- Why is leadership experience important to employers?
- Common leadership experience to list on your resume
- Tips for presenting your leadership experience
Job postings often list leadership experience as required or preferred, even for positions that are not upper-level. However, if you are a recent graduate or still in school, there are various ways you can demonstrate important leadership experience to hiring managers even if you have little professional history or direct experience as a leader. Learn about the types of leadership experience that you may already have as a beginner to add to your resume or discuss in a job interview.
Why is leadership experience important to employers?
Employers want to see leadership experience in job candidates because it shows individuals who have initiative and are willing to take action to ensure the success of a team or project. Leaders often share common qualities, such as creativity, teamwork and communication skills, which are valuable traits for any employee. By highlighting instances of leadership experience during your job search, you may be able to impress hiring managers and obtain the job you want.
Common leadership experience to list on your resume
Here are some common types of leadership experience that you can list on your resume:
Volunteer, nonprofit or any charity experience is a good way to show leadership. Aside from demonstrating commitment and an interest in community, this kind of experience communicates to employers that you have the initiative, desire and ability to help and lead others. Just participation in volunteer work can be considered leadership experience, but think about if you led any teams, organized any projects or events or coordinated any efforts during your volunteering. You do not need to have done regular or frequent charity work to list it on your resume; even one day of volunteering is good leadership experience.
If you have participated in student government in any form in high school or college, this is excellent leadership experience. While holding an official position might be more direct experience, if you campaigned for yourself or someone else, brought an issue before the student government board or participated in some other way, any activities relating to government are valuable leadership opportunities. Being a student ambassador or helping to work or organize school events are also good examples of leadership.
Sports, clubs and groups
Consider all the sports, clubs and groups you have participated in. These can be official school clubs or sports, intramural teams, book clubs, organizations for your hobbies or even study groups. If you created, organized, led or directed any group, group meetings or activities, it is valuable leadership experience. Membership in a sports team, club or group can also show leadership because you took the initiative, time and energy to invest yourself in an activity with others.
Finding a solution
If you have ever noticed an issue or problem or a way that something could be improved, and taken action to solve it, such as presenting a plan or suggestion to your supervisor or changing a routine, this is an important instance of leadership experience. Leaders strive to make the workplace better for all employees, and your attempt to find a solution can demonstrate initiative, creativity and follow-through to employers.
Training, teaching, coaching and mentoring
Even if you have never held an official leadership title, consider if there are any instances where you have directed others through training, teaching, coaching or mentoring. Experience as a tutor, time you spent helping a coworker learn a skill or a day spent coaching a team member can all be described as leadership experience. If you had a new student or a new employee shadow you for a day, this is also a type of mentoring, training or leadership.
Studies abroad, membership in cross-cultural groups or foreign language studies can all be presented as leadership experience. These activities show that you are willing to reach across divides, communicate clearly and be present and open to everyone you meet.
While being an intern might not seem like a leadership position, seeking out and doing well in an internship shows you have the initiative and some experience and skills to do well in the industry. Internships show motivation and a desire to succeed.
Projects are an excellent source of leadership experience. Whether you led or collaborated on a group project in school or invested yourself in a passion project for a hobby, completion of a project can show skill and experience as well as the initiative, creativity and motivation to see a task through to success.
Being able to work well on a team is an essential part of leadership. Even if you never led a team, club or other group, you can discuss your experience on a team as leadership experience by explaining how you contributed to the team, helped everyone work well together and the lessons you learned from working with other people.
There are a variety of skills that are integral to successful leadership, so demonstrating these skills on your resume or in an interview can be an excellent substitute for direct leadership experience. Communication, creativity, honesty, integrity, organization, planning, vision, competence and the drive to succeed are all qualities that can translate into leadership roles.
Tips for presenting your leadership experience
Consider these tips to help you demonstrate leadership experience and potential on your resume and in a job interview:
Use strong verbs
When preparing your resume, use clear and strong verbs to describe your leadership experience. Verbs such as ‘led,’ ‘promoted,’ ‘communicated,’ ‘facilitated,’ ‘created,’ ‘spearheaded,’ ‘founded,’ etc. present clear images of actions of leadership to a hiring manager.
Look for keywords
When reading job descriptions, pay attention to any keywords that might signal that the employer is looking for leadership skills or what kind of leadership they are looking for. For example, if the job description states they want someone to ‘pioneer’ new teams or projects, you might need to show different leadership experience examples than if they are looking for someone to ‘support’ or ‘guide’ an existing project or team. Understanding the type of leadership an employer is looking for by studying the keywords can help you to tailor your resume and interview discussion toward the skills you have that will enable you to succeed in the position.
Use the STAR method
When answering a question about your leadership experience in an interview, try using the STAR method to explain the situation, the task, the actions you took and their result. Using this method helps you provide specific examples in clear, comprehensive and explanatory answers that demonstrate your experience and abilities.