A Job Interview Question that Predicts How Someone Will Lead

The job interview begins when you ask an unexpected question.

The job interview begins after you ask an unexpected question. Image of a surprised person.

A job interview question that predicts how someone will lead:

“If you had to work for a leader who was outstanding in five of the following character traits, what are the top five traits you would pick?

  1. Creative
  2. Curious
  3. Driven for results
  4. Organized
  5. Kind
  6. Humorous
  7. Dedicated
  8. Relationship oriented
  9. Fair
  10. Fun
  11. Humble
  12. Bold
  13. Decisive
  14. Loves learning
  15. Perseverance
  16. Forgiving
  17. High energy
  18. Honest
  19. Stands up for their team
  20. Develops people

Follow up questions:

Ask the following questions after they circle the top five traits they desire in leaders.

#1. Please define each trait you chose and give an example of a leader you admire who exemplifies that trait.

The people we admire reveal what’s important to us. For example, you might admire Michael Jordan for his work ethic.

#2. Notice some traits that are important to you that your candidate didn’t choose and ask, “Why didn’t you choose ‘bold’?” for example.

Create your own list:

Include the essential qualities you want in leaders. When you’re working toward collaborative leadership, include qualities essential for collaborative leadership. When accountability is a top trait you want to see, add things like:

  1. Brings up tough issues
  2. Holds people accountable
  3. Always follows through
  4. Never drops the ball

Use the team:

Choose an essential leadership trait you want in future leaders. Say, “Imagine you have a team member who struggles to make decisions. How would you help them get better at this?”

Listen for behavioral solutions, not theories.

Leadership quote: "Would you hire you if you were hiring?" Image of a we-are-hiring sign.

Involve the current team:

Ask your team to create a list of the five top leadership qualities they would love to see in a new team member. Ask them to define their terms and give examples.

Use their list in the job interview.

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