Finding The Best Hire – Part 2: How To Spot True Leaders When Interviewing

In our last blog article, we discussed the red flags to watch out for when interviewing, so you don’t end up with a regretted hire. For the second part of our interview tips series, we’re sharing with you how to spot the true leaders from your interviewees.

Do you need leaders in your team?

YES! A great leader matched with the right colleagues can be the catalyst for realising key company aims and ambitions.

When you hear the word ‘leader’ it can sometimes conjure up images of that overpowering person in a meeting – the one who only champions their own ideas and who doesn’t allow others the chance to voice their opinions. But being the loudest doesn’t make you the smartest, or a true leader.

The type of leader we’re talking about only brings value to a team. Having them around is good for everyone – for both the business and the people who work alongside them. From our experience, the right leaders you have in place the more productive and happy your workforce are.

So how do you spot the right leader when interviewing? There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach here. For example, you wouldn’t put a turnaround specialist into a company that is not loss-making. However, there are consistent themes in great leaders, here are our top 10.

1. They’ve fine-tuned their personal pitch

Leaders can eloquently describe their key talents without sounding too vague. They won’t just give statements such as ‘I make teams better’ or ‘I’ve been doing this 20 years’ to justify their expertise – a real leader volunteers clear examples of how they’ve added value to their previous teams, without you having to probe for more details. They know exactly what their value is and they’re keen to share it with you.

2. They’re already well connected in their industry

When you ask a leader if they’re well connected within the industry, they’ll have plenty of examples of how they remain relevant and have a strong social presence within their field. Whether that’s through regularly attending important industry events, publishing their own articles or being key contributors in industry Linkedin groups – they ensure they’re known and well networked, never leaving this up to chance.

3. They have a win-win mindset

A real leader will not only tell you what they can bring to the table with their own skillset and expertise, but they’ve also clearly thought about how the role will benefit their career. They understand that job satisfaction is a two-way street and needs to be beneficial for everyone – meaning they understand the importance of compromise too. This two-way thinking is the sort of approach that will help them to secure future business deals and work well within a team.

4. Leaders don’t just leave things to chance

They’ve already fully mapped out how they’d like their career path to look, so when you ask them questions like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years time’, they avoid basic answers such as ‘managing partner’. Instead, they’ll give you specific examples of how they see themselves getting to that point, and how you as an employer can help them to get there.

5. They know how to delegate

Asking a potential employee how they handle delegation can give you a quick insight into how much of a leader they really are. Successful leaders understand they need a team they can trust in order for a business to thrive. They know that everyone has their own unique skill set which they can contribute and will delegate tasks accordingly. Non-leaders are reluctant to give away the reins which will cause both a lack of respect within their team, plus they’ll likely get bogged down with the sheer volume of work they have on from not delegating. As Benjamin Franklin is once quoted as saying ‘Tell me – I will forget, show me – I may remember, Involve me and I’ll understand. True leaders involve their team so everyone benefits.

6. They are both the student and the teacher

Leaders are eager to learn and know that everyone has something to teach – which is why they treat everyone with equal respect, making them highly approachable. Equally, leaders are not afraid to play the teacher. They strive to create a learning environment for their team, such as sharing the latest industry news and changes during meetings so that everyone is on top of their game (not just themselves). Ask an interviewee if they see themselves as students or teachers to see how much leadership potential they really have.

7. They don’t lose their head

Leaders keep calm and carry on! Whilst no interviewee is really going to admit they kicked the wall or screamed during their last stressful meeting, you can still ask the right questions to find out how well they really handle stress. Remaining calm and control in the face of high pressure is a huge sign of a good leader.

8. They’re not afraid to change their game

When a leader becomes the best at what they do, their next instinct is to find a new area of expertise. If a potential employee tells you they think they’re at the height of their skills, find out what their next areas of focus are. If they don’t intend to expand their skill set, they’re likely not your next leader.

9. They ask why

Leaders don’t just continue to do something because it’s ‘the way it’s always been done’ – if they can see an opportunity to improve something they will strive to change it. What makes them stand out as a leader here, is how they approach this. Leaders approach change with respect – they’ll gather their teams’ opinions first and then explain their point of view, being mindful to remain polite. Ask your interviewee how they’ve challenged their team in the past and listen out for how respectfully they handled this.

10. A leader brings people together

A leader will find ways of bringing their team together. Their advanced empathy skills make them excellent at understanding others needs and they utilise this to make their team stronger.


Thanks for reading. If you want to check out our interview red flags article, you can read it here. Are you looking for strategies to attract and retain leadership talent to your business, contact us today.