Interview Insights | Interview Question: What are your salary expectations?

Salary-expectations-600x400What are your salary expectations?

There are a few great ways to approach this question as well as lame ones. The best way to tackle this question begins with your expected financial contributions to a firm. The worse way to respond to this question is with silence. This question takes as much self-awareness as it does your ability to research prospective salary ranges in your local market.

Here is how you can think through both ends of the spectrum to land on a comfortable salary range:

Current situation

  • What is your current salary verses what are your current financial contributions?
  • What is your current location and job title?
  • What is your current expertise i.e. are you a thought leader?
  • What is your base salary and what about your benefits, bonus opportunities, intangible perks?
  • What is your current bosses’ salary?
  • How many direct reports do you have?
  • How big is your budget?
  • How much do you travel?

Prospective situation

  • What are your prospective financial contributions in that new role?
  • What is the new job title and location?
  • Does your current expertise translate to the new role?
  • Think about your benefits, bonus opportunities, intangible perks.
  • What do you think your prospective boss is earning?
  • How many direct reports will you have?
  • How big will your budget be?
  • How much will you travel?

Once you evaluate these questions then come up with a 10-15K range that you think is fair given your prospective situation.

Assume the following:

  • You will earn this pay for five years
  • You will be offered a number on the lower end of that range
  • You likely are not fully versed on your prospective new set of responsibilities

This is an example of how you can articulate your homework, range, and invite a prospective interviewer to talk further.

My current annual compensation is $200K. I currently manage 3 directors. I own a $5M budget. Throughout the last several years, I’ve contributed to considerable cost savings as a result of my efforts launching our co-sourcing relationship with Tata. Additionally, my salary includes a bonus potential, free lunch, and extensive health benefits that are harder to quantify. As I understand this role, I would manage 5 VPs, own a $10M budget, and have the opportunity to earn a hefty bonus based on my performance in turning around our plateaued sales. While considering this increase in scope of responsibilities, I’ve done some research and came up with $235K-$250K as a fair salary range. Of course, I’m open to learning more about the role to ensure that I’m clear on your expectations as that is precisely how I came up with my desired salary.

The key insight is that you state a fair range based on what you know to date and reinforce that this range is based on facts not emotions. In the end a company has to earn a return on their investment in talent so expect to own a budget that is considerably less than your base pay.

Interview Insights | Key Question: Why don’t we start with you asking me questions. [Template & Sample]

question mark with speech bubles, vector on the abstract backgroundInterview question: Why don’t we start with you asking me questions.

Typically interviews begin with a broad description of the role that you are gunning for. Admit it, at that time, you’ll usually gather your thoughts, breathe, and prepare yourself mentally for responding to the eventual onslaught of interview questions that you prepared for. However, the more senior that you are the less likely it is that you will be eased into the interview process. Actually, if you are vying for a Director-level or higher opportunities then anticipate the toughest questions first.

There is no other launch to an interview that takes interviewees off guard like when interviewees are put on the spot to ask questions first.

Here’s my take on how to optimize this method and how not to approach this prompt.

How to approach this prompt

  • Eloquently and ready to engage
  • Uncover that you did homework and share the key insights that you garnered that ultimately helped you prepare for this conversation
  • Explain how excited you are about this opportunity and why you think you’re the best person for the role
  • Share what you know about the role, it’s importance to the organization, and your key partners should you be offered the opportunity
  • Provide context of what brought you here today and how you imagine this role fitting into your bigger career goals

How not to approach this prompt

  • Stumped and speechless
  • Walking them through your resume
  • Using your final Q&As to fill this time
  • Shooting a question from your hip at your interviewer
  • Sharing your pitch

Here is an example:

Salesforce has been known to disrupt markets. As an ex-Mckinsey consultant who has benefited greatly while working for multinational organizations specifically implementing and managing digital innovations in a hypercompetitive environment, I’ve witnessed exponential shifts and I’ve enjoyed a fascinating ride. I know how to sell sales solutions, how to express the value of this opportunity within the APJ region, and am currently a leader within Oracle – I’m here because I want to help Salesforce disrupt the region more swiftly as a general manager. I did my homework and I’d love to hear your thoughts on a few key findings.  I’d love to hear your impression of what makes for a solid and useful vision for an organization. I noticed a vision is missing and I’d want to partner with you to devise an initial vision statement that everyone can get around.

PAUSE

Wait for the interviewer’s response…

Then move on and ask questions that will push the conversation forward…such as…

Your competitors are innovating. What is Salesforce’s point of differentiation?

Your industry’s business model is changing. How can Salesforce get ahead of this curve?

Your competitors are nipping at your heels. I’d suggest that we make Salesforce an M&A factory. You’ve witnessed acquisitions, mergers, and disposals. What’s your take on how to build this core competency and use it as our edge?

The key insight is that this is your opportunity to showcase that you don’t need to be spoon fed data. Ultimately, you’ll need to both do the job at hand and also evolve the role so that you can maximize on any opportunity. Similarly, an interview is a conversation however you should have a plan in mind – what is your key message and how can you support that message in a way that furthers your candidacy.

If an interviewer chooses this route then I encourage you to exploit it and start with that message.

The 3 Least Intimidating Yet Effective Ways to Resurrect Your Stale Network

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Do either of the following scenarios sound familiar? 

You started out in education, but gradually moved into the marketing industry where you’ve worked for the past 15 years.  At this point in your career you want to return to education and have your eye on working for your alma mater.  But the challenge is: though you still have friends and former colleagues back at the university, you feel awkward calling on any of them so many years later to help get you in the door for the new dean position you saw listed.

Or

Ten years ago, you were a road warrior rock star consultant, logging miles and impressing clients.  Your little guy just celebrated his 9th birthday, and you’re ready to get back in the game.  But it’s been Gymboree, PTA meetings and soccer matches for the past decade.  How will you get the inside word on the new division you just read about?

 

Stale networks happen when people stay employed in one industry and haven’t been in touch with contacts from their prior industry.  They also happen when people step away from their industry for a while, and are looking for meaningful re-entry.   Though it may seem so, their networks haven’t vanished; they simply need to be carefully cultivated back to life.  The three steps below detail how it’s done.

 

plant1STEP ONE:  Re-engage

If you’re in the same boat as the marketer or parent returning to work, how do you start reaching out? Start by simply showing up on your former colleagues’ social media feeds. LinkedIn is your most useful tool in this scenario. First, you want to update your LinkedIn profile (and, if you don’t have one, shame on you, you need to create one).  Click here for simple tips on building your LinkedIn profile.  If some of your former colleagues are already in your LinkedIn network, provided you have your settings set to publish your profile edits, any updates made to your profile will show up in your network’s newsfeed.  You should then look up some of the specific people you want to contact and use the endorsements function to give them an endorsement.  Again, at this point, you want to slowly get back into the game. These simple head nods are too easy not to use to your advantage

A LinkedIn endorsement is a tool for contacts to recognize each other’s skills.  It pops up at the top of a contact’s profile page, and asks you to validate that ‘Stellan knows Social Media,’ ‘Marquez knows IT’ or ‘Maureen knows Nursing. ‘   In this case, you want to recognize the skills of your target contacts, thereby putting you on their radar since LinkedIn sends a notice to endorsement recipients.  So, with one click, you’re in their inbox, courtesy of LinkedIn.

If you are new to LinkedIn and are just uploading a profile, adding former colleagues will also be a means of getting back in touch.  You can do full name searches within the LinkedIn Directory, and send a quick note requesting the connection.  It might also be useful to ask your first degree contacts to reach out to those second and third connects on your behalf.

 

plant2STEP TWO: Rebuild Trust

Now that you’re back in touch, the next step is rebuilding trust.  You wouldn’t ask a favor of someone five minutes after meeting them.  Similarly here, since it’s been a while since you last interacted as colleagues, the trust you once shared may have weakened a bit.  So your next step is to show that you’re seeking to develop a mutually-beneficial connection and to figure out how to bring value before making a request.  Value could be in the form of sharing a useful article, or offering to make an introduction of your own, but your focus should be on your contact and establishing his or her trust.  Invite them out to coffee and see how you can help each other. For tips on networking with purpose, click here.

 

 

…last but not least,

plant3STEP THREE: Create a Brand Ambassador

By this point, you’ve re-engaged with your network and have begun to rebuild trust with your contacts.   As your newly-cultivated network strengthens, you can turn them into your brand ambassadors.  A brand ambassador is someone you can count on to put your resume at the top of the resume stack on a decision-maker’s desk.  This is a key factor to getting a leg up in the job search since a large portion of job openings are not posted.  However, in order for your ambassador to be most helpful to you they have to be well-equipped by you.  And how do I equip them, you ask?  Simple:  By making it easy to share your details with decision-makers.   You write up a quick introductory bio, prepare an updated resume and send it all to your ambassador in an email.  Then when your ambassador mentions you to the Senior Vice President of your dream hedge fund, and is told, “send me your friend’s resume,” it only takes a click of a button to put you at the top of the stack. (For tips on how to be the candidate they think of, click here)

So that’s your toolkit for freshening up a stale network:

  1. Re-engage: Use networking tools to get back in touch
  2. Rebuild Trust: Share helpful information to rebuild trust
  3. Create a Brand Ambassador: Cultivate a connection that can benefit your search

 

 

plant4

 

Want your old friends to join your job search S.W.A.T. team? Click here for actual networking scripts that have worked for hundreds of job seekers.

Interview Insights | Key Question: What role will you play on the team? [Template & Sample]

team-leaders-changing-roleInterview question: What role will you play on the team?

This question comes from a recent client engagement. The goal was to uncover my client’s unique selling proposition.

The best way to do this is to see how you stack up verses your peers.

Line up side-by-side your experiences, relationships, skills, anticipated solutions with those of your teammates.  In the same way that you’ve compared competitors in a marketplace, use the same framework to make this comparison.

For example, what is your educational background? What did your teammates study? What key experiences do they bring to the table? Now, how about yourself?

This exercise if done correctly will highlight a few things:

  • You will know for sure whether your skills complement the ones already in place.
  • You will know which experiences will add to your team.
  • You will also know which ones of your anticipated solutions are unique.

Once you’ve combed through and compared apples-with-apples you can then craft your story around the role you will play within any top team.

Here’s an example:

The immediate value that I can bring to this top team includes my experience over the last twelve years having worked with organizations that have leveraged the power of digital solutions to varying degrees. I’ve built successful M&A factories and been measured in light of their success as a sales leader. I’ve been classically trained by Bain & Co. to analyze situations in a disciplined fashion yet I’ve also developed a gut instinct to inform business decisions while working in emerging markets.

While considering these critical vantage points, the role that I would play as a strategic leader for Phillips would be that of the glue that brings together the c-suite and our in-country operational heads. I’m well-positioned to take on this role because I’ve successfully advised business leaders in light of digital disruptions and adapted local programs in data-plenty as well as data-starved markets.

The key insight is that you have to do your homework. Prior to any interview, research all of your interviewees. Start with LinkedIn. Continue through Google. You should also understand the value that you’d bring to the table in light of an existing core team.

Side note: Once my client analyzed the top team, he learned that his supply chain expertise was not as valuable as he had originally hypothesized because 4 out of 9 of his peers shared this area of expertise. Instead, he learned that his digital prowess was unique, deep M&A expertise, and consulting training would be more interesting hooks for this opportunity.

You need a hook!

Find your hook.

It will rise to the top after a thorough analysis.

Interview Insights | Key Question: What is your brand? [Template & Sample]

brandingInterview Question: What is your brand?

Last week was surprising.

I had a debriefing session with a client who has his eyes on an opportunity within General Electric.

The way a session usually goes is as follows:

I ask my client all the questions they were asked during their interviews.

I want to know for two reasons: a) I want to record and reuse real interview questions to prepare future clients vying for jobs within precisely the same organizations, and b) I want to uncover some of the reservations that a prospective employer has about hiring my client so that they can be addressed within thank you notes and guide our follow-up strategy.

The reason I was surprised by this particular session is because “what is your brand?” is usually asked during a marketing interview and here is GE asking this question to an operations professional?

So how can you respond elegantly to this industry-agnostic query?

Here are five things to consider:

  1. Ignore any big and typical brands. Your brand should never be Google, Apple or Nike. Those are some of the most overused comparisons.
  2. Do not say that your brand is very similar to that of your respective employers’ – that’s brown-nosing and useless.
  3. Think about a brand that operates within a community that you can relate to.
  4. Consider describing brand attributes that align nicely with what the job description is calling for.
  5. Ask your former managers and colleagues for their feedback because this is a question that may require a third-party perspective. Side note: when my client responded to this question, the interviewer commented that his boss (whom he had called earlier that day) described him very similarly.

Here is an example to inspire you:

I’m a great deal like Trader Joe’s. Here’s a little background so that you understand what I mean by this. This supermarket is for folks who are adventurous when it comes to food. They relish in that element of discovery. We’re natural explorers. We’re samplers and curious. Whenever I attack a complex challenge, I start by asking questions and testing hypotheses. I’ve found that the more questions I ask…the faster I uncover the core issues.

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s, captures and adjusts its assortment based on consumer purchasing behavior. The store continuously tries to restock the top sellers and replace the worst sellers to maximize its shelf space. On my end, I enjoy managing an assignment based on its ongoing results which is why it’s critical to establish numerical goals early on to follow trends and continuously make improvements rather than waiting until reaching a final milestone.

Finally, Trader Joe’s offers customers a fun shopping experience. You’ll notice that they offer mini shopping carts for “customers in training,” its employees ring a bell every so often, and wear Hawaiian shirts. As a team leader, it’s critical to create a fun working environment. When I worked for Ernst & Young, I encouraged my team to play just as hard as we worked. For example, on Thursday we’d go to lunch to a new restaurant each week, I encouraged everyone to dress casually on Fridays, and made sure that anyone who worked extended hours could go home earlier than usual.

In sum, you can say that I’m a curious, goal-driven, and fun person who wants to bring these qualities to your team.

The insight is that you reflect on yourself first and then find a suitable brand that nicely aligns with your core competencies.

Interview Insights | Key Question: How would you create a welcoming environment? [Template & Sample]

This is what 45 people looks like.

This is what 45 people looks like.

Interview Question: How would you create a welcoming environment for diverse populations?

I am coaching a former attorney, with extensive relevant experiences, who wants to secure an opportunity within a large university in the U.S.

Prior to providing my guidance on how to best answer this question, I want to say that this client drove eleven hours for a day filled with interviews by 45 unique stakeholders. Yes, 45 opinions! She will be interviewed by 15 interviewers at a time in a conference room.

As you can imagine, my client not only will have to know how to respond to the toughest interview questions but also she will have to know how to make an entrance, work the room, and remain upbeat throughout an eight-hour day.

As part of my signature interview preparation program, I researched all 45 professionals via LinkedIn. Not everyone had profiles. However, I ended up with 34 useful profiles. Now, our strategy here was to use names strategically. For example, I knew she would be interviewing with various experts including an officer, athletics veteran, online learning expert, and a student government representative.

In preparation, I wrote questions for my client to ask these members during the interview. I gave her targeted questions, advised that she direct answers to the expert, and then that she include the group in the conversation in an elegant manner (similarly to how a dinner hostess ensures that everyone feels welcomed).

That was the strategy. I also drafted 15 questions for my client to prepare for on her end. This question above is just one of them given the nature of her intended job.

Here is how you can think about this question in the future:

  • What subtle differences go unnoticed yet can offend members of diverse populations?
  • Is there a process in place for how your employer welcomes diverse members of the population? If not, then what risks would this put the organization in?
  • Are there regulations that you must comply with?
  • Which best practices have you picked up when it comes to helping folks feel welcomed and utilized?

Here is a sample response:

Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that the organizations with the lowest turnover rates amongst diverse populations are the ones that incorporate a consistent onboarding and off boarding process.

After learning in great detail from my network about your onboarding process, I can tell that you’ve gotten buy-in from different members of diverse populations. They told you what it would take for them to feel welcome within their first 30 days of employment. I know about that breakfast with an affinity group leader. I see the value of assigning senior executives as mentors. I know that introducing folks to your ombudsman is one of the most effective ways to prevent escalations down-the-line.

I’m not as familiar with your off boarding process however I imagine that you are in compliance with state and federal requirements as well as privacy standards.

On my end, I’d do an audit end-to-end from onboarding to off boarding and ensure that we have the systems in place to encourage conversations so that legal actions are avoided whenever possible. Does what I said align with your current system?

The key insight is that you ground your response in facts. Although, the opportunity that my client is pursuing is particular to the role of diversity and inclusion, this concept is found across an organization – from the executive team to entry-level employees.

Interview Insights | Key Question: What are your career goals? [Template & Sample]

career goalsInterview Question: What are your career goals?

This question tries to uncover a few things:

  • We want to know whether this job is the right fit for you
  • We want to figure out if you are realistic, optimistic, or a pessimist
  • We want to hear how you think

This question can be asked in a myriad of other ways. For example:

  • Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 15 years?
  • What’s your long-term game plan?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • How does this job fit into your overall career strategy?

Regardless of how an interviewer serves you this query, it’s helpful to go into an interview prepared with a vetted response.

As you brainstorm your best answer think through the following pointers to ensure that you are answering the question in a way that furthers your candidacy:

  • If I secure the job that I’m pursuing today then will I have many opportunities to gain the skills that I will need to secure my next role? Name some of those anticipated opportunities.
  • If I research LinkedIn for executives who have 5, 10, or 15 more years of experience than I, would I find professionals who have taken similar career steps as I’d like to take?
  • If I compare what I need to be successful in the role I’m pursing (in terms of skills and experiences) with what I will need to have refined to secure my next anticipated or desired position…would I uncover too many gaps? Alternatively, am I not trying to reach high enough?
  • Do I have an overall career strategy? Can I articulate this grand plan to a prospective employer? Have I been following this road map? Where have I meandered and how can I explain those windy turns?

Here is a sample response:

The strategy behind my career choices has been to consider roles that engage me intellectually, include client-facing interactions, and value actionable analysis. I’ve used these criteria as my filter and this filter has helped me evaluate and decide on the best career options for me during each and every turn in my career. This role in particular ticks those three boxes for me.

For example, after speaking with Tom Bart, I learned about the green energy project that he is leading. If I were a team member assigned to this project, I would have the opportunity to speak with our investors on a daily basis. I would also have a chance to showcase my analytical skills to help us ascertain our current and anticipated capacity levels, and I would be working through complex concepts that fascinate me.

I imagine that this role would also position me well perhaps five years down-the-line for a job similar to Tom’s whom I admire greatly and have valued as a mentor for the last three years.

The key insight is that you think about your response to this question in a way that shows you are considering the job that you want and all the subsequent steps that you’ll need to take to reach that longer-term position.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • You already made it past the phone conversation with human resources
  • You have a scheduled set of interviews with a hiring manager, perhaps direct reports, and with a few cross-functional players—all in one long day or over the course of a week
  • While you are in the initial stages of a longer interview process, right now your goal is to get beyond your next important meeting—it’s at the top of your mind
  • The opportunity you are going for ticks all your boxes: you’ll get to bring your relevant experiences and fill in some missing skills that you’ll need to land the right job down the line. However…
  • You are struggling with really accessing the times you’ve done certain things in the past, telling those stories in short sound bites and making them relevant to the job you want
  • You want to demonstrate how you can be successful in those other areas and build the confidence that you would need to go after a position like that
  • You feel like you were just in a professional car wreck: only 20% of the company was left and you have voices of self-doubt playing in your head
  • You feel less prepared than in the past because you’ve been out of practice interviewing—you haven’t trained or rehearsed very much

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then I want to say that I’ve helped many people just like you.

  • Are you ready to develop applicable skill sets you can immediately and effectively put to use landing your next role?
  • Want to increase your sense of confidence before heading to your next interview so that you can land your dream job?
  • Could you use an edge over the competition?

DOWNLOAD my Signature Power Hour Interview Program below:

http://melissallarena.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Power-Hour-Interview-Intensive-Melissa-Llarena.pdf

Interview Insights | Key Question: Do you enjoy working in a structured environment? [Template & Sample]

istock-unfinished-business-2Interview Question: As a creative professional, can you thrive while working for a client with lots of rules and restrictions?

This question comes from a recent cover letter that I wrote for a former executive producer and creative director who strongly believes that at all times two beasts have to be fed in any organization.

On the one hand, you have to feed the beast who desires extremely ground-breaking and unique creative solutions that addresses client challenges (almost always).

Meanwhile, you have to feed the beast who expects a financial return on his marketing investment. This beast also happens to pay the bills and a creative team’s salary.

Given my client’s 17-plus year history in his industry, he has witnessed many benefits that arise when a creative team operates in a world of processes and systems. Ultimately, it is in that world where a creative professional is empowered to actually adequately feed those two beasts.

As a result, if you are a creative professional who is asked about what it’s like to work in a more structured environment with visual rules, established logo dimensions, or strict client demands then apply this filter:

  • Who came up with the processes/structure? (Side note: ideally, you were part of that conversation or influenced the discussions.)
  • Why was structure necessary?
  • What questions did those processes address?
  • How much time do you think was saved as a result of those processes?
  • Think about that one time when you were able to conceptualize your best work in light of those rules.

Example:

I’m no stranger to working with clients who have multiple requirements. As an animator for a firm that developed educational online content for children with disabilities who were able to function at different levels, my clients asked for the best creative ideas that met certain governmental requirements. My clients received government funding.

Now, I could have seen those rules as obstacles. However, I try to embrace challenges as opportunities. For example, I was given a one square inch space in which my Clob character could appear, move, and exit the screen. My goal was to use that limited space in my favor. I created the tiny creature. The Clob in this instance would try to stretch the space. He would fall off the screen. The character ultimately poked fun at this limitation. The piece worked well. When children responded to a question correctly and saw this character they laughed at his silliness. They were positively reinforced and many wanted to repeat the animation because it hit their funny bone.

The key insight is to show that you can produce amazing creative work within an established system. Side note: This is a real concern that HR professionals who hire creative employees have expressed. The portfolio is great…however, will they be excited about working “long-term” on big brands with at times severe limitations?

Yes, that is Vince Vaughn in the photo.

 

Interview Insights | Key Question: What has been your biggest accomplishment? [Template & Sample]

interviewquestionsInterview Question: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

The truth is that my children are my biggest accomplishments. This certainly resonates with the hundreds of moms that I’ve coached back into six-figure opportunities in corporate America.

However, it isn’t the best response to this question especially if you’re a parent who left a full-time role to focus on your family.

The elephant in the room, if this is your reality, is the following:

Is she really committed this time to working for us?

When you think about your greatest accomplishment with this background in mind, I want you to consider the following moments as the ones to highlight when asked about your greatest accomplishment:

  • When did you train or coach a peer into a desirable role?
  • How did you feel when you earned your last promotion?
  • What did you miss most from your time working in corporate America?
  • Who was in the audience during your most important presentation?
  • How did you shape your industry?

The key insight is to identify that time when you felt professionally invincible…the moment when you made mountains move…time stop…or jaws drop.

This is not a question that calls for humility. It forces you to consider truly why you are seeking to return to corporate America. It has to be authentic. You have to believe it. It’s a bit of a test. If you walked into that moment today and were just an excited as you were back then when it happened, then YES you are ready to commit to working again at this moment.

Here is a sample answer from a real mom:

My greatest accomplishment was when I created the social media strategy for Boomer+ Many, Many Reasons that earned the 2010 Gold Effie. I partnered with multiple agencies to ensure a consistent offline/online effort and that campaign resulted in a +.10% increase in market share. The key to that win and success in media has been starting with a consumer insight, supporting it with data, and empowering clients to sell ideas internally. The latter led to my ability to consistently build strong client relationships.

Side notes:

Yes, her son is her biggest accomplishment. However, earning that win really showcases that not only is she a great media strategist and client partner but also that her expertise rises above that of her peers’ and she was acknowledged as the best in her industry. Needless to say, she has more wins to come. What organization would NOT want to hire her?

Interview Insights | Key Question: Tell us about your leadership style.

Business Background and symbol

Interview Question:  “Tell us about your leadership style and how you inspire teams to perform at their best.”

This question comes from one of my top clients who went through my rigorous interview preparation boot-camp however he is not the first interviewee who has had to answer this question.

It pops up quite frequently for obvious reasons namely – what company doesn’t say that it wants to attract leaders?

As a result, it’s important to think through your personal and professional leadership priorities, ways you’ve identified employees to lead, and reputation.

You can cop-out and use the very common and often quoted phrase and say that you are a servant leader.

Otherwise, you can talk about your situational leadership.

I advise neither.

Instead try this:

  • Reflect on what you have deemed to be priorities throughout the course of your leadership roles. Have you always been driven by that monthly dashboard? In that case, perhaps you were an analytically-driven leader or a leader whose decisions revolved around what can be measured.
  • Consider how in the past you have cherry-picked potential leaders to join your team (s). Were you mostly drawn to the quiet genius types who rarely spoke up during meetings but when they did they shared something incredibly brilliant? If this is you, then maybe your leadership style is centered around being the voice of aspiring leaders?
  • Think about the key moments in your career where your leadership reputation has taken shape or when it has shifted. You could have been a type of leader who believed in leveraging resources and experts whenever possible during the 90s and following the Great Recession you have prided yourself on being a resourceful leader who has maximized very few resources with great success.

The key insight is that rather than select an overused adjective to define your leadership style.  It’s better to exercise your self-awareness skills and think about truly what has been the secret to your success in the past that is relevant to the task at hand in the job you desire.

Here’s an example to get you started while trying to tackle this extremely common question for anyone who has had direct reports in the past (or plans on this responsibility going forward).

My leadership style has evolved as a result of the type of professionals that I’ve selected to lead throughout the years. My best hires have been professionals who are quiet. The ones who really don’t believe in marketing themselves nor their ideas. Some folks would classify them as “unlikely” future leaders.

These are the folks who are quiet in meetings yet when they say something it’s always well thought-out, hyper-relevant, and quite frankly brilliant. As a result of my hiring folks like this, I would say that my style is all about serving as the voice of humble geniuses whose ideas would otherwise not get air time. I’ve had multiple opportunities to draw out from my employees their best ideas and have continuously figured out ways to coach these leaders so that they’ve become more comfortable selling their best ideas.

My best example was when I encouraged an Account Supervisor in X firm to draft a plan of his idea of having IBM’s supercomputer Watson actually play against humans on Jeopardy. Mike drafted the road map that made his idea a reality. Actually, Mike even played against Watson on TV.  I can’t say how impressed and proud I was to have mentored Mike. Mike is currently an editor with Entreprenuer.com where he filters stories that are published in its Marketing Ideas section and has represented the publication on numerous panels.

Are you struggling with the best response to this typical interview question? Leave a comment below and I’ll provide the guidance you need to get unstuck.