an initiative. Plus, “team leader” is an overt “look at me!” tactic. Using an active verb is more subtle and makes a better connection.
- Talk up your team: In an interview you will be asked about your leadership experience, especially if you use the technique above. Here’s where you defer to the ability and skill of your team members. Chances are, the reason you’re being asked about this in an interview is because the person on the other side of the table wants to find out how much ego resides within you. Using phrases like “my team was really exceptional on this project, we wouldn’t have achieved _____ if it weren’t for their hard work.” This shows the interviewer your recognition of your team’s achievements and shows security in your role as leader. If you claim that your leadership was the reason for the achievement, then maybe you’re not as secure.
- Have a variety of leadership experience: You should not just be a leader at your job. Be a leader within your community and other volunteer work. Having multiple areas of leadership sharpens your skills and also makes you that much more attractive to potential employers. Think of it like the college application. Do you want a 4.0 student who didn’t do anything except their classwork, or a 3.75 student who was captain of the baseball team, student body president and a whole host of other extracurricular activities? Every college goes with the latter.
Leadership still isn’t easy to quantify, but if you use the techniques above, you’ll find that your skills sharpen and you’re able to convey messages with greater clarity, earning buy-in not just from the interviewer, but from the team surrounding you. Leadership is inclusive. If you practice these techniques, your leadership qualities will shine through.