How to Answer 10 Tough Questions in Your Leadership Interview

Job interviews stir up all sorts of different emotions – hope, anxiety, excitement, anticipation, fear, pride, and so on. The most important thing you can do as a candidate is to prepare as much as possible before an interview.

As you do your research on the company and role, make a list of questions you think are likely to come up, from the predictable to the tough. Then, practice your answers. Whether you jot down bullet points, write out a script, recruit a helpful friend, or have a one-way chat with your cat, choose a preparation strategy that works best for you.

Here are a few of the trickier questions you might be asked during an interview for a leadership role, and tips for answering them. (Don’t forget to prep for the basic ones too including ‘why are you looking for a new job?’ and ‘what do you know about our company?’ Prepare evidence-based answers and, when possible, speak to measureable results.

1. What is your leadership style?
Consider the different roles you’ve held over your career; are there any commonalities? Do you share philosophies with any famous leaders? Keep in mind the type of organisation at which you are seeking employment. For example, if it’s a risk-averse business, avoid saying you’re the next Elon Musk. However, if it’s a ‘fail fast’ type of organisation, touting your experimental nature might play to your benefit.

2. How do you motivate difficult or underperforming workers?
When you answer this question, it’s helpful to call out (anonymous) specific examples. Maybe you identified potential issues early on and worked with the individual to understand what was going on. Then, you changed what wasn’t working, set clear expectations, and checked in regularly to help them succeed.

3. What is your strategy for managing remote teams?
As more teams work remotely, an emphasis on collaboration becomes essential. Share how you’ve leveraged video technology, instant chats, telephone check-ins, and dashboards to stay in touch. For extra credit, acknowledge the importance of fun in remote relationships, from starting team calls with a bad joke to meeting up for a beer each quarter.

4. How do you manage diverse teams?
Whether it’s diversity in age, race, gender, sexuality, ability or background, it’s critical to get everyone on the same page with regard to your goals, respect and celebrate different points of view, and value the diversity in everyone’s experiences.

5. How do you work with your executive team?
This question is about your skills in influencing without authority. Consider how you’ve worked with executives in the past. Maybe you set clear expectations and stayed in close contact so you knew their priorities and what was required of you to support them.

6. How do you build a team?
When you answer this question, keep the entire business in mind. Some leaders look for people who complement each other’s skill sets, collaborate well, and fit with the organizational culture.

7. What project are you most proud of?
Think about what this job will require and choose an accomplishment that aligns well. Maybe it was a project that required you to take a calculated risk or one you inherited as a failure and turned into a success. Maybe it was one where you set ambitious goals and achieved them.

8. What do you hope to achieve in your career?
Pause and think about what your interviewer is getting at. They’re really wondering: do you set goals and achieve them? One strategy for this question is to share one milestone you’ve wanted to do and accomplished already, one goal that you have not yet accomplished but is on the horizon (preferably at this job), and one that is far in the future.

9. How do you measure your performance and your team’s performance?
Consider both qualitative and quantitative measurements because both are essential for understanding performance. Also, think about how you ensure measurement is both fair and accurate across the team.

10. Why do you think you are a good fit for this role?
For this question, think strategically about the pains the interviewer has alluded to so far in your conversation and talk about how your skills and experience check those boxes.

Hope you’ve found this guide helpful and best of luck in your future interviews!