How to Answer Interview Questions About Leadership Skills

Best Answers for Questions About Leadership for College Students and Grads

Young professional college student with resume at job interview
••• Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Are you prepared to discuss your leadership skills in an interview, even when you don't have much work experience? Recruiters of new college graduates will often be looking to hire talent with strong leadership skills and potential, so don't be surprised if you are asked to show proof of your leadership ability during your interviews.

Make sure that you think comprehensively about all your experiences — both inside and outside the classroom and campus — when you prepare for questions such as "Describe situations during your college years when you have exhibited your leadership skills."

How to Prepare a Response

Consider the following four areas of your college life when preparing to answer this type of question:

  • Academics
  • Campus Life
  • Jobs and Internships
  • Volunteering

Examples of your leadership ability don't need to be significant accomplishments like being elected class president. Think about situations where you influenced your peers and encouraged action of some sort. From organizing a protest to re-jiggering the storage process for pantry items at the cafe where you work, any instance where your ideas or actions led to change can be meaningful.  

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are some sample answers for the academic setting:

  • I was asked by my psychology professor to lead study sessions prior to the final exam.
  • My peers selected me as group leader for a major case review project, and I was able to delegate tasks and motivate group members. We received an “A” for our presentation.

Sample answers to showcase your leadership ability through campus life might include the following:

  • As the social chair for my sorority, I convinced members to host a special party as a fundraiser for a local food pantry. I organized a committee of sorority members to solicit donations of food and beverages from local merchants and persuaded all sorority members to sell four $50 tickets to fellow students. We raised $3600, and the successful event motivated members to place a greater emphasis on the community service component of our sorority.
  • As an RA I noticed that four or five first-year students were struggling with an adjustment to college and isolating themselves. I called a meeting of several juniors and seniors and led a discussion about how we might facilitate their adjustment. We decided to establish a big brother/sister type structure and match up freshmen with an upper-class student who successfully engaged the freshmen and accompanied them to hall gatherings.
  • My advisor suggested that I revive a long-abandoned campus club devoting to celebrating my major, French comparative literature. I set up a monthly newsletter for after in-person meetings with participants, and was also able to secure funding for our group to attend a popular French movie playing off campus.  

Examples of ways in which you have exerted leadership on the job or in internships might include the following:

  • My manager at Red Robin selected me to orient and train the new hires and act as shift leader when she was off the premises.
  • The Human Resources Manager at Target asked me to discuss my experience and to help recruit interns for the next summer.

Volunteer experiences might also provide the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills and provide answers like:

  • As a volunteer at the local rape crisis center, I convinced the director to establish a campus program to create awareness about acquaintance rape. Then I reached out to administrators and student leaders on campus and cultivated their support for a Rape Awareness Day which drew over 200 attendees.
  • At the food shelter where I volunteered in college, I was one of the few regulars from school, and not the town. I worked with the shelter's manager to create signage and social media images about the value of volunteer work. I put up the paper signs, and asked the college newspaper and other college social media accounts to promote images about volunteering on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. These efforts increased the number of college student volunteers involved with the shelter. 

More Interview Questions and Answers

When you are a college student or recent graduate, it's important to relate your college education, extracurricular activities, and experiences to the job for which you are applying. Here's what you'll be asked, and how to respond. Also review more entry level interview questions and sample answers.