Part seven interview answers: are you a leader?

Written by
Changeboard Team

02 Feb 2012

02 Feb 2012 • by Changeboard Team

People leadership

At entry and middle levels of recruitment the interviewer will be most interested in your own interpersonal skills. At higher levels they will want to see that you think strategically about people issues and that you can build strong teams around you. At all levels they will be interested is issues such as:

  • How well you handle conflict?
  • How do you consult, engage and bring people in?
  • How good are you at influencing?
  • What is your management / leadership style like?
  • How self aware are you?
  • How flexible is your style? Can you be democratic or more directive as the situation needs?

Recognising people based questions

People base questions can be recognised as they will often contain the following key words:













performance management



team building



personal impact






Preparing to respond to people based questions

Try to recall examples of situations where you have had to:

  • Pass on a difficult message.
  • Handle interpersonal conflict.
  • Develop / coach a person. 
  • Make ‘people’ decisions such as who to put in a team.
  • Sell’ an idea or a product.
  • Plan communication across a wide group of people.

Once again, use the CAR process to frame a short description of the example, making sure that you cover the Circumstances, the Action you took and the Result.

At middle management level, an employer will be interested in questions such as:

  • Can you balance and resolve competing interests or motives?
  • How do you communicate / motivate across teams?
  • Do you think more widely about people issues, encompassing things like training and development and talent management?
  • How well do you manage ‘upwards’, how do you engage with different groups of people – peers managers and subordinates?

Middle management example Q&A

Let’s now look at middle management example of a people question and a poor reply.

Interviewer: “Can you tell me how you go about managing your team in your current role. Give me an example of how you run your meetings?”

Interviewee: “I’m really lucky with the current finance team. They are very motivated and enthusiastic so I don’t have to do very much in terms of inspiring them. They are all very different characters, but they get on really well. We have weekly meetings and I keep the agenda very open, anyone can raise anything they like – I find this encourages new ideas and problem solving – and I make sure that everyone has a chance to speak. I suppose you could summarise my management style by saying that I try to be very supportive. I can’t remember that last time I had to throw my weight around. They know what needs doing, they gel and the work gets done.”

Superficially this looks like a very ‘people’ based answer but there are some real risks with this ‘I am a very nice person’ approach. In most interviews, particularly at managerial level, the interviewer will be looking for evidence of balance in your managerial style. The interviewer is going to have to ask a lot more questions to see if this person has anything other than a laissez fair management style available to them. A better answer would be:

“I’m really lucky with my current finance team. They are motivated and there are no real weak links. They are all very different characters but can all be relied on to deliver high quality work. I split my weekly meetings into two sections.

First there is a progress and issues review where we all keep track of the current work load and look ahead to see what workload is coming.

Second, I try to give at least half an hour to an ‘open agenda’ session where people can raise ideas or concerns. My broad approach to management is to make sure that the team is clear about its objectives and then to support them – keeping them on track when necessary – but generally I prefer a ‘light touch’ when possible. Clearly if the pressure is on or if there is a problem, I will intervene – pretty quickly usually – because it doesn’t help the team or me if we deliver late. The feedback we get is that we are the most efficient finance team in the business so the approach seems to work.”

There is a better balance here between PEOPLE and TASK issues but there are still ways in which the answer could be improved. Try writing down your thoughts about what a still better answer could look like.

Buy the book - discount for Changeboard members

For more examples of PEOPLE based interview questions and answers, we strongly advise that you read the full chapter in “You’re Hired! Interview Answers: Impressive Answers to Tough Questions” available for purchase from the Trotman Publishing website.  Remember to use the discount code ‘change’ at the checkout to secure an exclusive 25% discount off your order*.

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