Leadership Questions for Employers to Ask Applicants

Woman answering leadership questions in a job interview.
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It's very useful to have a set of job interview questions about leadership that can help you determine if your candidate is a good leader. These important questions serve to identify leadership capabilities for any individual who will be hired into a leadership role in your organization.

Additionally, the most successful organizations foster leadership in all of their employees at every level of the organization. The following sample interview questions will also help you identify the leadership potential of your candidates for other company roles.

Before the Interview

Start out by understanding the qualities and characteristics that you seek in a leader. You may find some insight by first researching the characteristics of a successful leadership style. These will ensure that your questions are formulated to identify the right beliefs, traits, values, and experience.

Questions to Determine If a Job Candidate Is a Good Leader

The following sample job interview questions about leadership enable you to assess your candidate's skills and experience. Feel free to use these job interview questions in your own candidate interviews or use them as the basis for creating your own questions.

  • You decided to reorganize the department or work unit that you lead. Tell me how you proceeded with the reorganization? What steps did you follow especially with the employees who work in the department?
  • Have you ever been a member of a successful team? If so, describe the role that you played on the team and in its success.
  • Give me an example of a time when you played a leadership role in an event, an activity, a department or work unit, or a project. Describe how you led the efforts.
  • Think about times when you have had to perform in a leadership role and tell me how people responded to your leadership efforts?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed. How did it happen? How did you handle it?
  • If I were to ask your reporting staff or your peers to comment on your leadership style, your leadership strengths, and your leadership weaknesses, how would they respond? What would this discussion tell me about you as a leader?
  • Would you rather that your employees respected you or feared you? Is there the opportunity in a leadership role to inspire both reactions from your employees?
  • Tell me about a time when you created agreement and shared purpose from a situation in which all parties originally differed in opinion, approach, and objectives.
  • As a leader within an organization, you must often build support for goals and projects from people who do not report to you and over whom you have no authority. Tell me about a situation in which you demonstrated that you can build the needed support.
  • In organizations, the direction often comes down the chain of command and so the initiatives you must implement were not developed by you. In fact, you may or may not have had input into their implementation. Tell me about a time when you implemented a required initiative with your staff. How did you go about the implementation?
  • What are the three most important values you demonstrate as a leader? Tell me a story that demonstrates each of these leadership values in practice within your workplace.
  • During your work experiences while attending college, tell me about a time when you demonstrated that you have leadership ability and skill.

Leadership Job Interview Outcomes

You are questioning to determine whether the candidate has leadership skills or potential. Seek to identify the leadership style of your candidate, from their perspective and from the perspective of their direct reporting staff and peers. Above all, however, make sure to know and avoid any job interview questions that are illegal.

The point is to determine whether the candidate's style is congruent with the culture of your organization. It is helpful if you have already created a leadership profile that identifies the skills and traits of successful leaders within your organization.

Leadership style is best demonstrated in stories. Self-examination and commentary are ​self-serving, at best, in an interview setting. Ask your candidates for many specific stories and examples.