Interview Tips for #Leadership Jobs: I vs. We #peopleskills

Interview Tips for Leadership Jobs: Reveal and Relieve!

Collaborative types going for leadership job interviews often stumble in their comfort zone. I’ve seen great collaborative leaders who deserve to move up lose out because they never said “I” in the interview. Only “we”.

They believe that using “I” is arrogant and boastful. I’ve had coaching clients tell me “Kate, I’m just not the type to focus on myself. Nothing is ever achieved completely alone. It’s always a team effort.” Sure.

Yet here’s one of many important interview tips. That’s not the only thing the interviewers need to know!

Why do interviewers need to hear the word “I” from leadership job candidates?

Interview Tips: Image is blank humanoid figure shrugging.

Interview Tips for Leadership Jobs: I vs We? Image via

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Because they need you to reduce their risk of picking the wrong person as leader.

Interview Tips: Reveal Who You Are & Relieve Their Fears

You are a blank canvas. A paper resume doesn’t reveal who you are. If it did nobody would hold interviews. Even if you are interviewing for a leadership position in your current company, they don’t know how you will be in the new role.

Interviewers want to know …

  • As a leader, will you be accountable?

    Organizations still equate accountability with one person. If you talk only about “we” and never “I”, you leave them wondering about your accountability. Interview Tips: Don’t leave them in the dark. Give them the gift of getting to know you.

  • Are you strong enough to handle tough moments?

    There is much evidence that collaborative leaders ignite the organization’s strength. Yet the definition of leader also includes individual strength. If you only use the word “we”, what are you telling the interviewers? That you are only strong with a team?

    Interview tips: Don’t view the word “I” as self-promotional. See it as collaborating toward the interviewers’ goal — getting to know you!

  • Do you just want to be liked?

    Even in evolved companies, leadership is about far more than just being liked. When you use only the word we and never I, interviewers wonder are you too nice to lead? Will you care about the organization’s success or just your own need to be liked?

    Interview tips: If the interviewers are more confused about you at the end of the interview than before it, you won’t get the job. This is the time to focus on interviewers’ needs not yours. Step out of your comfort zone. Reveal who you are!

  • Do you know the difference between selfless and faceless?

    You believe that using the term we instead of I shows that you are a selfless giver and collaborative leader. It does to people who know you. To those who don’t know you, it can say you believe collaboration must be faceless.

    Will you impose that standard on employees who want appreciation and recognition of their individual efforts? Younger generations are inspired to teamwork through recognition of their individual talents. Will you see them as selfish or talented?

    Interview tips: Come out of the shadows. Selfless is not faceless. Show interviewers your true face and all your facets. They need to hear how you will balance being directive with engaging employees and spurring collaboration. The leadership position requires all of it. Show them you can be out front, in back, or amidst the team depending on the need. Let them see the “I” and the “we”.

Interview Tips Summary

    Picture yourself as the interviewer trying to select the best person for this leadership position. You don’t know you. Now, what do you need to know about you? Would your purely “we” focus convince you if you were the interviewer?

    Confusion is not a success strategy. Don’t create it. Clear it up.

    Self-confidence is not arrogance. It is the gift you give to those who must decide on the right leader. Be generous. Show both your confidence and competence.

Speaking about yourself in an interview is one of your obligations.

Else, why are you there?

Reveal your strengths to relieve their fears!

Question: What is the biggest lesson you ever learned from an interview?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Career Success: Rock It w/These 13 Key People Skills Tips
Employee Engagement: 4 No Cost Steps to Acknowledgement
Capture the Magic of the “I’s” in Team
5 Psychologically Uncomfortable Career Shaping Opportunities

©2014 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.



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9 Responses to “Interview Tips for #Leadership Jobs: I vs. We #peopleskills”

  1. Khalid says:

    I learned to relax but prepare seriously for the interview. The relaxation part comes out of your confidence in knowing what impression you want to leave behind even if you haven’t got the job!

  2. Catherine Bishop says:

    Thank you, Kate, that’s very helpful advice.
    You too, Khalid. Prepare thoroughly, and relax in the confidence of knowing what impression I want to make.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I am so glad you found this valuable Catherine. And I agree with Khalid’s tip as well!

      Please come again and share your views and experience on any post that catches your attention.

      Warmest thanks,

  3. Lotus says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. It brought to life a perspective that I have not heard before but is very useful. Sadly, I think that many people use “we” in an interview because that’s the advice they’ve been given since they were in college and preparing to interview for jobs in the real world.

    As much as I think it is great to have team players, I have to agree that we need to use “I” in interviews. As a recruiter, “we” and “team player” have become two words/phrases that I hear too often – it’s become too cliche for my liking to be honest. It almost can feel fake too. I’d rather a candidate explain to me how HE/SHE contributes to a team.

    Great insights in your article!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Lotus. I too think that being collaborative is very valuable. However, in an interview it’s also crucial to show who you are — and as you say — show who and how you are!

      Many thanks for your perspective.

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